Over the weekend there were at least three organized peaceful protests against police brutality in my home state of Rhode Island. I was present at two of them. Like millions of other Americans, I am fed up with institutional racism in our country. I've seen it first hand, as both a teacher and during my summer as a collector for an electric company. I've done some writing on DOL about what's going on in the U.S. , but I felt like I had to be there. I wanted to be there. I don't want to be on the wrong side of history and in my heart I knew going was the right thing to do; despite my initial reservations.
I'm naturally always a little scared as a factory setting, I'm scared as I write this blog. So I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a little worried on Friday. I didn't tell my parents I was going because I didn't want them to worry either. Surprise! I'm 28 years old and care about humanity enough to protest.
Part of me felt weird using that filter on the one photo I posted of myself, but it was to represent the closeness I felt with everybody getting behind something so important.
I get really uncomfortable in large crowds; especially after PVDfest last year and Covid now (in three weeks we're gonna know one way or another if there's going to be a "second wave"). When I was in college and frequenting bars that often broke fire-codes (R.I.P. Chucks) I was always aware of potential exit points in a crowd. Plus, I have a twitter account. I've seen what has happened and how quickly a peaceful protest can turn violent. Call me soft for not wanting to lose an eye to a rubber bullet if you must. I'm just a die-hard fan of depth perception.
When you see it was a youth group that put together the Providence protest, the magnitude of this issue really hits home. Kids did this. They were the ones who kept things calm and were telling people to leave so they wouldn't break curfew and risk harm. There's a reason I deep down still believe in public education, despite how much a broken system has broken my spirits.
Powerful is such an elementaryish word, that I've heard a thousand times this weekend...I said it at least 200 times myself to describe what I witnessed. These protests were so fucking powerful. I took a knee in silence for nearly nine minutes with a few hundred people to pay our respect to George Floyd. I saw 8th graders give heartfelt speeches and grown men cry. I saw men, women and children break down while telling stories of what they've witnessed and experienced. It's devastating.
How can these first hand accounts from African Americans not break your heart? (don't answer that) We have people begging us to have the decency to treat them like people and there's actually a shit load of people who have a problem with that. This is all about equality. If equality doesn't exist for all then it doesn't really exist for anybody. These systems and practices have simply been going on for too long and must stop. A speaker in Prov referenced the bias in the criminal justice system when it comes to sentencing. Two men who committed the same crime got drastically different sentences based on their race. I believe she said one got 26 years and the another got 3. I'll let you guess who was who.
Despite the overall negativity of the last paragraph, this weekend warmed my heart. Seeing how many people peacefully showed up to fight against police brutality this weekend made me hopeful. Apparently my initial estimation of 100,000 people in Providence was just a little off.
When you're in the middle of a sea of humans; it feels like 100,000+. Like I said, I'm not afraid to admit I was worried about going to Prov. Big crowds outside of a structured environment (sporting event, concert) scare the shit out of me. A mass shooting is always in the back of my mind. I said this to my friend who invited me and I'll tell it to you right now "There's a lot of shit that black people go through everyday that is scary that I wouldn't think twice about. One day that might be a little scary is the least I can do." Yes, I was inspired by Remember the Titans (a movie everybody should watch/re-watch in these times).
Social Media during protests is a weird line to walk because on one hand; you want to share what you've witnessed with the world, but on the other hand you don't want to look like you're using the protests "for clout". Like all things in life there's a spectrum; at the end of the day if you want to post a pic of you and your friends at a protest just make sure you're both there and doing it for the right reasons. I personally think it can be in bad taste, but I'm sure I do a lot of things that people think are in bad taste. What is undeniable is how disgusting influencers at protests in the literal wake of carnage are.
While I did share about a minute of video from the steps of the State House on my IG story, I didn't take a lot of footage of either protest I attended. This was all so much bigger than me or this stupid blog that I have put all my eggs into. I was in the moment; part of history. It really felt like I was part of something bigger than myself and I wanted to soak it in. I saw some people I haven't seen in years. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the faces I saw in the crowd.
With everything I just said, please allow me to share a few photos of signs that I/my friends took this weekend that broke up the seriousness of the event. There's some parts of the protests that aren't funny, but I'm sorry life is inherently funny. IDFW policing comedy. Humor is a great coping mechanism and can make it easier to deal with the fucked up experience that is human life. For example: I am all for kneeling, but I was a much bigger fan of the 8:46 kneel in the grass that I experienced at the G@nsett protest. In Providence we were taking a knee every two minutes like a Catholic Mass. Up, down, up, down, up, down. As a large man who was positioned on titles you can imagine the pain I was in. I eventually had to sit Native American style to avoid falling and creating an all-time bad moment for a game of human dominoes.
I saw a lot of creativity at the protest. I applaud creativeness, after all we were in the Creative Capital. Of course there's nothing wrong with a "Black Lives Matter" sign at these protests and I'm glad there were so many, but it's just in my D.N.A. to be a little different. These signs really captured my attention for various reasons that I will explain under each picture.
"Racism Is So American That When You Protest it, People Think You Are Protesting America"
I feel like I saw this one on twitter before Friday, but it's so good and thought provoking that it had to be included. THIS ISN'T ABOUT THE FLAG OR THE MILITARY!!! If you cannot separate the flag from this issue PLEASE open your fucking eyes and ears.
"Police Brutality & Racism is the Smallest Dick Energy"
It's not about having a big piece, boys. It's about your energy and vibe!!! Police Brutality and Racism ain't it, chief. Loving everybody and treating people with respect is Teddy Bridgewater energy!!
"Rememeer In November"
Part of me is so fucking paranoid that I feel like this is some big political statement that is going over my head and not a man older than the Civil Rights Act of 1964 who doesn't know how to spell "remember". As someone who always misses at least two typos per blog; ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK YOUR SIGN BEFOREHAND.
"Blue Klux Klan"
This photo is a little screwed up because it's a screenshot from a panoramic video my buddy took, but I love a good rhyme. I also like the attention this brings to the problem. I am not in the camp that all cops are bad or racist but there's factual evidence that some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses. We need reform. I feel like there should be some sort of background check in place that makes Klansmen ineligible for "protecting and serving".
"Epstein Didn't Kill Himself"
This was on the back of a BLM sign which I like for a few reasons; mainly that it doesn't put Epstein front and center during a day that is NOT about him. It is important to realize we can have more than one active thought in our brain at once. Plus all this shit is interconnected.
"Pigs Smoke Mids"
There's certainly a lot going on here. Since it was three kids holding this, I felt morally obligated to crop them out, but damnit what a funny and informative sign. There's simply no coming back from "You smoke mids". I'll laugh every time.
Sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it. There's not a lot of humor in fighting for equality, but when someone is pulling a Cardinals fan from that Hyundai commercial to fight racism you have to stop and chuckle. I wish I stopped this guy and talked to him. I need to know what went through his mind. Has he bought nothing that came in a cardboard box in the last five years? Does he not know Dollar Tree sells poster board 2 for a buck? Did he forget a sign, see a loose abandoned fence and improvise? I have nothing but questions for this man.
That's it. That's all I have for signs that have some element of humor or importance that needed sharing. Like I said I didn't take a ton of pictures of my time at either protest; neither did my friends. I spoke about the systematic racism I've witnessed in education and nobody recorded it. Part of me is happy because now that moment was just there for all of us who experienced it, but I'm an All-22 guy. I was TERRIFIED, I want to see what I did right and what I did wrong to improve for the next time I give unprepared statement in front of a crowd. #BlackLivesMatter.
P.S. I saw this parked behind me when I eventually got back to my car. Like I said, you can always find the humor in life. Once you stop, that's when you're truly dead.