Up In Arms – BLM Protests 2020
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May 30th, 2020. I didn’t want to go. During COVID, working from home to avoid infection. But I could not miss this, a BLM protest on Ocean Avenue, a short walk from me. What was the point of having a camera if I did not take it where it needed to be.
The crowd was gathering quickly as I arrived and pushed my way to the front. Justice League NYC had set up a stage and sound system, as we waited I shot photos of the expectant crowd, their signs expressing their passion.
Speakers started. One high school student described the oppressive nature of the system that she and her friends faced. A teacher spoke of her despair at how her kids were treated.
Then the organization collapsed. I don’t know whether this was at all planned, but somehow a march started, more of a directional shamble. No marshals, just peaceful protesters following each other down Flatbush Avenue.
Eventually the police decided that they owned the streets, they were going to stop us. They formed a ragged line, more symbolic than real. We walked around them. They broke and reformed. We walked around them.
At Tilden they brought in cars, and started pushing directly into the crowd. We had spread out a lot, and retreated to gather together for safety in numbers.
We didn’t mean to surround the cops. They pushed their way into the middle of the street, and the crowd naturally closed around them. There was some pushing. The cops started giving off a scared vibe.
Then they got violent. The crowd had been suspicious of me and my camera, but then calls went up to “let the camera through!” The arrests seemed to be random, whoever fell down in front of them. I have the shots.
One I remember vividly. A ginger-headed cop is standing over the woman he has just pushed over, violence in his stance and in his eyes.
I fell during a baton charge. Two thousand dollars of camera gear went flying, fortunately I managed to land under it and crawled onto the sidewalk. Across the street much the same happened to a HuffPo reporter, and despite his press pass he was arrested.
I had my shots. I was scared. I am just a guy with a camera. I was done for the day, and left for home.