The Life Of The Modern Protester

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Since May 25, when unarmed Black man George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, protests have erupted around the country.

What began as a week of incredible conflict specific to the city of Minneapolis that saw citizens at war with local police became a nationwide movement to amplify the voices of Black men and women that have stepped up to challenge the epidemic of police brutality and honor the memories of those we’ve lost.

Although the media coverage has seemingly disappeared and the protests have had their numbers slowly diminish- and in some cases, altogether disappear- the protesters of Seattle, which has become the new epicenter in the battle against police brutality and systemic racism, have kept the fire for change burning brightly.

From the pain of recent events and refusing to turn the other cheek any longer to America’s grim and violent history, Protesters gather nightly having developed friendships and family like relationships that have bonded them beneath the banner of a noble cause- even if it has made them a target.

Last weekend, the world watched as a vehicle charged at a group of protesters on the road and barreled through them, critically injuring Diaz Love and Summer Taylor, 24, the latter who tragically died of their injuries a day later.

However, this is not the first time a vehicle has charged a group of protesters on the Seattle streets.

In fact, regular protester have become hyper vigilant during their protests and now see cars as potential weapons. Many of these incidences have been caught on live video by a handful of streamers that have dedicated their efforts to documenting the events every night as people gather, but also- and more importantly- to ensure that they can provide reliable evidence for acts of violence committed against them, both from the police or by their radicalized opposition.

Prior to her untimely death, Taylor told Concrete Media, one of the independent journalists to pop up out of the necessity for coverage after mainstream media abandoned their own coverage, that they had received numerous death threats as a result of their participation in the protests. Diaz love took to their social media before the attack and left this message:

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In court today where the driver of the car that killed Taylor and injured Love was arraigned with a 1.5 million dollar bail, an attorney for the protesters present explained that, due to lack of privacy laws in Washington State, protesters that were eye witnesses or had evidence had to expect that their identities would be exposed to the public. She said;

“I have to let people know if they’re going to come forward as a witness that the state laws in Washington basically are not going to protect their identity. If they’re nervous about having their identity out, then they’re not going to be considered a credible witness. so we’re giving people the option, asking them to come forward with witness statements, if they have live stream video or anything like that, so we can present it to the prosecutor so he can go through all the evidence and make sure they’re getting maximum charges.”

Concrete Media asked “Why would people be nervous about having their identities put out?

The Attorney responded, “We’ve had many threats against us from different groups. One of them in particular that I’m personally aware of is the Proud Boys. We live in a digital age and our information is all out there so some people are worried their jobs may be at risk or they have families at home and they don’t want their names and personal information getting out there because we know for a fact that there is a network of white supremacists that are working together, to coordinate, they’ve been watching us the entire time, so people are nervous about retaliation.

I have spoken to several live streamers who have made their identity public as they take to the streets in support of Black Lives Matter, and while most have willingly divulged their names and exposed their faces, one of them told me that there are rules of engagement while filming.

We avoid showing the faces of protesters whenever possible. When having conversations with someone we point our cameras down unless given permission to film. When there is nothing to document at that time, we turn the camera on ourselves and we’ll talk to the viewers. But, leader of the protest organizations have made themselves visible to talk to us, which is like, incredibly brave of them to put themselves out there knowing the hostility.

Another live streamer I spoke with said, “I have a responsibility to protect these people, most of them who have become my friends. We’ve been shot at with rubber bullets together, flash banged, pepper sprayed by police and that sot of trauma bonds us together. I’m a white guy with a camera watching Black leaders make the future better for all us at huge risk to themselves, but they’re selfless, they’re putting the community first. I live stream so the world can watch these people doing what they do… they’re doing it for them, for us. I make sure that when shit is going down, I’m there to stream it so the entire viewing public can witness the true narrative and not one fed to them by politicians and police with an agenda. You can’t deny the brutality happening before your eyes.

Protesters have endured an onslaught of abuse by their detractors, having had bottles thrown at them, guns pulled on them by other civilians, threats to follow them home and even to kill their families.

Another thing made clear by a Streamer is “We never show anyone leaving. We never show our vehicles. We cut the stream before we leave the scene to protect ourselves as well. In our very own live stream chats we get threats from people who hate us who wish we were dead… or they wish the police would shoot us down in the streets and pile up our copses on a bonfire. To see that kind of hate leveled at us for trying to do something good can be literally soul destroying. I never thought of myself as naive before, but since I’ve been out here for over a month now, I have seen such racist hate more than I have in my entire life. I always knew it existed, but it’s different now. It’s not something people are ashamed of now. They see their racism as just a legitimate perspective and the President has given them that… It’s hard to process.”

The President of the United States has emboldened racism in America since he took office in 2016, most recently retweeting a video of one of his supporters yelling “White Power” at a group of Black Lives Matter protesters. He’s also attacked congresswomen of color, Black athletes, some he referred to as “Sons of Bitches,” Black news reporters and non-white journalists. All while referring to white nationalists as “Very fine people.” Yet, his supporters insist he isn’t racist although Trumpism itself has become indelibly tethered to the proud racism on display across America. At rallies they dual wield Trump 2020 flags and Confederate Flags. If Trump isn’t racist, racists have certainly adopted Trump as the driver of their own anti-black, anti-gay movements… they wear his slogans on their hats and t-shirts while chanting “Send her back” of congresswomen of color.

Most of the protesters I spoke with on the basis of anonymity know that they are taking on a behemoth at one of the most divisive times in history where radicalism and hate have spiked to levels unseen in most of their lifetimes.

I asked one protester if she was afraid.

“I’m more afraid if I do nothing. If I sit at home and wait to see the next George Floyd and cry. Or the next Breonna Taylor and cry. Or the next Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Elijah Mcclain… and I sit there in my chair, cry in my living room with the lights off waiting for the next one which is surely coming. I’m afraid of the next one. The only way I can cope with it anymore is to do something about it, whatever I can do, so there isn’t a next one. Until there isn’t a next one…

If we don’t do it, who else will? We only have each other to save us.”

Written by

Actor, Filmmaker, LGBTQ+ & Women’s Rights Activist All work copyright phaylens@gmail.com https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

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