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Protest Is an American Right

Ellen Levitt

Posted on June 2, 2020 19:07

3 users

I attended a rally held in lower Manhattan, to show solidarity with the murder of George Floyd and others, at the hands of police.

Like many Americans (and people around the world) I am horrified by the brutal murder of George Floyd, at the hands of a police officer. There are so many serious and painful issues that are wrapped into this incident, which has become a flashpoint for many protests. Most of the protests are peaceful, but too many have violence and devastation included.

I chose to attend a rally held in lower Manhattan's Foley Square, near Police Plaza. I did have some reservations about attending, in light of the COVID-19 disease spread and scenes of violence at some of the rallies. But I felt that if I attended a daytime rally, and had my bicycle and helmet to give me a bit of space, then I would be somewhat safer.

The rally began officially at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2, but I got to City Hall Park early and ate half a sandwich I'd brought. I took note of the many people, their signs and their T-shirts with messages as well. A few people had brought bags of useful things for protestors: bottled water, hand sanitizer, facial masks and more. 

I positioned myself within sight of many attendees but a bit toward the back. I saw news reporters adjusting microphones; press photographers with credentials dangling from their necks; a lot of young people but also some middle-aged (like myself) and even elderly people, coming together. There were Black, White, Asian, Latino and other people. I spotted two young men wearing kipot, the Jewish head covering. 

Police officers looked wary but stood quietly around the perimeter of the gathering; Court buildings surrounded us. I took photographs of people holding signs and made sure that Court signs were in the background as well.

Image by Ellen Levitt
NYC Protest. Image by Ellen Levitt.

A few rally organizers used portable microphones to communicate with the crowd and emphasized several times that this must be a non-violent protest. They acknowledged that participants were feeling anger, frustration, fear, sadness and other negative emotions, but stressed that everyone here should comport themselves in non-violent manners.

At times I felt tears sting my eyes: our American society is in such a schismatic state, with horrifying incidents and fears that need to be addressed. But I also felt like I was once again a teacher surrounded by my students, especially because we were just a few minutes away from Murry Bergtraum High School, where I taught from 1994-2000. It was my favorite teaching experience, and I still wonder how my students are doing now. (I'm in touch with one, Mario P.)

After about 30 minutes I decided to leave because people were going to march northward in groups, and I felt overwhelmed in a few ways. But I knew it was important to show my solidarity and pay witness to people's pain and frustration, not just my own. I biked over to the Brooklyn Bridge subway stop and took the train home.

The US needs to be safer for all, especially for the young.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on June 2, 2020 19:07

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