BERKELEY: COPS AND HELICOPTERS
“IT IS NOT ABOUT FREE SPEECH”: PHOTO-ESSAY
At 2 pm 150–200 people gathered at Martin Luther King park in Berkeley. A few helicopters buzzed high above us. The smell of pot and drumbeat jazzed up the scene. A Halloween party? No — April 27. 2017. Free Speech Rally.
It combined visuals of a suburban high school military parade, Russian soccer fans march and Venice Beach Muscle Gym.
There were lots of signs that we did not understand (and did not feel like looking up, frankly) or imagery that did not make any sense here (to us.)
There were also signs that we understood very well.
Many people spoke: it was Free Speech Rally. However, they did not enunciate very well and we could not understand what they said. The only thing we heard was: “We soon will become mainstream. We are new normal!”
We needed some air so we decided to take a walk to the campus. Things looked different there. Everything was peaceful. Even the cops were peaceful.
And there were a lot of cops.
There was some protesting going on, here and there. And more free speech. Some screamed about “babies being killed” (it was not quite clear what particular babies but we felt sad); some proclaimed their undying faith in god (not clear in what particular god but you take your pick.) Some just asked for change or food.
It wasn’t different from other days in Berkeley. We returned to the park — it was around 4 pm. A lady in a red helmet screamed in her megaphone: “The rally is over! Let’s go! Let’s go home!” We wondered if they wanted to beat the traffic. It might have taken them a couple of hours to get here, who knows. Traffic sucks in the Bay Area.
Military personnel dispersed. They looked tired, anyway. It’s a long day: a drive, speeches, press… and it might be really hot in this gear. I mean, it was a warm day. California.
But not to despair, oh the proponents of free speech. We have our very local, homegrown Berkeley Make-America-Great-Againers. True, they are not students of the UC Berkeley but they are here each time there is any trouble. Bravely, they lined up a street in front of a high school. The students lined up on the other side. Cops lined up in between. We got a great divide.
People on the other side didn’t wear helmets. This guy in a bandana, with a skateboard under his arm, said he came because he has a baby cousin and also if he has kids one day, what is he going to tell them? That he zieg-heiled?
One day, the travesty and nonsense will burst and disappear in the clear sky — like a bubble, like a puff of pot, like afternoon fog. It always does.
But until then, folks —
“IT’S NOT ABOUT “FREE SPEECH” — IT’S ABOUT BIGOTS TRYING TO NORMALIZE HATE”.
YOUR SILENCE WILL NOT PROTECT YOU.
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