I am aware that this blog has strayed from its original focus, but I don’t believe it has strayed from its intent. We have gone from almost total isolation to mostly masked throngs in the streets, and we don’t know what the health repercussions will be. Everything that is happening is happening in the shadow of the coronavirus.
Days 8 & 9
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
It feels important to me to witness what is going on, even if I can’t physically participate. It’s Tuesday evening, the eighth night of nationwide protests over George Floyd’s death, and I’m sitting here watching one group of beautiful young people heading back to Brooklyn, after being blocked from entering Manhattan. There are police gathered, waiting for them, on both sides of the Manhattan Bridge. At the same time, there’s another group of young people sitting and kneeling in Los Angeles in front of a line of helmeted police. Their arms are extended in the air over their heads. Hands up, don’t shoot, they chant. Peaceful protest. George Floyd. Some are wearing masks, many are not. The reporter just talked about the makeup of the crowd: teachers, nurses still in scrubs. It’s after curfew in both cities. Both demonstrations are totally peaceful but the tension, even here in my kitchen, feels almost intolerable.
The mayor of Houston just spoke with Don Lemon on CNN. He marched with the demonstrators today—thirty thousand people who came to honor George Floyd and his family in his hometown, where he will be buried next week.
In Los Angeles, the police are starting to move in and, one at a time, arrest people, tying their wrists behind their backs with those white zip ties that are the sign that arrests are imminent. The protestors are walking away with them, still peacefully.
An hour later, the National Guard is pepper spraying the remaining group in front of the White House. The CNN reporter has graduated to full gas mask mode and tells us that while the day was peaceful, some agitators recently started shaking the 8-foot fence that was put up overnight, and the police and National Guard, who were dropped back from the fence, moved forward, shields in place. A flash bang just went off. One of the uniformed men is spraying people with pepper spray. The crowd scatters, then a small group of them move back up to the fence, arms and signs in the air. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning on the east coast. There has not been enforcement of the curfew, no police action, until the agitators started trying to knock down this fence. It is a shame, the reporter, Alex Marquardt, is saying, that this peaceful day is ending on this note.
It’s now Wednesday, the ninth day of protests. Minnesota’s governor, Tim Walz, on the site where George Floyd was murdered, has just apologized to Omar Jimenez, the CNN reporter who was arrested Friday morning. (As of Monday, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been at least 125 violations of press freedom reported across the country.) As they stand close together, in the area that has become a shrine, both masked, Governor Walz dips his head for a moment as he looks for words. Raising it, he says, “I don’t think we get another chance to fix this. I really don’t.”
Keith Ellison has announced the charges we have been waiting for. The work has just begun.