A Black Lives Matter rally grabbed regional attention yesterday when it progressed from a march through downtown during rush hour into a sit-in in the East End neighborhood, causing much of the area to effectively shut down. The protest was to increase awareness about police brutality and excessive force against black lives and demand action.
East Avenue and Alexander Street were taped off and quarantined for a block each way as police contained the protestors. No cars were allowed through and much of the foot traffic was rerouted around the protest. The rally resulted in 74 arrested, although most were let go if they had identification (or had someone who could bring it to them) and no warrants.
According to local news sources, police were in riot gear because there were reports of rocks being thrown at police, although most protestors deny this. The Democrat & Chronicle reports that no officers were injured during the protest and there was no property damage.
Similarly, earlier in the day, police responded with riot gear during the protestors’ march around downtown. Just outside of the Strong Museum of Play, at the corner of Chestnut Street and Woodbury Boulevard protestors and police lightly clashed. Police said there were allegations of inciting violence against police and they were blocking the street for too long. However, protestors said the police cars were helping block traffic and there was no traffic entering the Museum.
Editor’s note: Some of these stories have been edited for clarity. We will update this page with more stories as they come in. Feel free to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Facebook.
Zirrus VanDevere: I went through a wide range of emotions as I participated in this event, from tears and anger to resolve and the joy of solidarity. I have a degenerative spinal condition, so could not last longer than a couple hours, but I found the organizers to be conscientious and passionate, and the police to also be respectful. I’m disappointed that things escalated later, and I feel there is equal blame on the part of some of the angrier protestors and cops who like to shove around their power. I watched it streaming live late into the night, and was angry that, although it is understandable that the police enforce not obstructing traffic, they eventually moved into a sweep of the sidewalks as well. The only danger was them at that point, not the few remaining peaceful protesters left on the sidewalk. Two WHAM reporters were arrested, I believe it was because they were black. Officers were blind to the brightly colored WHAM shirts they wore, but could apparently see the color of their skin. Police departments all over this country need to be scrubbed of this systematic racism. I am sad for this country, and terrified of a police state.
Anderson Allen: I saw what formation could do for the first time yesterday. Not just on our behalf, but the men and women who cladded themselves in armor like they wanted war with unarmed people standing up for their beliefs. They believe us a threat, a growing insecurity, a truth that will one day catch up to them. I saw true fear in a white man’s eye for the first time, I saw black men in riot gear questioning their own moral compass, saw their skin wanting to betray the very thing they’d been sent to do. As midnight drew closer, so did they with their numbers higher as we dispersed upon agreement. They waited for our numbers to dwindle down to take action.
The greatest observation I made yesterday was the advance they made on our women…they used that to THEIR advantage. That’s how they broke through OUR lines. What man would think straight if his child or woman were in danger when that is in fact our most prized possession and what sister is gonna stand by and watch that take place?
It was at that point I silently stood thanking God we didn’t come there for war like they did. It was at that point I thanked God we were unarmed. It was at that point I realized the reality of the dreams that I have been living as an artist now knowing only a portion of the nightmare that’s part of it. There are no more words. It’s time to get in formation. Properly.
Sabine Bradley: The news is claiming the police were there to keep us safe during the protest…But there was no one in danger until they got there. There were no bursts of anger, no antagonization, no attack until they got there.
The news is claiming the police did not use excessive force or batons…But there were multiple protesters in the hospital with injuries they sustained AFTER the riot squad arrived.I watched a cop leap three bounds to shove a man (who was on the sidewalk) into the bushes in response to what was being said. Not to arrest him (which would have been a questionable response anyway) but shove him like a bully trying to prove himself and then went on about his violent way.
The news is claiming no pepper spray was used…But the police sprayed a man directly in his face as he was being arrested by three officers. The man being taken into custody was not resisting, but twisting in discomfort as officers unnecessarily yanked him in different directions and taunted him as they dragged him along.
The news is claiming the police did their best to protect everyone involved….But white patrons at the bars around us were throwing things, calling us names, and getting INTO the crowd to taunt us face to face….as officers gently moved around them to face us down themselves. An officer looked us in the eyes and asked “what about his brothers in Dallas” as if it were a game of vengeance to him. Another officer smiled at me, and thanked me “for playing” as I ran down East Ave.
If you truly believe the media on these matters…you are a fool.If you think you are not next, you are wrong. This is what dystopian films are made of.