Why They Riot: The Voice of the Unheard
Do you wonder why they riot, loot, or vandalize business property? Do you question these actions, in one way or another? Whether you approve or disapprove, lend an ear, to the words of someone who served in the front lines of a protest. Hours later, protesters were deemed as the villains of the story. If you have a hunger for truth, then this will be a first hand account of truth. In this world, there are two types of people, those who accept truth, and live it, and those who deny truth, and live within their own version of reality. Whichever version you accept determines who you are as a person and what you stand for.
Upon arrival at the Louisville, KY protest we noticed cops were lined up and fully geared for a riot. “We just got here, why are they suited up?” I asked my cousin. As we continued to look for parking, we noticed more lines of cops in riot gear, including armored vehicles. “Wow, we barely started, and they are already here, waiting for us? The disrespect. Wow, this is such a disrespect. It’s like they are eager for a riot.” At this point I was in shock at this reality, but at the same time figured they were just taking precautionary measures — which the first tear gas clearly identified which one it was.
We prep before we walk off to the protest itself. As we
finish up, we befriend and adopt a much older, taller, white
man into our group. John Doe seems a little anxious, yet,
eager to protest against the injustice we stand against today. He stays and follows my group as we make our way to the protest. I made small conversation with him after offering him a sign, and learn he attended the protest the night before. This warms my heart. “We have a white male, attending the protest and call to action against this injustice. We have his support, and that’s awesome!” I think to myself.
After a bit of a walking, we congregate with the rest of the protesters as they march toward the court house. My cousin and I push our way to the front and center of the protest, and as I take my steps, I look down and see what I think is a laser pointer on my chest. I instantly feel threatened for my life, so I check for snipers on nearby rooftops and windows. I notice there are several people on top of rooftops. I can’t say for sure who they are, or what they are doing up there, but one thing for sure is that the laser pointer comes from them. I continue to observe my surroundings. But the fact that the pointer is taken off my chest the second I look up, builds the certainty that they know I am aware of their presence.
We are then asked, “Not to do anything stupid, and sit the F*ck down.” I assume this person was an organizer, or some sort, but the people understand, agree, and so we sit. We have a moment of silence for Breanna Taylor, and later continue our chanting, “No Justice, No Peace! Breanna was asleep.” “They can’t do anything if you’re sitting down!” The organizer yells this into the microphone after someone mentions the cops were coming our way. Just shortly after, the people begin to get up, and walk away from where we are sitting. I wonder why we are moving when we were just told to sit; then it hits me. The tear gas hits me. We all get up, and shift the group toward the other side of the street, away from the tear gas. “Whites up front! Cops are ahead. Whites upfront!” someone in our crowd yells. “Come on Enrique, let’s get to the front,” my cousin says to me. Being a Hispanic who looks white was perfect. In the past, it truly has exposed the ignorance in people and exposed their prejudice. Now I’m utilizing the color of my skin to protect my black brothers and sisters from harm, and prevent any escalation. I was ready.
We link arms, and hold the front. Allowing blacks to
voice their opinion, while holding them back. Becoming the
barrier between cops with smirks on their faces, and angry, crying black siblings. One of these sisters touches my heart, making it nearly impossible for me to hold back my tears, and I cry too, with my black sister. I want to remain strong, for my people, for the movement, but pain radiates, especially to one like me who loves strength, and is sensitive to the energy of others. We stand and chant continuously, until the cops in riot gear begin to pull out gas masks. Someone yells “ Get Ready!” The protesters back up, creating space, making a U shape. As I get on the sidewalk, I see a white male with a red t-shirt, and white band on his left arm — which later in the night is identified to be an undercover cop — throw a water bottle towards the cops direction — it’s unclear if he means to hit cops, or the protesters. “Yo Yo Yo! you can’t be doing that bro! You can’t just throw shit!” A face of guilt, and shame takes over the man’s expression as he turns and walks away from me. Another round of tear gas hits me, and the rest of the protesters. Tear gas, after tear gas, “Keep moving, we need to rotate!” I yell to the crowd, as I search for my cousin. Everyone quickly scatters, but regroups on the other side of the block.
There we are too far from the cops, we maintain the distance and continue our chants. I walk closer to the cops. “This is our first amendment right, the first amendment that you are currently disturbing! We have the right for peaceful assembly, and YOU! Disturb the peace. YOU DO! So you break your oath? Are you against the constitution? Are you not sworn to protect us? You should be here!” I yell, as I walk back closer to the group of protesters.
Bang! Flash bangs are tossed above the protesters,
Bang! Bang! A few more are hit. “You are traitors!” A young white male, maybe just a few years younger than I, yells at the police in riot gear as they shoot off their rubber bullets at me. “Come on, shoot ME! Shoot me, and you are all going to be fired!” He continues. Another tear gas is thrown into our direction. I cover my nose and mouth with my bandanna and move back. “They fear us! This is why they do this! They fear me, they fear
you, they fear that we congregate together, so they try to
divide us! The elites fear us, and they know this! That is why they do this! They fear a second civil rights movement, and this is the beginning of the Second Civil Rights Movement!” As I finish my statement, I notice I’m being recorded, saluted, and given the thumbs up by those around me. I got so caught up in my statements I didn’t realize how long they have been doing so.
“They’re trying to block us in! Let’s move!” A white male yells towards where I stand. “Move, move, move, they’re trying to box us in!” “Why are they trying to box us in?” I think to myself. “Let’s move! Rotate. Rotate!” I yell as we move as a unit further up the road and away from police. I lose my cousin in the crowd for a short while, as the group of protesters move down the street, looking for a safe spot to protest. I finally see my cousin, so I make my way towards him, only to lose him again once the protesters shift their march in the opposite direction. They notice that we are moving away from the target of protest. I lose my cousin completely in the crowd for good that time. I text him, in hopes that his cell phone still contains enough battery life in time to regroup before we lose control of the protest.
This event is really last minute for me, and as a person of routine, and organization to keep up with priorities, and focus, I usually hate last minute plans. Often skipping out on family gatherings, due to the fact they almost always wait until the very same day to let me know of their event. This one was one I can’t miss. When he invites me, I have a decision to make: skip out on my mother’s first birthday celebration in over a decade, or fight for my brothers and sisters, in hopes to bring some equality, and justice to the current broken justice system. I told my cousin I have to speak to my mother about it. You see, she was really excited for this for nearly a week, and looked forward to having her birthday celebration with her boys for the first time, in what nearly feels like forever. I made my choice, and my mother is very supportive. It is a simple sacrifice, but an emotional one.
I finally regroup with my cousin after a short while, and as we rejoin the protesters; a young small-figured Caucasian woman, probably in her early 20s is holding the left side of her head, near her eye. She’s being helped, nearly carried by two other protesters, maybe friends of hers. As we get closer, we ask what happened, and I notice some blood on her face and the hand she is using to pressure the wound. The other protesters say she got shot in the face with, what they believe was, a flash bang. That 3 or 4 others also, got hit in the face with rubber bullets.
We rejoin the congregation of protesters, and make our way to the front. “No justice! No Peace! No justice! No Peace!” We chant just about 150–200 ft away from the cops in riot gear. We get on our knees, and chant, “Please, Don’t Shoot!” as we hold up our hands in the air. “Please, Don’t Shoot! Please, Don’t Shoot!” Many chants are chanted. Bang! A flash bang is set off into the air. The protesters do not run in fear; this time they stand their ground and we begin to chant, “No Justice, No Peace.”
As the person in the front, I draw the attention of the cops, blinding me with their bright lights. I block their light with my sign. Bang! Another flash bang explodes in the air. The protesters still remained firm, and continued to chant, “No Justice, No Peace.” My cousin comes to me and says, “Here comes the patty wagons.” “F*ck em” someone says. A moment of silence is then given as my black brother, whom my cousin and I are guarding, speaks. “ I swear, every single one of ya are gonna get judged by God, and every single one of ya are gonna go to hell.” The “No justice, No peace” chant begins.
Bang! Again, a flash bang is tossed into the air. And yet the congregation retain their chant, and stance. “I can’t
breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” “How dare you attack our freedom to assemble.” Someone yells. “Yeah, how dare you attack, and harm the people you have sworn to protect,” my cousin yells to the police. Chants continue “Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets,
Our streets. Whose streets, Our streets.” As we chant I notice a police officer behind the linear formation messing with his weapon, and lifting it. “They’re getting ready to shoot! Stand your ground!” I yell.
“Go home!” someone yells, I assume a cop. But,
Even so, it reminds me why we were are still there. Because when we protest, it is not to stop until the demands of the protesters are met. We are there to protest the social and racial inequality in our justice system. The people, I included among them, are tired of the injustice — watching our brothers and sisters die for no reason, and their murderers receive little to no punishment. According to the Constitution, we the people are required to apply the law where our government fails to do so, which we are attempting to do peacefully.
Bang! Another explosion, but the protesters remain unfazed as they begin to chant, “No Justice, No Peace!” Bang! Yet another, as the chant continues, “No Justice, No Peace!” The chants die down a little, with a few protesters mocking the cops in riot gear, and begin to chant, “We Pay you! We pay you! We pay you!” Chants quiet down. “ Who breaks the first amendment right? You do!” “No one has hurt anyone here but, YOU!” A chant begins, “We PayYou.” The chant slowly phases over into chanting “You Did This!”
Bang! A tear gas gets sent into the crowd, and a nearby protester to my right reflects it back to the cops. Phew! Phew! Multiple tear Gas canisters go off. The crowd extends even further back. Running from the gas, and cops shooting rubber bullets. Pop! Pop! Pop!-Pop!-Pop!
Beside me a young white woman begins to cough. I look back and she collapses on the floor. I instantly take a knee behind her, with my back against the cops ensuring that they cannot hit her with their rubber bullets. Someone yells, “She has asthma!” I check my pockets for my inhaler, maintaining my position as cover for the supporters giving aid to the young woman. Fellow protesters then help her up and carry her away from the tear gas.
As I regroup with my cousin, he helps carry a black male behind a vehicle, and asks me for the med-kit. “It’s in your backpack!” He digs into the backpack as quickly as possible, as others rush to aid — among them a nurse. The med-kit was quickly given to the nurse, and as they try to stall the blood rushing from the middle of his forehead, I notice the wounded victim losing consciousness, fading in and out. “We need an ambulance!” someone says. I quickly call 911 and run to the corner of the street to give the exact address. People began to riot. The anger they have suppressed all night, after nearly 4 hours of harassment was being fed into with this last victim. I hang up the phone and look around me for my cousin. I see people tipping trash or plants over and breaking windows “ It’s time to go now, they’re starting to riot” I say to my cousin. “I know, that really set them off, but we can’t leave until all of our black siblings leave.” He says to me. “I understand, and I would agree. But, it’s become a riot now. They fed into their anger.” I replied. “Still, we can’t leave. We have to protect them.” I submit to my cousin’s claim, and agree that we should continue to watch over them.
We follow the crowd, some vandalize, some looted, many just kept walking. It is getting clear that everyone is done protesting, it has turned into an actual riot. As the congregation of protesters split I say to my cousin, “ Yea, it’s time to go, bro. Looks like everyone is done. Everyone is angry now.” My cousin agrees, and we walk back to our vehicle with our group.
As we make our walk — Our brothers and sisters beep their horn at us, and give us many thanks. At one point we see a group giving someone a jump start, and while doing so dancing e to music as they thank us for our support. We danced with them. From one sidewalk to the other, then to meet in the middle of the road as we continue to dance. “OOOOOH!!” Everyone dances, or jumps in excitement. We converse for a short while, then we say our goodbyes. They thank us profusely for our support, and we thank them.
The evening started peacefully. Cops disturbed that peace and created chaos. Yet, the last dance was a perfect ending to the protest. A symbol of friendship and social unity was established. I left that protest proud of the people. For so long, we stood, and protested in peace while still being harassed by brutish police tactics in order to disperse and silence the practice of our first amendment right.
Our mothers shouldn’t have to worry about us going to a protest, yet they do. They shouldn’t stay up worrying til sunrise, wondering if cops killed us, yet they do. They should be proud and feel safe that their children are going to protest, not be afraid because they are. What freedom do we have if our friends stay home out of fear of getting hurt by the police during a protest, or that protesters attend braving their fears of potential harm. What kind of freedom contains the definition of freedom, with the fear to practice freedom in itself? None.
We have no freedom to protest if the police silence us using brutish tactics, and harming people during the process. That is what angers them, us, we the people. Blood is blood, doesn’t matter how it’s spilled, or who it’s coming out of. No one wants to see blood, especially when they’re sending a message of “Stop the brutality.” Yet they still use that same brutality to “regain control” over the people. It’s just a disrespect to the protesters, and to humanity in general. We came there to tell the country to stop the harm and treat our brothers and sisters with equality, yet the only harm done was on the behalf of the oppressors, by the oppressors, the police.
I do not condone vandalism, or looting. However, what can you expect if they went all night protesting peacefully through chants, and still received blood in return? When they protest against violence, and violence is used in an attempt to silence the chants, they’ll find other ways to draw the attention to their demands, in a louder, yet harmless way.
While violence only brings forth more violence; the violent form of protesting peacefully is to vandalize their public spaces, or take from the rich, just as they have taken from us. This is when the poor capitalizes on the opportunity of broken windows, an example set by corporations and politicians; to capitalize on the fragile laws, or regulation in order to maximize their profits by any means necessary. Usually, at our expense. They don’t riot to riot. They don’t loot, just to loot. It’s a message, when the peaceful messaging fails, and they are provoked by the same brutality they protest against, they riot. Because in the end, it is the voice of the unheard.
Freedom doesn’t come free, so they swallow their fear and take the streets. Freedom is gained through sacrifice, and so many have done so in the past, only for the mere “illusion” of freedom, and not freedom in itself. In a free society, you can protest without fear of being harmed. In a free society, you’ll be able to chant all night long in protest against injustice, and inequality.
We will protest endlessly, we will cause no harm unprovoked. We will not be controlled. We are free beings. We The People demand justice, and the end to police brutality. We The People will apply the law where the government fails to do so. Our descendants shall truly be born free into a democratic and just society. We are the future, and so we build one free of disillusion, and propaganda, free of authoritarianism, fascism, and corporatism.
We build a progressive future, so we, and those after us can live a progressive, and peaceful life. We are Humanity, not dogs, not a cog in your broken system, but humans. We protect each other, We support each other, and there is nothing more beautiful than a united society. Attending the protest I saw just that, the disgust in my government who instigates chaos, and the beauty in the protesters who protect each other from that same chaos they protest against.
We didn’t want blood. Yet, you still gave us blood. And that is Why They Riot.