Home > Uncategorized > Quarantine Diaries – Day 84 (rally)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 84 (rally)

It was time.

My girls had already been to two local BLM rallies. They’ve always been on the right side of history. They’ve stood up when standing up was called for. Women’s March. March for Our Lives. And now again. They don’t sit on the sideline. They’re vocal. They get involved. They try to change things and they do it by example.

There was another rally this weekend. In Carbondale. My oldest asked me to come. So I grabbed a mask and we drove up together. I’d never really been to rallies like this before. She was in the lead here……I was following. She had the signs……she reminded me to bring extra water….suggested where to park……what time we should arrive. All of it.

Carbondale is 96% white. One percent of its residents are African Americans. It has never been known as the liberal capital of NEPA….and for pretty good reasons. There’s an old valley joke that the best thing to ever come out of Carbondale was an empty bus, but that used to sting a bit because my Dad was born there!

But you get the idea.

You can’t tell me that a change ain’t gonna come. If it was happening here, it can happen anywhere.

On the drive she told me about all the facebook chatter of the rally being broken up by rabid, armed anti-protesters…..wild-eyed redhats marching over them hills. All sorts of armchair Trump lovers were making all sorts of online threats, and as a result there promised to be a large police presence. I wasn’t that concerned, telling her that cowards are the ones who threaten publicly. No radio chatter at all is what truly frightens. Or the whispered intelligence of a certain few. But still, hearing all this made me glad she wasn’t attending alone. You just never knew.

We were one of the first ones there. About 30 minutes before it was set to start. In a nicely shaded park directly in front of the town police station. I was wearing a black Bob Marley t-shirt, and immediately saw a guy wearing the exact same one. We caught each other’s eye at the same time…..and that’s how I met the Mayor of Forest City, a lovely man from the Bahamas who regaled me with about 20 fascinating stories in 15 minutes. From hobnobbing with the Marley’s themselves to the emotional day in Philadelphia years ago when he was officially declared a US citizen. I could have talked to the guy all day. Everybody kept saying “hello Mayor” and I was thinking it was a nickname or something and that’s when he told me it was indeed earned. And he gave me his card.

Forest City, you’re in damn fine hands with Mayor Glinton.

The park was filling up……black, white, young, old. Nothing truly out of the ordinary until 2 heavily armed open-carry dudes arrived…..and it was kinda jolting to see. But more than the guns strapped to their chests and under their armpits (initially I assumed they were toys…..they were not), folks were more amazed that they were clearly on OUR side. It was bizarro world. Everybody sorta shrugged and that was that. We’re clearly not in Kansas anymore.

There was a series of speakers. With no sound system or megaphone, it was hit or miss. Some were pros at this, and you could hear them across the street. Others seemed to be self conscious and almost whispering…..and nobody could hear a word. A few stood out. A young girl, maybe 6, perched on her Mom’s shoulders. “My life matters!” she said. Loud and clear. “My life matters!” A young black woman gave an impassioned speech on the racism she’d faced as a child of mixed-race parents. Two black men exhorting, pleading…..that they’d had enough. And finally an extraordinary moment. The young organizer of the event invited the Carbondale Chief of Police to speak. About the whitest looking guy in the history of white looking white people.

The cops were unobtrusive. On the fringes of the crowd. They’d heard the rumors too, and the organizers made repeated reminders that they were there not really there because of us, but for us. To protect us.

carbondale_chiefBut a few in the crowd were having none of it. Maybe 3 or 4 white guys. Anti-police signs. Shouting down the chief as he tried to speak. Things got really uncomfortable really fast. Some in the crowd tried to talk them down, and were met with curses and snarls. This thing could be over before we marched anywhere. All it would take was one shove….one punch. And this was infighting…..nothing to do with the dreaded hordes who promised to crash the party at all. I almost laughed to myself. Progressives once again bashing each other over the head over the pesky details.

A black woman stood up, one of the organizers……and stared them down. She was clearly out of shits to give. The chief was a guest, her guest, and as far as she was concerned, if they didn’t want to listen to him they could fuck off and go home. And then the most extraordinary thing happened.

Maybe 10 folks, all black, formed a half circle in front of the chief, and kneeled in protective formation. A human shield. And that was that. The taunting stopped. I’m probably making it out to be a bigger deal than it was. I mean….the chief was never in any danger or anything like that…not with half the force across the street. But still. It was something I never thought I would see in 2020 America. And it made my fucking day. It really did. I wish I’d taken a picture. It might win awards.

The chief spoke. Forceful. Eloquent. What we were seeing on TV was not him…..not his department. It wasn’t all cops. It was a malignant minority. And we listened, And no matter what you felt about the institution of policing…even if you didn’t want to admit it you knew that all of them weren’t that guy with his knee on the neck of George Floyd. Maybe too many of them were….but it wasn’t all of them. And it wasn’t the Chief of Carbondale, PA

And so we marched. Hundreds of us. Throughout the town. Chanting. Words familiar now to all. No justice, no peace. Say his name. And a half dozen others. There was no hint of violence. There was no menace. That had all been dissipated. And there was no counter protesters. Not a single one. Cars held up honked in solidarity. People on their porches raised their fists. The day was hot. It was sticky. But it was also remarkably cool. Even when I looked to my right and discovered I’d been marching alongside my armed boyos nearly the entire time.

I’ve got strong opinions. I’m not shy about sharing them. But I’m no firebrand. I take people one at a time, and if I sense an aura of goodness, I’ll extend a hand.

The protesters and the police, on this day at least, were a window into where we’ve been, and where we could get to. In the overall scheme a things, our little rally was beyond insignificant, but at the time, for every one of us, it was what real democracy looks like.

In a bit…


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Fran Festa
    June 8, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Another gem. Thank you.

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