Last Wednesday I participated in the first, out-of-my-car demonstration I’ve been part of in over two months. No, I didn’t join one of the Trump 2020 ones with people right next to each other without masks holding AR-15s, swastikas and confederate flags. Just the opposite, really, in every way.
This demonstration in Newark, NJ organized by the People’s Organization for Progress was called to demand that the white racists responsible for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. be prosecuted. This would include not just those who chased him down and pulled the trigger but those in local law enforcement who conspired to keep them from being brought to justice for over two months.
At our demonstration in Newark people wore facemasks and gloves, as instructed to do by the organizers. When I arrived there were x’s chalked on the pavement six feet apart where people were told to stand. Following a brief rally, the 50 or so of us marched about a mile through downtown Newark, single file and 6 feet apart.
In truth, there was some slippage of these rules during the march. A handful of people, from what I saw, got closer than six feet as it went on. And though everyone had a facemask, a minority weren’t wearing gloves.
In Brunswick, Ga. on Saturday there was a larger demonstration of many hundreds marching to: “the Glynn County courthouse demanding accountability for a case in which charges weren’t filed until state officials stepped in after a leaked video sparked national outrage,” according to an Associated Press article.
The article reports that people taking part in the demonstration wore facemasks and were told by organizers to practice social distancing, but during the march some ended up marching side by side.
So it seems like, as states and localities are opening up all over the country, some very carefully and slowly and some not so much, the issue of visible, public demonstrations is becoming a real one. It’s not just one for the Trumpists who consider facemasks to be an infringement on their rights but for those of us who wear them, and gloves, and practice social distancing, and appreciate their importance in these pandemic times.
Without question, it seems to me, when you have such a clear cut, right and wrong issue like the case of Ahmaud Arbery, there are valid arguments for taking it to the streets when the curve is going down, and has been. And there are many more very important issues, including unemployment, hunger and economic hardship, that existed before the pandemic but have become much more massive.
As we increasingly demonstrate during still-pandemic times, I’d say the concept of intersectionality needs to come into play. We want to put pressure on those with the power to take action on particular issues, but we need to organize public demonstrations in a socially responsible way.
Stop racist killings! Act together to end the pandemic! Living wages or income now! A Green New Deal and Medicare for All! Trump must go!
Ted Glick is the author of the forthcoming Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.