Notes from a protest.
Two consecutive weekends of protest. Today, as with last week, there are helicopters overhead, and my cellphone doesn’t work. I don’t pay close attention to either of those things—I’m too busy shouting, too busy straining to hear the speakers, too busy making my way through the crowd to a better vantage point—but they pick at my brain.
Later, away from the crowds, I’ll get a signal again, and post some photos of signs I saw at the protest. A person I don’t know calls me a “dumbfuck,” and attaches a graphic photo from the Boston Marathon bombings to their note.
The Boston cops, or the ones I can see, are dressed in their everyday blues. Their body language seems relaxed.
This week’s crowd is huge, and enthusiastic. It’s also smaller than last week’s. I wonder how big the crowd will be next weekend. I get sad that I asked myself that question.
I see a sign that reads, “WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN SPRING.” Later, I’ll wake up from nightmares, those words standing tall above me.
I notice a group of women in their early twenties, many of them wearing hijab. They lead chants for the better part of an hour, their voices strong, angry, and never faltering, never wavering, not once. They’ve assembled quite a crowd around them. I look away, for awhile. When I look back, they’ve handed the mic to a group of young schoolgirls—all of them black, all of them wearing hijab—and encourage them to yell “SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.”
When the crowd responds as expected—“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE”—in their heartiest, happiest, loudest voices, the girls clap their hands; they laugh; they giggle delightedly at what they’ve done. At how they’ve brought out our voices, using nothing but theirs. I’m crying a little. I’m yelling, too.
More than a few times, I think about how it’s an odd, broken, beautiful world out there. Out here.
The protest breaks up at 3pm, a little later than the appointed time. Not everyone leaves, though: a group of people, who I take to be college-aged, are on the steps of Trinity Church, their voices loud, their fists in the air. I start to leave with a friend; she’d taken a bus three hours to get here, and she needs to get home. I look back at the people on the steps of the church, and wonder if they’ll be arrested; I wonder what time they’ll get home; I wonder why I’m not up there with them.
For the next week, the next year, I’m going to hold fast to the memory of those smiling, laughing girls, and their voices.