No Peace

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

by: Liz Hynes

May 26th

Holed up in my apartment alone, the third month of solitude gnawing at my psyche, I watched the world ignite.

Of course I “knew” racism was real, police bias was implicit, the system was broken. Whenever the videos came out, I always took the “right” position: I never defended the cops; always gave the victim the benefit of the doubt; would tell cop-loving relatives that, even if this person had done something wrong, police should not be able to commit extrajudicial killings.

And yet they do. Again and again. They killed Breonna Taylor. They may not have pulled the trigger that killed Ahmaud Arbery, but they enabled the people who did. Since they killed George Floyd, they have killed 258 more and counting. By the time you read this, they may have murdered more than 300 people. They keep killing, without hesitation and without consequence.

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White people get to choose when to “opt in” to seriously fighting racism. Most of us can spend our entire lives thinking that because we don’t say the N word (not even in a song!), we’re “the good ones”. Sure, maybe some of our friends or relatives will make a stupid joke every once in a while, but we don’t see them very often, and it would be a whole “thing” if we called them on it, and they probably wouldn’t change anyway, so why bother?

May 30th

I wish I could say I had taken to the streets immediately, but it took a few days. I read the articles, donated to the bail funds, weighed the ethics of protesting during a pandemic. Then I saw this:

White friends, not being racist is not enough. We need white accomplices. Racists should feel afraid, uncomfortable & unable to move in circles around YOU because YOU call out racism. YOU see color & YOU know YOU MUST PROTECT BLACK LIVES, aggressively, constantly & consistently.” -@christinanthony on Twitter


Christina’s words crystallized the mission for me. An “accomplice” does not sit inside while people are being murdered. They do not prioritize their own comfort over others’ right to survive. They get skin in the game, they take risks, they show up.

I dressed in black, threw on a mask, made a sign, and finally showed up.

You wouldn’t know it to watch the news, which devoted hours of sympathetic airtime to former chiefs of police and aired footage of burning buildings (before they got bored and dropped their coverage altogether), but the actual movement is still very much alive. It’s being led by young Black activists on the ground, their demands clear, their words and hearts heavy with grief. And they are so young.

We shut down the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, hundreds of cars beeping in support, many drivers holding out signs of their own. One woman warns, “There’s a whole bunch of cops waiting on the other side...they’ve got vans and everything. You kids be careful.” Behind my mask, I smile at being called “kids” -- then I look around at who’s marching beside me. I remember the activists who had shared their ages earlier: Twenty. Nineteen. Sixteen. I recall what I was doing at their age -- because again, I got to choose -- and a surge of protective rage claws at my chest. These are kids. They shouldn’t have to be doing this.

When we reach the end of the bridge, an organizer shouts “white allies to the front!” -- we link arms and chant “peaceful protest” as we steadily march rows upon rows of officers armed with riot gear. A projectile sails towards us from the cops. Is it tear gas? A water bottle? A few confused, distracted shouts -- and then the police charge without mercy, throwing people on the ground, clubbing and zip tying them, tackling them four to one.

Whenever things get out of control, you cannot look everywhere at once. You try to film, to keep track of where cops are closing in, to intervene where you can. I am consistently floored by the safety the color of my skin buys me -- if I insert myself between a cop clubbing a Black protester, that cop will usually stop. When a cop’s hand is on their weapon (a gun, a taser, a baton), I am granted a moment of hesitation, too often the difference between life and death. White people get that moment, that pass, that benefit of the doubt. Black people don’t.

May 31st

We walk seventeen miles, all through downtown Manhattan, across the bridge to Brooklyn, and to Barclays, where hundreds of cops are waiting.

They try to kettle us in, but we out-maneuver them, and reach a standoff across the street. Finally, after nearly an hour of standing face-to-face, they retreat: slowly, and with the condition that we will remain quiet. They don’t want to give us -- or the news -- the powerful moment of cheering while they retreat. They don’t want to admit we won, that protesters de-escalated a situation better than the police ever could, that organizers maintained order and refused to break.

June 1st