it had been a while since i’d been out, save for a handful of daytime marches, may days and the women’s march with friends, the safest of safe amongst crowds composed of nine to fivers, families, and seniors — the type where the cops politely holding traffic as the march passes through, permits having been properly filed and vetted. i just hadn’t been thirsty after the sequence of nights that fateful december, not exactly keen for another overnight in the clink, the sight of a black & white or uniformed man or both sending shivers and creeps through me, still after all this time.
i’d go out this time strictly for recon, i’d decided. the adversary a new sort of animal, villain level boss, but this is our reality now and we’re no where near getting out of this, on our fifteenth try and not even close to solving the problem, the a/b, a/b combo we’re using is painfully, woefully, way fucking off. squaring against just the cops that day the sort of wish that screams of my privilege. not only them that morning, now another them, too — one that includes, attracts, or is, then applauds the swishy, fashy haircut, crowd. i’d been following the local press and twitter, they’d taken to calling it “the battle of berkeley” days before and a group called “identity evropa” had taken to bombing campus with stickers. my queer lover in tow, to her, as we walked, she not being well versed,
“always look at what’s around you.”
“if someone points their camera…”
“they’ll give an order to disperse first…”
“i hate to even say this…”
but i did,
“but i don’t want to attract any attention, so maybe we shouldn’t hold hands…”
the first time i’d ever done this and it fucking killed me inside…
“at least not at first.”
we walked together south on shattuck, me with a close eye out, suddenly keenly aware of ourselves as the other, potential danger at the hands each passing normie, though nothing really seeming out of place. by the look just another sleepy saturday morning in berkeley.
close to the park i dropped her hand, my heart sinking in fucking shame, as i tried in vain to remedy by reminding myself again of our safety.
it was early, lots of milling about, taunts back and forth over an orange mesh barrier, courtesy berkeley p.d., cops with their sticks out to keep the two groups separate. antifa sticking to chants and then a couple of skirmishes, though nothing to write home about, really.
i snapped a few photos, tweeted as we milled about. the counter protest billed as a cook out, it wasn’t long before the cops swarmed our side, seizing contraband of lays chips and twelve packs of pepsi. food and drink collected and disposed of, the ACABs took care to harass, check in on, whathaveyou, a group of African-American youth that had gathered to watch the goings on from the edge of the park. because of course they fucking did.
i reached down and took her hand, dipped out early, before the melee’ began. ended up listening to the rising and falling sound of helicopter blades above our little town as the afternoon wore on, from our living room after saturday errands…
it’s a funny feeling, seeing this on your own doorstep…
i wrote this fucking monster in fits and starts, distracted, consumed by the scandal of the day, dump truck donnie making the twenty four hour news cycle seem like a family newsletter on the home p.c., circa windows 95. it’s gotten to the point where i’m no longer sure of down versus up, how many days it’s been between this and that happening. fyre fest feels like three years ago, yeah? don’t know about you, but the computer simulation theory is feeling uncomfortably feasible these days. but i digress.
sitting here, walking there, reflecting on all that’s transpired between now and between then. we fell, the 27th marking two out of three — new reich parading around town, then later the greater east bay, snapping & tweeting group photos in front of raiders bars and that, libs hand wringing over their right to free speech and that, speaking out against black bloc, antifa, masked marauders, whatever they call them and that. and look, i don’t whip out this dick very often *i actually do* but i took a constitutional law class or two here at berkeley so i get it, arguments, complexities and that. what would you do, though, if dump truck donnie’s boys came rolling into your town?
is it really free speech when they take your photo, search and find you, then call up your work and your family, dox and harass you? is it really free speech when they post black helmeted sentries at the entrances of their rallies, nationalist flags draped warmly around their shoulders — dump truck donnie’s dystopian grandmas. is it really free speech when you feel threatened on your own doorstep, the town where you live, afraid for your safety if you hold your queer lover’s hand in front of them?
these are things that i’ll ponder as i long for the good ‘ol, family newsletter days, circa windows ‘95…