Black Lives Matter
Updated: Jun 8
This Saturday saw the biggest Black Lives Matter protests so far in Washington DC. Figuring this is an important event, and being mindful of the many road closures, I took my bicycle to go and check it out.
My first impression of the protests was on my way from North Virginia to DC, when I encountered a small group of white people (potentially of Hispanic descent) holding up pickets signs and shouting “black lives matter” very loudly into the face of another white man standing less than a foot away who appeared to be saying something.
I was too bewildered to stop and find out what was going on. I just hoped the rest of the protest activities would be easier to understand and perhaps a little less intense.
The next thing I noticed was the black man begging for money in the street—the same guy who I’ve seen standing there for months. If I’d been driving I may have asked him if he wanted a lift to the protest downtown but alas, I was on my bike, which has a child seat in the back.
What stuck out to me next was the boarded-up storefronts in Georgetown’s posh little shopping area along M Street. Was that in response to the protests? I couldn’t help but finding the idea offensive: protecting merch in favor of demanding racial equality. Until I asked a random person about it who told me that 35 shops had been broken into the week before by vandals using the protests as cover.
My image of the protest I was headed to was now tinged with a tiny bit of danger. So far I’d failed to consider the fact that protesting the police, while being observed and controlled by the police, might be a recipe for disaster.
It didn’t help that a few minutes later I encountered a Humvee parked in the middle of a busy intersection with a boatload of military personnel surrounding it.
I actually had little idea where I was going or where the protest took place because online I’d seen that there were multiple organizations and meeting points involved. I was afraid I was too early until I saw more people with picket signs. I followed them straight to the White House.
The closer I got to the epicenter of the protest, the more it dawned on me that this was the mellowest mass protest I’d ever attended. I didn’t see any counter protests. The few police officers I saw greeted the protesters. I even saw one sitting in lotus position under a tree, presumably on break.
17th Street appeared to be one of the main drags, so I got off my bike and looked at the picket signs more closely. “I am a man,” “Am I next?,” “This will be in the history books: where do you stand?” read some of them. There were also people wearing t-shirts with the chilling words “I can’t breathe” and many people carried signs with “(White) Silence is Violence.”
Then I turned into 16th street and realized that’s where all the action was. The speeches, the music, the free water melon, and the TV cameras. Impressed, I stayed a while until it got too hot and I realized I wasn’t magically going to run into anyone I knew—fat chance anyway, with everyone wearing masks and sunglasses.
I’m happy I went to the protest instead of joining my family who were in Maryland to visit friends. I had to go this time, even more so because I’m still bitter about missing the Women’s March back in 2017. But is going to a protest the same as speaking out?