I stand here in the middle of yet another charged national moment. This time, the spark that lit the revolution was the murder of yet another black man by an over-armed, too-aggressive, and systemically racist police force. We have had enough of the insane violence perpetrated against Americans by their police, the men and women who are charged with protecting our communities, but who only ever seem to uphold the white supremecist state. I get the distinct impression that the United States has been on a downward trajectory for just about my entire 31 year life.
The George Floyd Uprising seems like it’s been a long time coming. This racial reckoning is a continuation of the unrealized demands of the protesters of the civil rights era in the late sixties, and the exact same problems we saw then continue to rear their ugly heads today. This time, there are two separate threads driving the protests: ingrained systems of oppression and racism and anti-blackness, and an American police force that has morphed into a terrifying military power designed to keep its own citizens down. Constant every day racism and warrior cops.
I live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. In many ways this has been an epicenter of the uprising, home to the infamous CHOP, the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. This was a region in the heart of Capitol Hill, centered around the East Precinct headquarters of the Seattle Police Department, where demonstrators gathered to protest police brutality. It was here that some of the nation’s more brutal examples of that very brutality being protested occurred during the early days of the protests, including a police officer grabbing and macing a child.
In a protest against police brutality, it is impossible for police to be neutral. They weren’t there to protect, they were there to counter-protest. And to counter the largely peaceful protestors, these increasingly fascist police brought with them chemical weapons, automatic guns and bullets, armored tanks and personnel carriers, full body armor, microwave weapons, sonic weapons, and more.
Then, one afternoon and without warning or justification, the SPD retreated and abandoned the precinct in the middle of a protest. Many of the protestors immediately saw this for what it was: a trap. We knew they wanted people to damage, maybe even attempt burn down the precinct (as happened in other cities around this time), so they could prove a point and justify more of their violence. Instead, protestors led by local Black Lives Matter leadership moved quickly to secure the area around the precinct. The area was declared police-free and autonomous, and something strange and beautiful sprung up around it.
After the police abandoned the East Precinct, Something entirely new grew up around it. The CHOP was an experiment in community, compassion, and police abolition. To many, it represented a bold vision of hope. To others, the terrible sundering of an American way that benefitted them. Regardless, stepping back, it was weird and wonderful, and nothing like what was broadcast in the news.
I’m not going to discuss the merits of the CHOP, whether or not it was a good idea or a bad idea or (more likely, as usual) somewhere in the middle. Admittedly I didn’t show up enough to know the necessary truth. But what I do know is that this was a major turning point for the movement. And you better believe I showed up with my camera. I hope that these images show truth, whatever that may be. All that matters to me about this whole thing is that Black Lives Matter, and that out of the din of the CHOP rose many powerful and inspiring voices, including the Black Collective Voice.
As I write this, it has been 4 months since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. It’s been a little less than that since the murder of Breonna Taylor (whose murderers still walk free, and are still employed as police—arrest them all). It’s been a few months more since the hunting and lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The protests since May 25 have been non-stop, nationwide, and and have been reaching larger and larger audiences. These protests are a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-generational cry for help, a demand for change. For an end to the overpoliced existence of Black and brown people, an end to entrenched racist systems, and an end to the wave of fascist authoritarianism that sweeps across the globe.
Since then there have been protests, marches, direct actions, little victories, big setbacks, and no end in sight for the struggle for racial justice in America. The struggle will always go on, though there is light on the horizon. The night is always coldest before the dawn, and a new sun is rising in America. Let’s take control of our future and make the world we want to see.
Thanks for reading.