Warning: This blog post contains displays of profanity.
It seems like the whole country is on fire right now. Images of burning cars, burning buildings, and rioters wreaking havoc on innocent people, businesses and private property are all over social media and our televisions. Peaceful protests turn into war zones as the sun starts to set. Cities are forced to issue curfews. What’s happening in our country? I’m afraid the answer to that question is complex and would differ depending on who you ask. I would like to believe that most of us would agree that such senseless violence should be condemned, but unfortunately I’ve come across too many that don’t condemn the violence, but find ways to justify the chaos. That’s part of the complexity to this issue. The problem is that the rioting detracts from the message that the peaceful protests are designed to deliver. Instead of creating a movement that energizes the nation to take serious action against police brutality, we become focused on rioters and looters. Inevitably the media is going to put more emphasis on the rioting. If it bleeds, it leads. Now, all the peaceful protests have been overshadowed. The message is lost.
Just in case some of my readers may have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, the outrage across the nation was sparked by a video that showed a white police officer brutally handling a black man in their custody. The man in custody was George Floyd. With the officer’s knee on the back of his neck, George pleaded with the officer that he could not breathe. The video shows the life draining from Mr. Floyd right before our eyes. An independent autopsy has found George Floyd’s death a homicide by asphyxiation.
Nashville was the site of one of the George Floyd protests. When I heard about the protest, I prepared my gear to capture what I saw as a historic moment. It seems 2020 has been full of historic moments, too many if you ask me. My wife did not want me to go given the climate and what we’ve seen in other cities. Not going was not an option for me. This was too big of a moment to pass up. My initial thoughts were that Nashville would be different based on my previous experiences documenting protests there. As you read further, you will see that I was right and wrong. Let’s get to the protest.
The initial gathering spot for the protest was at the First Baptist Church just west of the State Capitol. When I arrived, there was a sparse crowd with clumps of people spread out across the parking lot. People were socializing and adding last minute touches to their signs. As I began taking pictures more and more people descended on the parking lot. The organizer started a rally to energize the people. She also discussed the agenda for the day which included a march to the State Capitol where a list of speakers would address the crowd. After the speeches, the protesters would march to Broadway. My pictures will take you from the initial rally to the State Capitol and to Broadway. The crowd was pumped and I was pumped as well, ready to capture some key moments in our history. These photos are displayed in the order taken. I hope you enjoy the slideshow.
You couldn’t have asked for a better day for an outdoor demonstration. While the majority of the crowd was made up of young adults, there were people of all ages at the protest. Small families and large families were there for the cause. I believe women out numbered the men. There were many different races of people in attendance. During the speeches, you could feel the unity of the crowd. In fact, I got chills listening to some of the emotional words of the speakers and the responses from the onlookers. As I looked out over the sea of people, it reminded me of the historical pictures of the National Mall during Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. It was hard not to get caught up in the moment.
Not too long after the peaceful protest, this moment was stolen by rioters who vandalized parts of downtown Nashville including iconic venues along Broadway. They even set a police cruiser and the courthouse on fire. Unlike some cities, Nashville did not let violence continue through the night. They issued a 10:00 curfew and used tear gas and flash bangs to quickly restore order. I wished the powers that be would have reacted much sooner, but I’m glad they were able to put a stop to the anarchy. Part of me wished I had stayed to get some pictures of the rioting, but on second thought, I’m glad I left.
Imagine if all the protests across the nation was like this minus the riots. I believe a more powerful message would have been realized. Instead, we are now discussing lawlessness. Can you also believe we are arguing over the skin color of the rioters and looters? I can tell from my personal experience, the people in these pictures are not the people you saw smashing windows and setting fires on the late night news. I can also tell you that the rioters and looters were made up of different races working in concert. That has been well documented by photos and videos, so the argument of blaming one race over the other for all the destruction is laughable. We have become so polarized that there isn’t any room to listen.
Ultimately we have to set our politics aside and work our way to the REAL solution, a solution that sustains. As I mentioned before, getting to that solution is complex. Before I end this post, I will leave you with some food for thought.
For perspective purposes, I must add the disclaimer for people who don’t know me that I am an African-American, a.k.a. “a black guy.” It’s my personal belief that the solution to keeping our young black men out of harms way resides in the repair of the black family. A large number of black fathers are not present. They have been replaced by Uncle Sam or not replaced at all. This is devastating to the black community.
Our black youth, mainly young black males, are finding outside sources like gangs to become a surrogate father. They are getting into a life of crime at an early age which leads to prison and too often death. This cycle is repeated generation after generation. If we could put the father back in the picture and mend the black family, we would minimize those police encounters by raising our black youth to be decent law abiding citizens with a respect for authority. We could raise our black youth letting them know that they don’t have to fit into the stereotypical black roles. Ingrain into them that they can do anything they aspire to do if they put in the work. We should raise our young black men to become the fathers that they never had. I believe with all my heart and soul that this is the to REAL change needed in the black community. Does repairing the black family get rid of the racist cops or change the abusive culture that puts a stain on our police departments? No, it doesn’t. Racism, bigotry and discrimination will be with us as long as there are people on the planet. That’s just the nature of humanity.
However, we still need to put pressure on the police to not be afraid to call out those bad officers that should not be on the force. This culture has to change.
I must mention that Mr. Floyd’s history as well as the infraction that led to his encounter with the police does not in any way justify the way he was treated. What happened to Mr. Floyd was egregious. I love my black brother and sisters and it pains me to see and witness the struggles, but it pains me more not addressing the elephant in the room. I will leave you with a heart-felt plea from Mr. Floyd himself. Subscribe to this blog or Like and Follow me on Facebook at Shuttering Thru Life to catch my next protest.