We are Quicksilver, We are Water

(Photo: Michael Nigro)

The Unarmed-One-Armed Civilian.

Less than a week ago, this Unarmed Civilian (me), became a One-Armed-Unarmed-Civilian. Nothing broken, thankfully, just a torn up shoulder. December 8, 2014, (Day 1 of the Week of Outrage) was the first night back on the street for me after being injured. Below is the story of that first night, written from the ER in Brooklyn, NY.

Thousands took to the streets of NYC on December 3, 2014, the night after a grand jury voted not to file any charges against NYPD officer David Pantaleo – the cop who took the life of Eric Garner by putting him in an illegal chokehold.

Like the Michael Brown protests and the Flood Wall Street action last September, these marches, metaphorically, have the properties of quicksilver: flow where there’s an opening, fissure when blocked and then pool together again elsewhere.

At 7pm December 8, I found myself with hundreds of protestors flooding 47th and 6th Ave., where non-violent acts of civil disobedience turned tense when – and only when – the police themselves became aggressive. I watched cops shove protestors and muscle journalists and lurch their motor scooters at peaceful activists – many of whom, like me, were penned inside barricades and being threatened with arrest.

While tucked in with a cluster of mainstream press – their boxy cameras and uncaring news-gathering demeanor – we realized that the real estate around us was shrinking. Fast. A phalanx of NYPD officers began to squeeze their human kettle – something practiced and deliberate and dangerous – corralling my section of protestors, mashing us up against each other and the interlocking “freedom cages.” There was nowhere to go.

Chats of “we’re not cattle” started. Other protestors outside the cages taunted the cops. Some of the cops ridiculed back but most remained stoic knowing what was possibly coming next. Force and arrests. And it did.

After the first bullhorn warnings to disperse, some attempted to leave but could not because the tsunami of NYPD blue pressed forward. But we’re water. We’re quicksilver. People not wanting to risk arrest spilled messily over the steel cages. One gentleman, having a particularly difficult time with his scissor-climb escape, held onto my arm for balance but then a fierce ebb of the crowd, and the subsequent stagger of humanity, unfortunately wrenched my arm downward.

That’s when I felt my shoulder collapse and crumbled, as if it were made of dried leaves. The momentum of the crowd had crested upon us. It was physically impossible to move. And even if I could have, the pain was paralyzing (I’d trade this pain with pepper spray in the face any day. No, really.)

But then an undertow. The human current rolled away, swayed like a mosh pit over to the real time arrests happening about 10 feet from us. Unfortunate for that pocket of protestors putting their bodies on the line. But fortunate for us. We were, ahem, free.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week of Outrage – Day 1

This is the anger the community feels. This is how badly the NYPD need reform, though they deny it. This is symbolic of the citizenry’s lost trust and faith. I have zero evidence that any of these officers are “killers,” but I do know this: immediately after I took this shot, one of these officers called me a “faggot.”

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week of Outrage – Day 1

Dozens of cops keep the protestors out of Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week of Outrage – Day 1

Black Deaths Matter.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

As LeBron James played inside Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center to international dignitaries, celebrities and screaming fans, outside the arena, 2000 or so protestors engaged in acts of civil disobedience.

2014 1210Barclay-4(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week of Outrage – Day 1

After shutting down traffic and staging die-ins, protestors were stopped from taking Flatbush Avenue by police who wielded batons and misfired pepper spray.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week of Outrage – Day 1

The handcuff that failed to hold out the protestors from enter and shutting down Target.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week Of Outrage – Day 1

The Target shut down echoed with chants and featured a somber die-in.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week Of Outrage – Day 1

Hands up Can’t Breath.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week Of Outrage – Day 1

Die in staged in the street, outside the Barclay Center.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week Of Outrage – Day 1

Die in staged in the street, outside the Barclay Center.

(Photo: Michael Nigro)(Photo: Michael Nigro)

Week Of Outrage – Day 1

Speaking truth to power.