Photo by author, capturing demonstrations June 5, 2020
This weekend I had the experience of engaging in peaceful demonstrations in Chicago's west loop (specifically, the Defund CPD: Fund Black Lives - Remember Breonna Taylor march that started and ended at Union Park.) I am moved to share the firsthand testimony of a participant, as well as the article shared by family post Sunday group call after the March; it is my duty to write this post, says the Brain Stem.
I am affording myself the space to do so, as this week will inevitably be a return to similar spaces for work after unpaid sick leave and I am preparing for the transition back to perhaps less changed environments than what my internal world demands.
Somehow, this writing is connected with commitment to TRUTH, to the things I have seen and felt and know because I have laid myself between prisonkeepers and tired civilians,
Civilians gathered at baseball diamond for speeches pre march, photo captured by author, June 5, 2020
because I have failed in love, because I have surrendered that I independently can never do enough, but living, is synonymous with striving in my current understanding of the human condition.
My prerogative is to do my very best to honor the opportunity that it is to be on this side of the grave, on this planet, at this time, in all of it's complexity, in all of it's simple demands.
My training and curiosity and investigation confirms there are innumerable ways of processing information; I have lately been impressed at my social media's capacity to serve as a record keep of experiences of the past, and foreshadowing of events to come. Writing down thoughts, feelings, and visions, has been an act of promise, to not forget, and to integrate lived experience into the expansive tapestry of meaning that compels me to survive and with grace and to live with integrity.
I share Arlando's testimony, to acknowledge how it matters not one's track record of civil activities- (from the get-go Arlando acknowledges never having participated in a demonstration before) - that inspiration and impetus HAPPENS through movement, grace of witness, commitment to conscientiousness and searching for direction.
Photo by author, capturing small segment of the MANY police on duty at the march. No physical violence occurred.
I went to my first real protest, like ever, yesterday. Union park out in Chicago. 30 some thousand ppl gathering in a park.. then marching down the streets to protest police brutality and promulgate Black Lives Matter.
I gotta say it was pretty inspiring. I was covered in cloth and a spring leather jacket plus a mask and some goggles with an umbrella and gloves for protection... but most ppl I saw were in shorts and a t-shirt.. I’d seen a lot of scary things like flash bangs being thrown at kids and squads of police initiating aggression and attacking with batons towards other protests on social media and the like.. so I came prepared to view and run and I came alone so as not to have to worry about friends I was with.
I was specifically concerned with personal safety during my viewing process, so I consistently roamed the outskirts of the park during the speaking process so I could view the police movements specifically, while also clearly seeing what the demonstrators were doing and were about.
The demonstrators seemed relatively organized and United.. so many different cultural groups (ethnic and otherwise) were banding together against the idea of overzealous physical force being used by police/the symbol of authority in our society/government.
The body language of the vast majority of the demonstrators was encouraging, pleasant, peaceful, and happy whilst aware. I made a habit of mirroring that process and looking directly into people’s eyes and smiling or head nodding, etc. there were only a few I encountered that seemed distant, or would avert their gazes for some reason.. my hypothesis went from they could be undercover or else a ‘neutral’ party like a newscaster or photographer that wasn’t necessarily allied with the movement but was just there to cover a story. I tended to stop near these individuals when I noticed them and just occasionally glance in their direction.. this tended to make them uncomfortable for whatever reason which then caused them to move elsewhere.
The police on the whole seemed like they were employing tactics out of time and out of context with the emotional energy of what was truly happening. A couple hundred cops on bikes beginning to encircle the park had me moderately worried and I informed a few protestors of the movements I saw, and while they noted it they also didn’t seem overly concerned. The body language of most of the police was so dissonant towards the clear majority of the population that had come to protest. They seemed stiff and often silent and a bit scared... but in retrospect, it seemed too much and unnecessary to me. Like the figurative feeling of unnecessary force.
During the march whilst protestors started to chant: ‘who do you serve? Who do you protect?’ I noticed many of the cops occasionally had their backs turned, or made gestures like shrugging their shoulders or scratching their heads as if in a pretense of showing they didn’t care or were somehow disconnected from the emotional aspect of society. They aren’t.
The small business owners, from restaurants, to body shops, etc. were also standing out in front of their businesses as the march proceeded. I made a point to smile and wave at them myself as well and they responded often with a similar smile and wave. I think most of the protestors couldn’t see this aspect as much and I think it would do them well to encourage businesses as allies to this movement. I’m not going to mince words about it; the black community DOES have an unfortunate history with having a disproportionate amount of crime and looting in its culture (which there are many unfortunate past societal fucked up causes/reasons for but to move forward that needs to stop as well. If a culture needs help or even an apology from another culture they need to explain/ask for it. Demanding or taking will make things worse.)
A few cops went into one of the body shops to share sandwiches with some of the small business owners for example. Everyone has friends and connections in this conflict/situation/dynamic.. but one thing is clear to me in all of it: the time for physical force as a punishment for breaking societal rules is lessening in America. Not to discount the times when it may have been somewhat more necessary. I appreciate the police in my extended family and understand, to a degree, the complicated nature of this whole related story up to this point. Now is a time to lessen unnecessary force within the police, within our families (I’m honestly persuaded at this point not to ever use spanking as a valid form of punishment if I ever have kids), in our society as a whole. Words and emotional appeal are what our society is moving towards and the tears/feelings/joy that words and communication without violence is more than enough.. and arguably more powerful than the brutish nature of physical force... which honestly is a hard thing for someone like me to admit having a lifetime familiarity with medieval reinactment, wrestling, and martial arts etc. ... but that’s also the thing; outlets for our warrior sides can still be extremely appropriate in tournament settings.
I might be rambling a bit on a tangent at this point so let me get back to the point:
Society IS changing. Society IS NOT falling. We will all be alright, but the movement is not over... and there may be unfortunate tragedies yet...
There were several choppers and drones and an occasional misplaced square legion formation that the cops are using.. there bulky white dude are usually in the center.. and they’re putting women cops and black cops towards the outside lines usually alone..
But I’m hearing now that the protests are remaining peaceful with a higher amount of turnout and also Chicago is undoing their ‘curfews’ that they’ve been trying to BS with... I think the people are winning... I think voices of the totality are being heard. I think this will be a good thing ... for all of us.
Posted on Facebook, June 6, 2020
Author selfie from Evanston Youth's demonstration
Thanks Arlando, for your service and sensitivity and capacity to write it all down in a way that gets to the feels.
For those of you who'd like to know more about the Defund the Police March and the organizations involved, visit https://www.nbcchicago.com/lx/breonna-taylors-case-requires-as-much-urgency-as-george-floyds-blm-youth-leader/2284968/
A valuable resource and links pertaining to the necessity of restructuring policing and communal accountability. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2020/06/03/457251670/how-much-do-we-need-the-police