Eons ago, a young, vibrant girl had the whole world in front of her as she strutted around a pool table shooting the best (and only good) game of pool she would ever play. “So Lonely” by The Police was blasting on the jukebox, and she owned the room completely. This morning, that same “girl” felt like she wanted nothing to do with the world she had been given. She sipped her coffee in the car, contemplating what produce to buy. “So Lonely” played at a moderate level on the stereo.
In case you have not mastered the art of innuendo, that pool-playing, coffee-sipping girl was me, and right now, like most Americans, I am at a complete loss for words. Well, maybe not a complete loss; but the ones I do have are so foul they would make even the saltiest sailor blush.
This time two weeks ago, I was sitting in a courtroom waiting for a good friend to be arraigned on a bullshit charge of felony rioting. The weekend hadn’t unfolded exactly the way we had planned, but thinking about it now, and after seeing what has unfolded since, I suppose neither of us should have been surprised.
A couple of months ago, Lou and I decided we would head down to DC with some other NY area activists so he could do what he does best–street photography–and I could do what I do moderately well–attempt to use my words to document the insanity I see happening around me.
We had traveled to the DNC together over the summer, and while we knew this was going to have a much different vibe, knowing something versus actually experiencing it are two totally different things. We had expected the crowds on the day of the Inauguration to be much more contentious than the crowd that would be donning their knitted pink vagina hats for Saturday’s march, and boy, were we ever right. The march we attended on Friday looked to me to have a few hundred people (disclaimer: I am horrible at crowd estimations) with over two hundred arrests, while Saturday’s festivities had an estimated total of a mind-blowing 440,000 in attendance and zero arrests.
I am sure by now most of you have seen the footage of Friday’s march, but just in case you have been living under a rock, here is the gist of it: a few busted out windows and a burned out limo. The way the media fervently reported on the “riots,” you would believe that every Starbucks in DC was under attack, when in actuality it was just one, shown over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.
Whether or not I agree with “Black Bloc” as a tactic is neither here nor there, and I will be the first to admit that up until two weeks ago, my knowledge of it was nil. The tactic itself started in Europe in the 1980’s, and has since been used as a tool during protests and uprisings across the globe. As far as my endorsement of it, I have been around the activist world long enough to know that nobody gives a fuck about my endorsements. There are a vast range of tactics that are used by those who would (generally) seem to have a similar ideology, and my “permission” on any of them is not needed.
For those new to the scene, here is a very important rule of activist engagement (particularly for white activists who consider themselves allies to movements such as BLM or any other modern liberation movement): know when to shut the fuck up. If there is something you are uncomfortable with, you have the right to walk away at any time. This is not Scientology. However, you do not get to tell other people who have faced violence on a daily basis what you think they “should” be doing. I know it’s hard–hey, I’m white, too–but please recognize it’s a big world, and contrary to what you have been told, you ain’t the center of it.
After coming home and reading the posts on FaceBook, I am fairly certain that the average American is under the impression that this Black Bloc was just a group of angry people who wanted to randomly destroy shit because they were pissed off Hillary did not win. All of those things (with the exception of the anger) are just so wrong. In life, I have discovered that when you try to figure out the “why,” you can often, at the very least, learn to have an understanding of the outcome, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it.
I will say one thing–as frightening as some of you may feel Black Bloc is, it pales in comparison to the fact that the police can randomly snatch up over two hundred people and place them all under arrest for one blanket charge of felony rioting without having to provide any evidence of wrongdoing, besides the fact that the said two hundred people happened to be in the “vicinity” of “wrongdoing.” That is the shit that frightens and keeps me up at night. Streamers, photographers, journalists, lawyers (who were there to observe), and people exercising their right to protest, all kettled in by one extremely overzealous DCPD. A broken window can be fixed. A broken system needs to be dismantled by any means necessary.
As the hours passed, my friend Bob and I stood on the corner across from where Lou and the others were being detained. I could tell that the police were becoming more and more agitated by the crowd. Friends of those kettled just wanted to see to what was going to become of their comrades, and aside from the random shouts to “Let them go!” the crowd was pretty mellow. There was a man on crutches standing next to us as I watched the cop directly in front of me shake his can of pepper spray from side to side. I quickly posted a photo of him on FB, saying, “This guy is just itching to spray us.” Boy, was I right. Not sixty seconds later the cops began spraying and all hell broke loose. They threw flash grenades in our direction as we ran down the street, and I heard one person scream for a medic. Up to that point I had been in Lou’s sites, and he in mine. A moment later, he called my cell phone in a panic to make sure Bob and I had gotten away. Thankfully, we had.
As the grenades continued being lobbed in our general direction, I decided we should circle around the backside and approach the corner from the east. All was clear and we were able to keep our eye on Lou and the others for the next four hours. When it became apparent they were not going to be released, Bob and I left our friend (who had been detained on that street corner, cornered like a rat, for eight hours), grabbed a bite, and headed back to base.
When we all met up to exchange war stories, our friend Sloan told us about his day. Earlier in the march, he had gotten pepper sprayed by a cop who was randomly dousing people in the crowd. Blinded, he was being guided through the chaos by another friend when he had his foot run over by a motorcycle cop (who obviously was not very concerned with the safety of the crowd he decided to plow through). Most would think that right there would be enough punishment for a day, but au contraire. One more cop, armed with a back-up supply of mace, came through the crowd for good measure. While Sloan’s cry of “Dude, stop fucking macing me!” became the quote of the weekend, there is absolutely nothing funny about cops with weapons flagrantly running through the streets pepper spraying citizens. I have since seen footage of children being sprayed, older people being assaulted, and lots of other horrifying shit.
After a beer or two, I made some calls and found out they were bringing everyone over to court the next morning at 9:00 am. Bob and I were there by 10:00, only to find out proceedings would not start until 1:00 pm. Long story short, Bob and I sat in that courtroom all day. It was about 7:00 pm when they finally brought Lou and nine others before the judge. I can’t remember ever being so happy to see a person in all my life. Obviously, Lou and the others were completely shell shocked by what they had endured, but they were happy to finally be out, as jail support (the best jail support I have ever witnessed, I might add) cheered them from the outside. I kept joking that he was one of the first “political prisoners” under Trump’s regime, but let’s face it–there is really nothing funny about that.
Everything we have feared over the last several years is barreling directly towards us at a fevered pace. Every bad executive order and bill Obama passed (that we had protested and railed against) is now in the arsenal of this tyrannical man-baby. The idea that our friends’ cases fall under the Attorney General’s office (an office that reports directly to the man-baby) scares the fuck out of me, and it should scare the fuck out of you, too. But the truth is, most of you are more concerned with broken windows and keeping “order.”
The fact that people are so enraged by broken windows perplexes me. How hypocritical. Perhaps one day Americans will finally be forced to confront the truth that we are a nation built on violence; not only are we built on it, we are its biggest exporter. We send violence daily into the lives of others, without a second thought. We destroy businesses, homes, communities, we kill children–how on earth do we live with the children? Yet, we go about our days as if “we” hold the moral high ground of the world, blind to the blood on our own hands. We will walk on the backs of any who get in our way, as long as we don’t have to look in the mirror. When are we going to finally admit it, America? We don’t have a problem with violence. We are violence.
Author: Cynthia Tarana is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org