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Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Day of Anger

I knew I wasn’t going to be comfortable with all phases of the demonstration, but I went anyway, to the “Millions March” from Washington Square, winding up at police headquarters in New York.  

I went with a group from Broadway Presbyterian Church, a mostly white, peaceful lot devoted to the idea of reconciliation.   But the black organizers of the event were calling it a “Day of Anger,” over the latest wave of police killings of unarmed black men, and the impunity granted to the police by the justice system.   In the park, one swarthy black man carried a sign with a clenched black fist and the words “Fuck with me at your peril.” 

As we marched up Fifth Avenue, we came abreast of a group of young people, mocking the cops with a chant borrowed from the Vietnam War era.  Then it began “Hey, hey, LBJ..”   Now it was “NYPD, KKK, how many kids have you killed today?”   This was aimed at the police who lined the avenue, looking on impassively from behind the barricades. 

Racist cops are not a fiction.  But equating the NYPD with the Klan is obviously unfair.  Still, I found myself mumbling along with the chant.  The Presbyterian minister next to me said he wanted to disassociate himself from that group, so we moved over to the side of the road. 

I was completely divided.   After thinking for a moment, I decided to defend the deriders.   OK, it’s hyperbole, I said.   Hyperbole is allowed in political debate.  If you go around killing people, you’re going to have to face the anger of the bereaved.   And starting now, there must be consequences for killing without cause.  

Everyone, including the cops, behaved themselves at the march.  But the point was made -- the age of impunity is over.

Later, after the march to police headquarters, some of the demonstrators broke off to try to block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.   "Shut it down!" they chanted.   As getting arrested was not on  my list of things to do that day, I didn't join them.  But I get it.  No justice, no peace.

-- Copyright 2014 by Tom Phillips