Reflections on the Peaceful Rally and March In Support of Black Lives 6/7/20

Posted on June 8, 2020

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Adrian, MI

I attended an event yesterday that was billed as a Peaceful Rally and March In Support of Black Lives, organized by Leisha Taylor and Chico Martinez. Some thoughts….

First of all, I want to thank the organizers and show appreciation for all the people that showed up in support of Black Lives. We were a large, multi-racial, multi-generational group. There were people I’ve marched with many times, and people who were coming out for the first time. Overall, I think there were many good aspects to the event, and I am glad I went. It was a good event for networking with allies, and I hope that everyone there was energized to do the work of dismantling white supremacy and ending police brutality and will devote time and energy to do the work themselves, with their families, and in the community.

On the other hand, I found a number of things troubling.

1. The number of “leaders” in the community, clergy and police, especially, who did not follow protocol for slowing the spread of COVID19. They attended the event without masks, did not keep safe distances, and were shaking hands and hugging people throughout the crowd. When a clergyman introduced himself to me in a conversation after the rally, he stepped forward to shake my hand, and I backed away, as I did numerous times, to avoid physical contact with people. He said he understood, but then he explained that he didn’t take any precautions because he’s “covered in the blood of Jesus.” I’m having trouble believing that these leaders care about the lives of community members, when they deny the science, refuse to do what’s right for PUBLIC HEALTH, and claim that their belief in magic will protect us. The data shows that religious leaders around the world are responsible for some of the largest outbreaks of COVID19, and that is because too many religious leaders refuse to take the proper precautions to keep their congregations and the rest of us safe. No, the blood of Jesus does not stop COVID19; neither does a badge. Your statements about concern for the lives of others is contradicted by your obvious disregard for public health protocols.

2. Because the Christian ministers talked too long and didn’t say much about actually working for change, and because many of us weren’t there to practice their religion, some of us followed Isaiah Wright, who held a megaphone and began leading chants on the sidewalk like, “Say their names!” “Which one?” and “Black Lives Matter”–because that’s why we came. As we chanted, I saw a white woman approach the young Black man and speak in his ear. I was afraid that, at a rally where white people claim we’re here to LISTEN and LEARN, I was witnessing an attempt to silence this man. My instinct was correct, because when she walked away, he said that she had told him to stop the chants. She was wrong to do that. You can’t claim you’re hear to support Black lives, and then tell a young, Black man to be quiet. Don’t do that. It is wrong.

3. Giving the mic to uniformed police at a rally that is being held because people are killed by police almost every day in the USA is problematic. If police officers support what the rally stands for, they should be there as citizens, standing with fellow citizens, not doing PR for the department. I spoke with many other attendees who disagree with the decision to give the police a platform at an event meant to support those who are too often silenced by police brutality. Police already have a platform. They can speak to the community on these issues every day. A rally in support of Black lives should amplify the voices of the oppressed, not the oppressors.

4. After the speeches at the park concluded, a number of protesters then moved to the police station, where they staged a peaceful protest against police brutality by lying on the ground in the road for the amount of time that Officer Chauvin took to murder George Floyd by suffocation with his knee on Floyd’s neck. While APD had been present and observing, they left at some time during this protest. It was during this part of the day that the sincerity of the police seems to falter, because, while the protesters stood in front of the police station, a man (pictured) approached in a truck, shouting “I will run you the fuck over!”

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Eyewitnesses report that people quickly mobilized to stand in front of the vehicle and order him to stop to protect human life. The driver then got out of his truck and beagn to attack protesters. When the protesters had pushed the driver into his vehicle and told him to leave, they went to report the driver’s criminal behavior to some APD officers, who were standing a short distance away (location pictured). The driver of the vehicle, who has been identified by community members as Jason Hutchinson, had pulled over to speak with police as well. A Lenawee Sheriff department officer then arrived on the scene, and was overheard telling Hutchinson, the driver of the vehicle, that he “already told him not to do anything fucking stupid,” and to “get the fuck out of here.” When a community member asked the officer if he knew the name of the driver, he said no, but the driver was overheard saying to him, “But, Chris, you KNOW me!”

The driver of the truck threatened to harm peaceful protesters with his vehicle and injured at least two people during a physical altercation, but instead of being charged for his crimes, witnesses report that he was simply advised to go home.

In spite of the hesitance on the part of the police to do police work regarding this man’s crimes, the victims of the assault are pursuing charges against him. They have shared on social media that “Sharing this side of this is important too to show that protesting peacefully will still bring violence from those wanting it…We are pressing charges but the police officers who questioned the man let him go and told us ‘there are two sides to every story.’ ”

As I said, actions speak louder than words, and police behavior undermines the message of support for any life, let alone Black lives, that was spoken on the mic.

Local police reportedly KNOW better; they MUST DO BETTER.

5. Later in the evening, a community member shared a message with me that had been posted on social media by Chico Martinez, a rally organizer. He wrote, “Our rally was done at 12 and it was a great peaceful event!! And we thank everyone for coming out. there’s others still there that don’t belong to our rally please dont take their actions with our intentions. I addressed it with the police.”

I had been hesitant about attending the event, because I did not know the organizers, and I was uncomfortable with the involvement of clergy and police. But I DO support Black lives, and so I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Several of my fellow cultural workers asked if I was going. Some of them expressed doubts, too, but after talking about it, we decided to show up for JUSTICE, no matter what. Seeing Chico’s statement distancing himself from the protesters who went to the police station seems to suggest that my instincts were correct.

I have trouble believing that someone who is sincere about ending police brutality and dismantling white supremacy would turn their back on the people they were marching beside just moments before. I know where I would’ve been, if I had been at the peaceful police station protest. It’s exactly the same place I am now, in solidarity with the young, Black man who led the chants, the protesters who marched to SHU, the protesters who lay in the street at the police station, and the protesters who confronted police and asked them to do their jobs and take statements, gather evidence, and pursue charges against an assailant.

From my point of view, the rally did have many positive aspects, but sadly, it also offers insight into the shadow side of performative allyship and respectability politics in the local community, where, (literally) at the end of the day, the organizer of a rally to “support victims of police brutality” makes a public statement aligning himself with the police, not with the peaceful protesters who are terrorized by threats of violence.

I’ve seen a lot of articles in recent days about the deadly dangers of performative allyship. It’s something I’ll be thinking a lot about moving forward. As the preachers like to say, “By their works, you shall know them.” Keep your eyes open, friends.


Related Links

The Police on This Week Tonight 6/7/20


lisa eddy is a writer, researcher, educator, advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com