Fucking Liberal Bitch

Friday, November 28th 7:04p.m.

I sip my chamomile, breathe deeply, try to relax. Everyone in the cafe is fixated on the crowd of people on the front porch, everyone on the front porch is staring at a line of riot cops, wielding tear gas canisters and wooden clubs the size of baseball bats. Everyone is quiet.

I am at a “Safe Space”, one of many sites in St. Louis that have been set up for protestors and bystanders to take cover from police repression as the city erupts in protest of the legal vindication of Michael Brown’s murderer. Last night the cops threw tear gas into the cafe, then at the back door, to stop people from escaping. Patrons had to take cover in the basement and wait for the cops to leave. Again tonight they have us surrounded.

Several people try to leave the cafe. They are immediately jumped by riot police and arrested, simply for being on the sidewalk. We are trapped.

***

Protests erupted around the country on Monday, when the grand jury announced they we not indict Darren Wilson, the cop who shot an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson several months ago. The night after the announcement, freeways were blocked in 170 major cities, and buildings and cop cars in Ferguson burned to the ground, a symbol of the indescribable anger people are feeling.

I paid my fare and took a seat on a public bus heading to the safe space cafe. The black bus driver and another black man started in talking about how stupid these protestors and demonstrators were for burning shops down and rioting, as I pretended not to eavesdrop. Most people seem to be uncomfortable with property destruction, so I wasn’t too surprised by their reaction, until one of them said,

“I mean, why do they have to burn down these businesses. If they want to burn something, why don’t they go burn the police station, or the court house, or bank or something?”

“Amen,” said the bus driver.

***

The political climate in St. Louis is dramatically more militant than any I’ve ever experienced. People who, months ago, were actively trying to stop others from breaking windows are now explaining that property damage is nothing compared to the loss of black and brown lives to police violence all across the country. People who have never been to protests in their lives are turning out night after night to show support for Michael Brown and his family.

The response by police has been violent and authoritarian beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. One night, a small group of friends and I were walking around looking for a march we’d lost track of, and ran into some others who were doing the same. We realized that we had about fifteen people, enough to block a couple traffic lanes, so we took the street, chanting “No Justice, No Peace” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”. Within five minutes a crowd of about a hundred riot cops showed up. Some of them chased us onto the sidewalk with clubs, then lined up in formation, blocking the road themselves.

A riot cop pushed me as he ran past, yelling “fucking liberal bitch!” (I feel I should say here that a full grown man assaulting and yelling sexist slurs at me is absurd in itself, but also that his epithet was completely incorrect. I am not a liberal.)

The followed us back to the cafe and so, here we are, trapped in this “Safe Space”.

***

There are riots on the streets of Ferguson. But the real violence is on the part of the state. In Ferguson, another young black child is in the grave. All over the city, peaceful and militant protestors alike are attacked with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, tanks, clubs, and batons. Peoples’ bodies bear the scars of repression, and their politics have changed accordingly. No one wants to sit down and suffer through the brutality of a military force, so people are fighting back.

If you are sitting at home, rhetorically wondering “how can people just attack small businesses like that?” I ask you to really, earnestly look for the answer. Why have people burned down buildings? Why have people smashed windows? That question should be a beginning point for conversation as we seek to understand the grief people feel about racism and oppression, not a rhetorical tool to silence those discussions.

Let’s take this moment to join in the fight against the militarized police state, against the racism and patriarchy of government, against corporate powers. Now is not the time to be silent. 

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