The past two days have felt surreal. I’ve been to two protests — Barclays on Friday night, then Union Square on Saturday afternoon until the start of Sunday.
I will remember these markers of history by their sounds. On Friday, I walked from a bus stop with others mostly in silence, the rumbles of a crowd a few blocks away. Their words were indistinct, but as I joined comrades closer to Barclays, they rang in my ears: SAY HIS NAME, GEORGE FLOYD. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE. SAY HER NAME, BREONNA TAYLOR. BLACK LIVES MATTER. The chants and cheers overwhelmed me with solidarity that felt almost palpable. I’d been isolating for months.
Saturday’s sound was different and less coherent. Chants competed with one another as we worked our way from Union Square. Someone near me boomed, “Take a photo, we are taking over the West Side Highway.” Bus drivers honked their horns, and the people cheered. I cheered, too, because I am hopeful that if enough people fight for the NYPD to be defunded, we will be able to pay for the programs that make people’s lives safer and more stable.
Saturday was also different because of the silence. Whereas Friday felt like a diverse coalition of people yelling in solidarity, Saturday revealed clear divides: Protesters were a spectacle for white people in sundresses drinking spritzers in the Village. Marching through the streets of Manhattan, through picnics in Washington Square Park, we could see what complicity sounded like. OUT OF YOUR HOUSE AND INTO THE STREETS, we shouted. Mostly white people stood on the sidelines and filmed the march instead.
When we were back at Union Square and the police officers maced the crowd, a comrade shouted my name as we ran so I knew which direction to head. I would not have felt safe to be there alone.
Late at night, I walked out from a comrade’s apartment on 13th Street. A police car was burning at the end of the block. The streets were mostly quiet, but bathed in red-and-blue lights.