I don’t know.
I don’t know how to write about it, except to just write. We’ve had plenty of protests here in Raleigh, but none of them in recent years have escalated into what happened today that I’m aware of. We’ve had all kinds of Moral Mondays, the Vagina Cycle bill, HB2, Air-Horn Orchestra, Pink Pussy hats at the Women’s March, and plenty of Donald Trump protests. We’ve had people show up, armed, to protest the stay at home order. I don’t recall any of these requiring tear gas, smoke bombs or rubber bullets.
Here’s the deal, the protest started out awesome. People spoke, chanted, and there were signs. People marched, and the solidarity was palpable. When a medic was needed, a path was made and someone was found. When water was needed, it was free and available. People in cars held up their power fist and honked in solidarity. The chants were ongoing, coming from one side and being answered on another with no planning needed. It could have stayed that way. The group could have completed their walk, ending back at the court house, and a few words could have been spoken. Some more voices could have been heard. There could have been some candles lit, a prayer, a song. That’s not how it ended though.
It ended the moment the police threw out that first tear gas on non-violent protestors. I really ended when, as the protest moved on to complete the route, they were blocked by another group of police in full riot gear, throwing tear gas. There was NO REASON for that, as you can see in my live feed video. Funny story, you just can’t doctor a live feed. It’s there, warts and all, full of my bad language, my confusion and the confusion of the people around me. It’s obvious that most of us weren’t expecting this sudden barricade, and pardon my shaky camera as a yell “Oh shit” and run as a tear gas canister goes off right beside my foot. As several protestors began to take a knee in front of this display, more tear gas is thrown. We got gassed taking a knee. This is why Raleigh can’t have nice things.
Now let’s look at Durham. That’s how I thought Raleigh was going to be today. Durham really set the example on how to not piss off your populace, listen to the people, and have your downtown remain intact. All they would have had to done here in Raleigh is keep the police presence non-intrusive (which they did in the beginning). We walked around police cars and several group leaders reminded everyone “don’t touch the police cars” as we marched. It could have been different, folks. You could have listened to the protesters, let them walk the blocks, and not shown up in riot gear in the middle of the road. If you want to stand around the police station like that, sure, why not, but just out on the street where no one was doing anything??? That is the exact point where you got it all wrong. You can see that moment happen, in real time, not only on my live feed, but several others.
I don’t know about you, but I was already a little edgy about going to a protest during COVID (okay, more than a little edgy), and I didn’t know how many folks would show up to something like that during a pandemic. The answer is “A whole lot”. My plan after the exposure was to go back into quarantine for two weeks, as is the responsible thing to do (back to ordering groceries, no Farmer’s Market, etc.). However, there is a big clean up tomorrow in DTR because there is glass EVERYWHERE and lots of things to fix and clean up. I’m not a very early riser, and I feel completely drained right now. Something about your eyes and throat stinging that make you feel very tired, but I’m thinking about putting on my only N95, super reserve mask and helping out wherever is needed in gloves etc. It seems like nothing is going to change for a while, we’re in the thick of this, the revolution has started, and this is just fucking the way it is.
It stings, folks, but this is our new normal. I hope every police presence thinks about the past few days any time they are faced with a decision to take another unarmed black person’s life. The people are sick of your shit. The people are many.