All Lives Matter An Awful Lot When You’re Protesting While White
If you follow enough of these Donald Trump rallies posing as COVID-19 lockdown protests, you'll notice a pattern: No one's getting their asses beat. This is what happens when entitled white people act out. It's a big party. You'd think a sports team had won a championship game.
Last year, Sacramento, California, police arrested 84 people during a protest over the district attorney's decision not to file charges against two officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old black man. Friday, there was a #FullyOpenCalifornia rally in at the capitol in Sacramento, with a motley crew of infectious stupidity. They shouted, “U-S-A!" and “Open up!" while waving around coronavirus-tainted American flags.
They also got up in cops' faces and screamed like an old person trying to order at the Starbucks drive-through. Thirty-two anti-shutdown protesters were eventually arrested, after calling cops “traitors" and trying to storm the Capitol. What happened to “Blue Lives Matter"?
At least there were arrests this time. The Michigan protests last week were a white privilege parade. I can't help but remember the famous photo of Ieshia Evans at a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The 2016 demonstration was in response to a recent spate of police shootings, specifically Alton Sterling, whose killers would later walk. Evans, a nurse from Pennsylvania, was arrested and held overnight. It's unclear what her crime was, but most black people assume that if we attend an anti-killing-black-people protest, we're going to wind up in jail. The cops brought handcuffs. They're gonna use them.
The tweet above also shows an angry white man yelling at cops. He was big mad because Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked residents to stay inside and stop spreading coronavirus. The cops are calmly bearing the brunt of his rage, while Evans is the chill one in the Louisiana photo. The officers arresting her were also in full riot gear, as if she had COVID-19. They weren't fooling around with a piddly mask. These astro-turf anti-lockdown rallies seem like simple family disagreements, an amped-up holiday dinner when Nana had too much wine and started talking politics. (Barack Obama's birth certificate and Nobel Prize -- both illegitimate -- always come up in those circumstances.) The Black Lives Matter rallies look like military engagement of occupied territory, because that's sort of what they are.
Tear gas fired on Ferguson protestors www.youtube.com
Anti-vaxxers were a sizable contingent at the Sacramento rally. They've joined the MAGA crowd, Tea Party activists -- yeah, they're still around -- and armed militia members in opposing the public health measures taken to control COVID-19's spread. What unites them is a singular distrust of government. However, they're not likely to attend a Black Lives Matter rally or openly support black NFL players' peaceful protests. Just like any adolescent, they don't appreciate others telling them what to do or how to behave. This doesn't mean they reject the racial hierarchy. That's authoritarianism they can believe in. It keeps them safe. So they're inclined to view protests over police shootings as a threat to their own security and freedom. Can't have that.
Demonstrators at Friday's rally shouted, “Officers! Officers! Remember your oath!" and “You guys are supposed to protect us." This is very revealing. Black people generally don't view the police as service staff. Intellectually, we understand that law enforcement's role is ideally to“protect and serve," but in practice, we rarely believe that extends to us. It reminds me of the brilliant final scene in “The Fugitive" TV series. Dr. Richard Kimble has cleared his name and is about to walk off into the sunset with his girlfriend, but when a police car stops next to him, he freezes in terror. He still hasn't psychologically accepted his freedom, his restored “whiteness." The police are instinctively still a threat, and this is after just four TV seasons on the run. He hasn't spent his entire life shaken down by the police in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Fugitive last scene - Tues., Aug. 29, 1967 www.youtube.com
According to the OC Register, almost 3,000 people protested in downtown Huntington Beach on Friday, after California Governor Gavin Newsom closed beaches in Orange County. This made white people as upset as black people are when the police shoot 12-year-olds packing toy guns.
"I served in the army and fought tyrants and dictators overseas and this has gone too far," one protester told the Los Angeles Times. "I didn't do that to come back here and live under a tyrant in my own country."
This man feels oppressed after more than 40 days of having his movements restricted. Eric Garner stood up to the police after more than 40 years of feeling oppressed. He didn't survive the encounter.
GARNER: Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today. Why would you...? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn't do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] Selling cigarettes. I'm minding my business, officer, I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please, please, don't touch me. Do not touch me ... I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
Neither Garner's frustration nor the conditions in Ferguson inspired any empathy from the Fox News crowd. They only chanted “Blue lives matter!" That was a convenient cudgel that's just as conveniently abandoned during the anti-shutdown protests. Now conservative hosts ask us to sympathize with our fellow
white citizens denied haircuts.
Whenever I watch these anti-lockdown protests, I wonder why Sandra Bland was arrested at all. Oh sure, I know why she was tossed in jail. But even the well-meaning liberal rationales for how she could've avoided her fate -- none of that backtalk! -- ring especially hollow when you see white people berating cops with impunity. You also can't credibly claim that these protests, which Dr. Deborah Birx described as “devastatingly worrisome," are actually “peaceful." The police brought out tanks and tear gas during the 2014 Ferguson protests, and there was no risk of a viral outbreak that might kill hundreds of people.
Conservatives applauded the mother who dragged her son home from a protest in Baltimore. They now sneer at the busybodies who yell at people who are out in public without social distancing or wearing masks. The double standard is neither new nor surprising, but right now, it's life threatening.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).