A point of reference on what these protests look like in our city
The news is a scary place. I’ve seen everything from protesters praying with police to protesters being tear gassed, shot at, and arrested by police. Instagram stories that walk you through safe protests including how to neutralize tear gas and conceal your identity left me startled to say the least when I was planning on being a protester in the 1 pm protest on Tuesday. Thankfully it was pretty much peaceful on both the side of the protester and the police. There’s another protest on Saturday, so I thought a point of reference might be nice.
I went with a family member without signs, mostly because I thought I didn’t have the right materials, but most of the cardboard signs were well done. The groups spanned anywhere from high school friends to parents with young children, while other protesters came solo. It was advertised as socially distant, but so was the grocery store; you might have to make the extra effort to distance yourself from protesters you didn’t come with. Water was essential for Tuesday’s heat and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
It has come to my knowledge that protest marches do not usually circle back to its starting point, so walking back to our chosen form of transportation was a walk to remember (this was probably more walking than I had done in the past two weeks in quarantine). I know it sounds like I should have already known that, but it just did not click in my brain, so do with that information what you will.
Anyways, that’s it for surface level logistics of going to the protest . It might affect some of you emotionally, for others not so much. The activities of the protest, such as holding both your hands up while chanting “don’t shoot” and shouting the names of those we’ve lost were both things that had me on the verge of tears. Does that make me fragile? Maybe, but even if you don’t respond physically, it is emotionally powerful. As someone who is not a POC, while I might not fully understand what it is like to live as a black person, there is a greater sense of empathy acquired from these chants and the moments like the one we had at City Hall where we got to hear from black people in the community that were hurting and see them face-to-face.
As for the peaceful aspect of it, we marched down from City Hall to the police station nearby and asked them to kneel, as was asked of other police officers in other BLM protests. If you were wondering, they did not meet this demand. This is when things started to get more aggressive. There were insults, some posters, and a single plastic looking object that was thrown in the direction of the police officers, but it did not appear that they had actually been hit by any of these objects. Other protesters called to keep the protests peaceful and that was the end of what was maybe ten minutes of more aggressive tactics. It was ultimately peaceful and while I was there (I left when the organizers told us that we could stay or go, but that it was essentially over), and from what I’ve seen afterwards, there was no sign of foul play from law enforcement.
I just wanted to clear the air in case there was anybody with no idea what to expect but wanted to attend a protest in this city. While nothing is perfectly peaceful, I’m sure you can use your best judgement to make wise decisions at these events. Even if you can’t go to the protests, there are a lot of ways to connect to the cause. And if you did go to the protests, there is still more for us to do, especially in calling out racial injustice in ourselves and in our own communities, which takes a lot more time than attending a protest. Read books, listen to the stories of black people in our area, and evaluate our community’s laws and policies and how they affect marginalized populations. It might sound overwhelming, but this movement isn’t supposed to be everything crammed into a few weeks and then never revisit it again, but to continually keep fighting injustice.