Thoughts Following the #4thPrecinctShutdown March

/ 25 November 2015

As anyone who’s friends with me on Facebook, or ran into me there, already knows I spent yesterday afternoon into the evening at the #4thPrecinctShutdown protest and march that went from the 4th precinct into downtown to Minneapolis City Hall. In many ways it was energizing to be a part of that crowd. Since we all know the media coverage of such things is severely tilted in one direction I thought it well worth writing some of my thoughts here, as someone who was actually there experiencing it firsthand. Invariably more will be posted on Facebook over the coming days.

Everyone I saw at the encampment prior to heading out on the march (I was there about an hour or so before the march got underway) was kind, friendly, and nonviolent. It appeared that all the essentials, both in terms of supplies and basic order of things, were in place, though only being there briefly in the afternoon I’m sure I didn’t see the camp’s operations that deeply.

I saw no violence whatsoever, from anyone, at the camp or on the march. This includes those driving whose roads we blocked as we marched. No one seemed too upset by the extra waiting time our march incurred, and a number of them honked and/or waved in support, even getting out of their cars to give their support. Only once did I witness a car driving right through the march. When you’re part of a group large enough to on its own break the normal flow of a city, into downtown, that in itself shows the power that this whole situation has driven people together to form.

I agreed with many of the chants that we used throughout the march. It took me a while to recognize this, but what was originally “Hands up don’t shoot” was “Handcuffed don’t shoot”, which given the circumstances makes sense, and is also a neat example of the fluid growth of these chants as time, place, and other details shift. Though at first the chants were started up front, over time I noticed that different sections of the march were starting chants, which some of the time led to more than one chant at a time. A handful of the chants were also on signs that marchers held up. What was neat about this was that these signs were pointed back at the marchers. Likely they had the same thing on the front, but either way they were partly meant as reinforcement of what the chants were.

Along the route (which, judging from us stopping every so often for no clear reason, was being determined on the fly) we passed at least two schools. At both the students cheered us as we passed, and again there was no noticeable disagreement or violence amongst them towards us. That is on top of the number of students from all over who walked out to be a part of the march itself.

A portion of our route went underneath a number of skyways, and we even stopped for a longer period of time during this portion. It was really quite amazing to see the number of people standing in those skyways looking on and cheering with us. Only this morning did I see pictures that showed just what they were looking at. A sea of people fed up with the way members of our community are being treated. That is what those in the skyway looked down upon.

During the course of the march there are also whole chunks of time when you’re not chanting. The people you run into, especially those you know from elsewhere, provide for enriching conversations in these times. Even discussing things wholly not related to the protest and march, but discussing them in this environment, can easily put a different sort of light on those topics. Plus, those you may run into but didn’t expect to see, gives you a new perspective on them. This community is one that stands in solidarity with the ongoing protest, even if just in spirit the majority of the time.

You should never expect things to be hugely organized at these sorts of marches. But I do think that the inability to hear what was being said up front (I was probably about halfway through the crowd) most of the time was a bit of an issue. It was like this at the encampment for a while until someone must have found a way to connect up to speakers. I understand this is an even bigger trick on the road, but still it would have been sensible for everyone in the march to hear what was being said. Of course, the inability to fully hear directions being given is part of what tends to spice up the whole process of being in such marches.

As marches in the end of November go, yesterday’s certainly enjoyed unseasonably awesome weather (even compared to what Thanksgiving and Friday may turn out to be). This was good because it is I’m sure part of what enabled so many people to show up. Perhaps worse weather would have shown a clearer picture of the core group of wider supporters, but it definitely was good (even if just for how the media has/will portray the march) to show success in sheer numbers. Though, is numbers a true measure of success, here, given that ultimately the action that gets taken, and the change that comes from it, is the important part, and that may or may not take a sea of people?

Another observation I have from the march is the wide array of races and ages of the marchers. While a large portion of marchers were somewhere between my age group and middle-aged, there were a few older people in the crowd. Likewise I saw a few school-aged children, and even a handful of infants. In terms of races, by my account it was a healthy mix, certainly no clear majority when comparing blacks to whites. This shows the wide array of people that are waking up to the injustices being committed against our community. The number of pictures floating around of the crowd will be evidence to anyone listening as to this mix that so clearly shows it isn’t just one group outraged, but a major subset of the entire population of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and the entire country.

I know that these aren’t all the observations I will make, but gosh they are a decent start. Please feel free to comment, and ask whatever questions you see fit. Those of you that were there, please add your answers to any questions that are posed, because certainly my voice isn’t the only one, and may not even be the most adequate for certain questions.