On Friday night, Brian and I went on a date. We headed to a restaurant in downtown. When we got there, the waiter mentioned that it was dead that night because everyone was avoiding downtown. I had completely forgotten about the protests when I chose the restaurant. Nothing crazy had happened on the block we were on, so we enjoyed our meal and didn't think much of it. Except that I could see the traffic on the road from my seat, and continued to notice more and more police cars driving by. Clearly something was still going on.
After we finished, we started to walk back to our car and heard the protestors nearby. We hung around, curious to see if the protests were indeed "riots" as everyone had been calling them. We saw no criminal activity, just people marching, some with signs, some with various noise-makers, some chanting, some just walking. My first thought was, the media has blown this way out of proportion. Big surprise.
At about 9 o'clock, multiple SWAT cars rolled into the neighborhood. The police got on a megaphone and started telling everyone they needed to clear the street or force would be used. Of course they didn't listen. We started to wander away because tear gas doesn't sound like fun or something an asthmatic should inhale. But then the crowd got much louder. Suddenly several incredibly loud bangs were fired off. I thought for sure someone got shot, but the flashes of light accompanying each shot told us they were flash bombs. The police were firing them, and followed them up with tear gas. And not long after, shooting rubber bullets. People were running down the streets to get away, but many would just circle the block and take the abuse again.
It was interesting (and disturbing) to see that what appeared to be a peaceful protest didn't turn into a riot until the police came. It was also eye-opening to realize that the whole group was basically being punished because of vandalism that had happened on previous nights. Regardless, all I could feel was everyone's anger, rage, and hatred. It was overwhelming and scared me. I just wanted to leave. Below are a few clips I got on my phone.
What I witnessed was anger and violence meets more anger and violence. The result being, no one won. Isn't anyone else but me tired of this division in our country? Each side is hating the other side equally, each just as guilty, but all the while blaming the other guys for the problems of the world. But guess what? The worst problems in the world spawn from everyone's hatred, prejudice, anger, envy, and fear. As long as we all continue to have these negative and destructive feelings about each other, nothing will ever really get better. The answer to our problems isn't in politics, in democrat or republican, activist or police officer, socialism or fascism. The answer is in how we treat each other. The answer is in love.
In my mind, the number one thing we should all be protesting is hate. Tragic events that happen from hate are worth our protest. Things like war and famine, those are worth protesting. But our protest should not include more violence and hate. Otherwise we just perpetuate the cycle and the hatred never ends. If we could learn how to forgive and move on, and even how to love each other instead of hating each other... how do you think that would look? Can you imagine a world where people loved each other equal to the current amount of hate in this world?
Yeah I know... I'm an idealistic dreamer. That's okay. I just hope someday we have enough dreamers in this world to make this a reality.