(Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Facebook)
Yesterday in Tarrytown we had a counter-protest (Back the Blue – BTB), and a counter-counter-protest (BLM). Both took place in Patriot’s Park, within shouting distance of each other. Both sides were drowning the other out with the sound of their speaker systems. It was contentious and divisive. By creating a one-sided rally and not inviting or acknowledging the validity of BLM, the BTB organizers were tone deaf (or worse) and divisive. And they missed an opportunity to create a rally with representation from both groups, standing together in a show of unity and mutual respect.
I support BLM, and I support our local police. As long as they are doing the right thing. I believe in what the BLM movement represents, which is necessary to right the wrongs of racism in this country. Wrongs that are repeated on a daily basis. We are at a moment in our nation where decent people should acknowledge the pain and suffering of African-Americans and all POC, and do what we can to help right the wrongs.
I don’t agree with the disparaging remarks coming from either side, including the FTP sentiment I heard in words and saw on t-shirts. However, I do understand the anger and pain that leads to that feeling. Just like I understand why peaceful protests across our country have in some instances turned to rioting and looting. If the pot boils over, the water spills out. Rather than criticizing the rioting and looting (which in some instances was perpetrated by agitators), we should acknowledge that it is a response to the ongoing injustice of racism.
I didn’t stay for the end of the rally when the two sides faced-off (I must be getting old!). But I did spend time on both sides. I listened to both sides. The interesting part of my experience is that just when I went to the BTB side, a young BLM protester also went to the other side, and she bravely held a BLM sign front and center on their stage. For the next hour or so, she stood strong holding her sign as she was surrounded by sometimes uncomfortably close BTB protesters, who held up their Support the Police signs to block her. At first I thought she was being treated harshly. And then I noticed that she was wearing a F#%k the Police t-shirt, with a big FTP on the back and a smaller FTP on the front. I get the anger, and I’m proud of our young community who have been the ones to organize and lead the BLM protests and bravely tell their stories. And sometimes you have to tear it down to rebuild it. But I thought the local news was remiss when they told that story but didn’t mention the FTP shirt she was wearing….
Someone else came over from the BLM side who impressed me more. Henderson Clarke. His brother Kamal Flowers was killed by the police earlier this month in a nearby town. Henderson came to the event yesterday, and after he spoke powerfully about justice and equality on the BLM side, he went over to the BTB side, and he spoke there too. There was some resistance to him taking the microphone and speaking, but he reassured them that he was coming in peace, so they let him speak. He didn’t impress me just because he was so brave and honest. His message of unity is what impressed me. You think he’s mad about his brother being killed? I’m sure he is. Yet he didn’t come over and say FTP. He came over and said, all of us people have to figure out how we can get past this problem of racism. The problem exists. But we have to come together to defeat it. He stood taller than everyone else yesterday, in my eyes.