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And Progressive will help you find options that fit within your budget. Use the name your price tool and start an online quote at progressive dot com. Pricing coverage match limited by state law. A quick warning. There are curse words that are unbleached in today's episode of the show, if you prefer a beeped version. You can find that at our Web site. This American life, dawg. From WBC Chicago, it's this American Life mirrored glass. It's been such an extraordinary and painful few weeks since the killing of George Floyd.
And we have a show today with people in scenes that we recorded this past week trying to capture what this moment feels like and how different people are reacting and what they're doing.
And I know usually right here at the top of the show, I'd jump right in with some story.
But I think it actually captures what lots of people are feeling this week. A lot better to start with this essay from one of our producers, Ben Mattawin Me. Here she is.
The year I came to live and work in America, 962 people were shot and killed by police across the country. Well, maybe the number was 1093. It depends on who you ask about 2016. One project that counted the dead found that black males aged 15 to 34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement. In case you've become fuzzy on timelines, Michael Brown was shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
Walter Scott was shot in the back by police in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. In 2016, Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And a day later, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, police shot and killed Flunder Castiel while he was in his car with his partner and her four year old daughter. Those last two incidents were recorded. Both were viewed by the public at large at the time Sterling and Castiel were killed in 2016.
I'd been living in New York for four months. I'd come to America to report on the presidential election campaigns with a wry British eye.
I no longer have the original text of my visa application, but I remember distinctly that it mentioned both the 19th century French social scientist Alexis de Tocqueville and the late British journalist Alistair Cooke. Both Alexis and Allaster were men of letters operating in very different eras of American upheaval. The aim of their writing was to help readers back home understand the unique American situation. They were good names to put on a visa application. It indicated I knew my literary lineage. The reality is that beyond the common ground of our jobs, I wasn't really like Alexis or Allaster.
Move through the world differently. I was a woman. I was a Muslim. I was a child of working class immigrants. Born to parents who themselves were born in an African country still under the yoke of the English monarchy. And of course, I was black. I still am. Thanks to the spread of empire, I'm no stranger to the project of colonization. Of all the things I would be reporting on and experiencing firsthand in America, the subject of blackness was the thing with which I had the most literal, most lived experience.
British police have historically not used guns like their American counterparts, but the history of disproportionate black deaths during and after interactions with police in the U.K. tells a familiar story. The lyrics are different, but the melody is old and known to me. That's the horrible thing about this moment. I've been here before.
And so when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on Memorial Day in the last week of May, I had a feeling of resigned deja vu. Police had arrested a man and then less than a half hour later. That man was dead. The manner of it, a cop's knee pressing down on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Felt like a stage play we'd all seen before. The fact that it had been recorded felt proper, like a sort of sacred practice.
The mundane location of it was familiar to regular street suddenly transformed into an arena for public death. The echo of some of Floyd's dying words eerily the same as Eric Garner's in 2014. I can't breathe. Even that felt like an on the nose rerun of a series called How to Die in America. Almost every element of what happened next hit the exact beat it was supposed to. The video of his life being snuffed out went viral. Tabloid newspapers brought up his criminal past.
Protests began the day after he was killed against police brutality. Yes, but also against the organizing principle of colonialism in general and explicitly against the ideology of white supremacy itself. And it wasn't just black people yelling. Things shifted. Something was different. By the end of the week, there were protests across the country, all 50 states. And a week after that, there'd been protests in other countries, too. Last weekend, I watched protesters in the west of England topple the statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol man who made his fortune by trading in thousands of enslaved Africans after kneeling on the supine statues neck.
Protesters rolled it down the street before tipping it into the Bristol Harbor. My London friends sent me videos and photos of protests they had attended while doing their best to maintain social distancing. As someone on Twitter put it, I can't believe Korona blew a 28 three lead to racism. The day after George Floyd was killed, I quit Twitter because of my propensity for doom scrolling. I knew my right thumb would be in constant, endless motion, eating up breaking news that would later crystallize into insomnia and migraines.
But even on Instagram, it was a wall of George Floyd content. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with graphics and photos and links to bail funds and that uniquely American habit. Crowdfunding. Pastel colored digital easels. People wrote anti-racist quotes from Angela Davis and each of my olawale. Artists created tributes to people like 26 year old Briona Taylor, who was killed in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky, back in March. And Tony McDaid, a trans man killed in Tallahassee.
There were guides on everything from how to dress and prepare for a protest in the age of coronavirus. To the specifics of raising truly anti-racist children. My favorite or least favorite genre of these is the one that teaches nonblack people how to be people in this moment. Posts with headings like his What to Say to Your Black Friends or check in on your black friends. Well, seemingly everywhere. After that first weekend of protests, I got a text in one of my group chants from a black friend.
Have either of you gotten texts from white people this weekend, she wrote? Yes, we both replied. We all shared a dark laugh. Black people have been dying in America and elsewhere for so long. What's so different about now? That first weekend, I kept asking myself this, what's making white people care? Now I keep looking to see what I've missed. What was the thing that's making brands draw these lines? Now, what makes baby names dot com dedicate its landing page to listing black victims of police violence along with the note?
Each one of these names was somebodies baby. Baby names, dot com stands in solidarity with the black community. What is compelling people? A lot of them white to stand up for the first time and proclaim that it's time to do something. How is it that I have read more proposals for defunding and abolishing the police in the last two weeks than over the course of the last two years? What's making people in small towns across America, Lewistown, Montana to Barack's Michigan get up and protest now?
If Sandra Bland didn't do it. If Eric Garner didn't do it. Tatiana Jefferson didn't do it. If Ianna. Stanley Jones didn't do it. How is the death of George Floyd the thing that moves the needle? I can't think of an easy answer. It's not because he was seven years old. If I understand Lee Jones was not because he was a 12 year old boy like Tamir Rice was. It's not because he was an award winning EMT who tweeted that 2020 would be her year like Brianna Taylor was.
So the next likely answer is that it's as simple as the effect of accumulation. Finally, there are enough dirty clothes in the hamper to justify putting on a load of laundry. Maybe the increased visibility of the stark differences between the haves and have nots over the last few years has produced a populace ready to be pushed into the hitherto radical lane of thought that suggests actually black lives do matter. Maybe the activists finally broke through. Who can say? A box of me wants white people at large to feel deeply ashamed.
This is entry level. Stop killing us. This is basic. If the killing of George Floyd could unleash this tidal wave of demonstration, what was stopping you before? He's as meaningful as any other victim of police violence named or unnamed here today. You could have harnessed all this energy. Fifteen, twenty two hundred five hundred a thousand deaths ago. But that didn't happen. And so when I ask the question, why now? The truth is that I don't really care.
All these white people newly attuned to this frequency, the rest of us know so well. I told a friend that I wanted everyone to do their belated learning far away from me. I don't want to see how anyone is carrying the one. I don't want to teach anyone. I have no office hours. I don't want to know what triggered your come to Jesus moment. I have no interest in seeing how the sausage gets made. I just want to rock up to the table and enjoy my breakfast.
And what's different for me? I'm angry and now I think of what parents say about how their hearts grow bigger after a second child instead of having to share the love they already feel. That's me. But instead of love, it's rage. I find that this time I am furious. That's what's different about a one man is one of the producers of our show.
At 2:00 before sunrise.
So one night recently, one of our producers, Diane Woo, stopped by Mr. Mango, which is Corner Grocery in New York City.
It's two or three blocks from the Barclay Center where lots of the big New York City protests have happened. And it's just down the street from Brooklyn Hospital, which has been hard hit. Treating Corona virus patients these last few months. Newark, of course, the epicenter of coronavirus cases in this country. Mr. Manco is a 24 hour grocery store that has stayed open through the city, shut down through the curfew. It is an intersection that all kinds of people pass through.
And that particular night that Diane was there, a protesters were singing Happy Birthday to be on a tailor at a little plaza across the street. Woman in scrubs at the store was face timing somebody about onions, cop cars put up and standing there watching all of this during this intense moment, we're all living through where race and justice and survival were at the forefront of everything.
Diane wondered, what were all these different people thinking in this quiet little grocery store? So she went back the next night. There was this past Saturday night, June six, with a microphone. And we are co-worker universities. They stayed all night until 5:00 in the morning, talk to dozens of people and and they put this next story together. Usually, I just want to say we do not point out the race of the people that we talked to on the radio on or some particular reason.
But race is the context for so many interactions, including the ones at the store, that in this story we're going to identify the race or nationality of everybody who's going to hear.
OK, here's to you.
We got to Mr. Mango just before the city's eight p.m. curfew. Inside, it was crowded and serious. People were shopping silently, trying to keep a distance, trying to move fast and get out of the story and get home by 8:00. A police helicopter buzzed overhead. Mr. Mango is a small grocery store with inexpensive produce out front and a mix of regular and boogy groceries. Inside they have 35 kinds of honey, but also dollar pineapples.
The cashiers were hurriedly checking everyone out from an island in the middle of the store once curfew kicked in. Things relaxed, like all the anxious rural followers had cleared out. The regulars started filtering in neighborhood people. Essential workers. A white guy in pajama pants came in to buy a corkscrew. Chan, whose Thai manages the restaurant three doors down. He came in after his shift ended at 10 to pick up some pita chips for his husband.
The curfew had actually been good for business night when its next to eight people were so afraid that they will have to attack at home or something. So a lot of delivery is going to happen around that time.
How many tonight? Tonight we hit by three thousand three thousand dollars, which is 50 percent more than usual, he told me.
Devine, a black man who lives around the corner, stopped by and a cammo facemask to pick up some items from cups. He was hanging out with her friend from Jersey that night.
Yeah. What all is going on? I need something to unwind a little bit, but this has been rough. This world right now, everything's fine. No basketball season, no sports. My daughter didn't graduate high school, couldn't have a graduation. Only great thing about this game. My grandson is born now. Congratulations. But also I'm sorry for people was stuff. But my daughter is happy. My grandson is home.
They save the ice. He was carrying to the register. Actually was very toast for baby Thurmond. One group of regulars was hard to get to talk because they were either rushing to work or exhausted the hospital workers. Everyone else had moved on to the new crisis, but they were still very much inside the previous one. Do you have a minute to talk?
A black woman on the hospital cleaning crew. Talk to me for one minute and 24 seconds while she shopped and wasted none of it. I'm tired of this corona virus. Have been working for the last 90 days. And then you get in. People here photos them, which I'm all for that. But they go about the one way with the burning buildings and stores and people got to survive. We know this is your neighborhood. You should be doing stuff like that.
You know, you've got to do it the right way. But that's just my opinion. And I'm delirious. No time right now, so I'm back. I feel tired for you.
Ninety six days eiseley, walking slowly but slowly begins to bust in like burnt out joint. You'll know what to say and. Just go to work and just put it way you live. Did you come back home that way? Night. I got to go at the cashiers island. There's Ronnie, who's new at Mr. Manko. He just started working here this week. He's Latino from Guatemala. And Dorjee, the longtime overnight cashier. Gracious and calm dirges from Butan.
He's the quiet center of gravity of the whole store and does not want to be on the radio. Every time I swing the microphone in his direction, he leans back and puts his hands up to protect himself from it. Once the mike is safely out of sight, though, he's happy to talk. After I interview any of his regulars, Dorji helpfully fills in the details. That guy is a really hard worker. They come almost every day. After a long day, they used to buy Corona, but after coronavirus they started getting a different beer.
One of the regulars, Shecter, who's Asian, tells me that Mr. Mango is his favorite store in his whole life. And the reason? His Dorji. And the other night cashier Karma. Who's off today?
Last year I had a bad year. Everything started to fall apart. In my worst moments, I would come here at midnight or 1:00 in the morning and just be with them. And I found out that I was the only one.
Ever since the pandemic, Dages been working more 72 hours a week. He's tired. Tomorrow is his day off.
As it gets later. Around midnight, the mood at Mr. Mango's shifts some of the energy outside filters in. Lina tells what happens next. Protesters keep turning up a sunburned couple wait holding hands on their way home from a rally. They bought ice cream, beer and lemons. Patrick, an older black man with long hair and a beard to match. He'd been out protesting, too. Wanted to grab a snack before turning in. He bought one pineapple and then these protesters called them joshin Katie.
They seemed about 30, most of them white. She had long red hair and he had knuckle tattoos, but he refused to show them to us for his own protection, he said. And because he didn't want to put himself as an individual ahead of the movement, my siblings.
I just don't like, you know, eat anything.
Joshin Katie told Diane they'd spent the day marching all over Brooklyn, went through Flatbush, Crown Heights, Belleci, and then back up here to Barkleys. I'm a little tired. I was locked up for a long time after one of the recent violent assaults on a protest in one of the outer boroughs.
I got arrested this week. Yeah, Josh kept talking about what he called movement moments. Katie focused on shopping for fruit bats, fruit.
They've plantains, they bleed cheese, they've soursop, they have star fruit. They have manmade things you don't see in America. I mean, you know, these guys are the real deal.
What's going on? What just happened?
What happened was a couple NYPD walked into Mr. Manco. Josh and Katie immediately reacted. Josh very dramatically stopped talking. Wrapped a scarf around his face so that all that we're showing were his eyes. He looked like a mummy who's also an anarchist. He crept away, picked up some tofu and held it like a pop, then glanced back at the police. Meanwhile, I went and talked to the officers one way, the other Dominican. What do you guys here for?
Buying snacks and water. I got water and pretzels, gas and water while I was talking to the police.
Josh and Katie moved to the back of the store where they accidently knocked over some toilet paper. The whole thing is pretty conspicuous, but they didn't want to be near the N.Y.P.D., which the cops definitely noticed, but they didn't care.
Doesn't bother me at all. Is it because you're you, sir? Yes. Oh, yes. But sometimes you get appreciation, too. Goes we get both of the employees get appreciation today. No.
That no was coming from Josh. He's listening to our conversation. Officer Rodriguez heard him rolled his eyes.
But that's the same guy that when he's getting robbed, there's something we're going to call. No one is gonna expect us to show up. You know what I say? So. The officers pay for their water and pretzels. Tell me they have to get back to work. They're on patrol duty. I walk out with them and when I get back, Josh has uncovered his face. He's talking about standing rock.
You've seen him shoot down Americans and natives at Standing Rock with four different jurisdictions have one in every brutal way they can. Can I tell you what he said about you? What he said? I asked if it upset him that you wouldn't step up to pay until he was gone, and he said no. But when he got throb, he's going to comment on what to expect us to help him. I don't call the cops. You haven't. You don't call them.
Never call it for any reason whatsoever. Everything can be handled within a community. Every possible situation you can come up with.
Does it make sense to why he would have thought that, though?
Yeah, because he's been acculturated to a system which believes that we will always need policing no matter what. Even though it's an advent of the 18th century.
Are you saying over her speech, my entire life is dedicated to the destruction of the police in the American empire? I'm speaking off the cuff because this is what I think about all day long.
Another protester came in soon after Josh and Katie. She was also skeptical of the police. Her tactic, though, was pretty different. This was a white protester. I noticed in front of the sliced cheeses, animatedly chatting up a black police officer. She was asking him questions, which he seemed to be answering. This was the kind of conversation I hadn't heard yet. So I walked over my lieutenant, Maries Ballston was wearing an upper ring. Officers white shirt.
Brianna was holding a green juice. Really? She was on her way home from drinks with her friend after protesting all day.
And he isn't just talking to me. And that's awesome. I really appreciate this conversation, Suzanne. And I appreciate as well. And again, it should be everyone's right that no one should be able to nor should fear police interactions like this. We shouldn't be shocked. I don't know. I know that, but I'm sure. But that's my privilege, right? I don't have to.
Lieutenant Walston doesn't want to talk about her privilege.
Well, I can tell you this. When I deal with even people of my race, I give them the same respect that I give to you. And that's just across the board. I'm sure you do. That's not the question right here.
That's a protocol you have, right? Yes, but but I mean, this is not my first conversation, Jonathan Safran. I get it.
I want to communicate and understand. It's a really awkward conversation to watch. She keeps making big statements about policing, ending with. Right.
It's. It's not an isolated event here or there. Right. It's a systemic problem. I have this general sense that people who try to go to be police officers generally have like a power issue. Right. Whether it's a power issue or they want to help people. And like, in my mind, it's, you know, one or the other.
I think generally most people become police officers to help.
So, of course, it's hard to get Lieutenant Walston to agree with what seems to be her central premise that there's something fundamentally wrong with his job. But ultimately, when police are called in on peacekeeping missions. Violence ensues. Right. See, there are times there are times when when we when we get bored and violence has already occurred or violence is dead. And that's majority, it sounds, while we're getting closer to these emergency situations. Lieutenant Walston told me later that people who don't have as many interactions with the police often fill the vacuum with the worst images they see in the news, not anything based on their own experiences and so forth.
His strategy during this conversation. He told me, was first to mostly just listen. But when she told him she knew what it was like to be in the minority because she lived as a white person in Oakland, he realized the depth of her misconceptions. But since she seems so adamant, he wasn't out to change them. When we talked to Brianna later, she said she wasn't expecting to change anything about his beliefs. It just felt important to say what she thought.
It is is the end of their 20 minute conversation. There is a moment where she asks for his advice. She asks, You have kids? Yeah. As I have I have I have twins. I have a four year old son is bi racial. And I'm trying to figure out how to tell him he presents as why he looks like he's not white. Right. So how do you talk to a biracial kid about racism?
Oh, that's right. Do you talk to black kids about police brutality?
They also bi racial. So I'm honest, that's the only way you can be honest.
You know what it's like to be honest. He looks like me in part. Tell him that there are officers like me out there. No, I have to tell them there is officers not like him. Yes, I would be truthful. Yeah. Any conversation on the kids?
You have to have that conversation with your kids. She tells them it's funny to imagine how different those two conversations would be after she left. I asked Lieutenant Walston what he made of all of that.
Have you been having more conversations like the one you just had you to be more specific? You have more white people wanted to talk to you about that kind of thing. Maybe she's your.
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, and I get that you me to say this. I'm actually I'm I'm I'm happy that, you know, you have all nationalities that are coming together to, you know, to come and go. And I'm happy about that. The only thing is that when you do get a white person, which is fine, but. Don't do one thing I just don't allow is for you to claim that you know my plight more than I do.
Is it accurate to say that that was like a white lady explaining to you why black lives matter? Yeah. Yeah, basically, in a sense, yes. It's someone not of my, you know, race telling me why my life matters and I know why my life matters. I know what I want. He gets in an unmarked police car with his patrol partner and drives down Lafayette Avenue.
By 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, the protesters recede off the stage and the nightshift workers make their entrance. The mood changes again. It becomes quiet, contemplative. The night shift workers, they are now on their way home from protesting racism. But many of them know a lot about it.
Like Alexander, the security for Ashley. OK. Was that that big fancy building on the corner? Yeah, exactly. What's that job like right now? There's been hectic at all because of the protests.
Not really. But people this is that you be surprised to see who's who has a position politically on the protest who work in the residential building. People come out to jump with the protest as a people come out and, you know, there's a protest.
So you get to see, you know, do people kind of match up with what you would guess? Yeah, this is surprising how being cynical is usually being right, though.
There is one wild card category.
All the old older residents always surprising on their views because at a certain age you start to believe, OK.
You know, I don't expect much from the older woke people in your building, even when they are awake and they know what's going on is surprising.
You know, it feels nice.
What kinds of things there are, people say who are against the protest is more of like this. The subtle hints will be, oh, one is going to be enough of these people protesting that or it's too late for that or now. Is this use the time or why the idea that last time, you know, it's it's subtle when people try to diminish or water down the situation. But, you know, it is what it is in the US as a people aren't used to.
So you mean like, you know, being a black, individually used of people, always dismissing your cause. I give you talk about slavery to bring up the Holocaust and we talk about anything that will be in black. Other people bring in this Revelstoke. So it is what it is. So even with the protest now and they're wrong with you know, I see Caucasian friends helping us out and being a part of the situation. But, you know, it's getting watered down because we're about to see is white faces.
You're not seeing any black faces, a part of it. So my whole lives matter. I don't know.
The vast majority of the protesters we talked to at Mr. Mingo that night where, in fact, white families have been working after curfew.
Does it feel like you've been nervous about not?
No. I mean, I was none. There was individual like, yeah, because this is all like this all riots in. No, never know. Re going to be attacked and not feeling unsafe is part of being a black male period. So, you know, it's a little bit of insight for me, but I also feel like how we feel.
You know, Alexander works the night shift from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., which has made getting home hard during this week of curfew. The subways closed. Cabs aren't an option. Alexander is 26 and has lived in New York City his whole life, period. He told me that the first time a yellow cab stopped for him as a black man was this last year.
Thirty tonight he heard Uber is running and that's how he'll get home. Did you get him the other night? Through the grace of God. Absolutely impossible to describe it. Right now, though, he has to get back to work. He walks over to the cash register.
I also personal. I buy stuff ourselves. I get all the things are the same color. I don't know what the hell he would do it to, but somehow I got Rahman and the blueberries got all purple today. You got purple, Robin. And I say you drink from our government does grape juice. So I don't know why. Where's fine. Have a good night.
At around 130 a.m., a guy in an MTA uniform walked in. He was holding a big leather binder. He had straight for the cash register. Eager to show Dorji whatever's inside of it, it's a trade card album full of old basketball cards.
The kind of holograms the fans from the nineteen 90s when Michael Jordan dominated. Michael Jordan. This is the famous nuts and bolts collection. I'm going to give five hundred for the ten cos everybody's in a Hall of Fame. Look at that. His name is Fred Nixon.
He works for the city subway system, specifically the G stop beneath the store.
I worked right downstairs in the booth. Yeah, I got it. I got it. I got to go see I need a napkin since I'm on TV now.
Fred comes into Mr. Mango a lot with lasers. When he gets hot downstairs, the napkin he asked for it was to wipe the sweat from his four head. He Indore g talk all the time. They know each other well.
Is it crazy people outside? Oh, no, no. I start down now.
Fred starts talking about the looting. You know the reason why people did that? Because Donald Trump is an idiot. And he said when the looters started to shoot this stuff, people in America, they think that the heart and soul. Yeah, shoot me. And that's what that was all about. But I'm glad they stopped. I really believe that's what the people looted because they wanted to challenge, you know, like they felt dared to. Yeah.
Fred Nixon is 61 years old. He's black, grew up here in the same neighborhood and he's proud of these past couple of weeks. I just think he feels the protests are a continuation of work.
He had a hand in starting that started this movement 40 years ago. He ran across the street at Bam with Sonny Carson. Sonny Carson actually was trying to do something like this 40 years ago. Look better.
I did know Sonny Carson was a civil rights activist and a political organizer from Brooklyn in the 1970s. He led demonstrations for racial justice just a block away from Mr. Mango years ago.
How does it make you feel seeing it happen again now and 2020?
I wanted to see it before I'm dead, so I'm glad about it because black people can't do it by themselves. And until everybody comes to the course, that's why nobody was listening.
What do you think is different now, though, that I mean, basically, like more white people than ever are paying attention? What do you think is different?
I think that you've heard the SAM, the straw that broke the camel's back. George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Part of Fred's job is interfacing with cops patrolling the subway station. And often times when I see cops, I get really upset about it.
When I was 15 years old, I got beat up by the cops right in front of the 80 precinct. Whereas EDI's priest at. Where is it? Closson and DeKalb.
And recently they tried to burn it up last week. I didn't feel bad for them because of that experience I had when I was 15 years old.
I'm going to scrub the early 70s when it happened. Fred said it was a misunderstanding about unpaid bus fare, which at the time was 35 cents. He says not a lot's changed since then. I've been stopped by the crush, my uniform on the cross carrying on my job and told me I stole a Red Bull at the store with my uniform. And I was going crazy, just like I told them I didn't get out of my boot. I was gonna press the emergency button.
They'll laugh because they know they have to fill out paperwork.
So I didn't buy anything at Mr. Mango. Not not during that break anyway. He just came in to say hi to Dorji.
This is the place where Mr. Mango's of us, especially Mr. Doescher here, is on his way out. Fred promised Dorji that he'd bring back the basketball card soon so he could get a proper look. George, he said he'd want a full hour to do it so that he can see everything after 3:00 a.m., even the nightshift workers weren't coming in anymore. It was just DaGian Ronnie in there. They were in constant motion. Ronnie restocking the eggs and coconut water.
Dorji Cleaning the coffee machine and rearranging the pastries around three thirty really out of it. Man walked in. He was black. It seemed like he might have been homeless. He got him up. And after that, no one came in the store. He felt like a safe, clean cocoon full of soap and honey and different kinds of sprinkles. It felt like a story from six months ago or one hundred months ago where nothing was out of place except maybe the case of hand sanitizer above the Cheesecake Bridge.
The last person we talked to is. At five a.m. was a Latino guy picking over the oranges in a crisp Hawaiian shirt. He was complaining about a notice from the government that his student loans from the 80s were overdue.
He was so annoyed no pandemic or protest on his mind at all. In that moment, Diane Will with M.S. Keyes.
Coming up, a neighborhood protest that wasn't supposed to happen. That's in a minute. Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.
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Potential savings may vary, discounts vary and are not available in all states and situations. This American Life, I'm IRA Glass. Today's show here again, stories in the aftermath of the killing of George FOID that we recorded this past week. So there are these Twitter threads that have sprung up these last couple weeks where people who are collecting as many videos of police violence against protesters as they can find. I spent a lot of time scrolling through the ones assembled by a North Carolina lawyer named T, Greg Doucette.
He's also got him in a handy Google doc forum online. He has over 600 videos so far. And his people have sent him sixteen hundred direct messages with links that he hasn't even gotten to yet. The stuff that police are doing in these videos, I mean, the tactics that they're using against peaceful protests. It is not news. There's nothing new about it at this point. I think everybody knows or should know this stuff is happening. But watching them back to back, all collected in one place, like the sheer concentrated volume of it, is unnerving.
The simplest ones start with utterly peaceful demonstrators in San Luis Obispo.
Bentonville, Arkansas. Columbus, Ohio. Huntsville, Georgia. Walnut Creek, California. Too many places to name. And then police fired tear gas and sometimes flash bangs or rubber bullets with no apparent provocation.
Lots of videos, of course, get way more violent. And Austin police should have been background, a 16 year old boy, Brad Levi Ayala.
Seems like he's just a bystander watching the protests from an embankment near the street in Minneapolis on a super peaceful, suburban looking, tree lined street with pretty homes.
Police and National Guard marched down the street and fired some kind of rounded a woman for the offensive, videoing them from her own porch.
Los Angeles, a black family tries to protect a store from looters. If I'd done police to help and then the police start to handcuff and detain them, a reporter is there on live TV, tries to set the police straight.
Okay, sir. Sir. Well, he just please. In Indianapolis.
An officer looks like he grabs a young woman's breast while trying to detain her. She's Gorham's free. And two officers beat her to the ground with nightsticks.
There's gonna be the last one I'm going to play you. It sums up, I think, all of these, as well as any one video could see from Charleston, South Carolina. Again, a perfectly peaceful group of protesters, all of them kneeling. I don't know, maybe 20 feet from a line of police as one guy addresses officers.
I am not your enemy. You are not my enemy.
I love my family. And I want to thank that.
All of you your this over and over. I want to understand you. Please respond by marching over to the guy. They drag him to his feet and arrest him. What are you.
Which brings us to act three grand army. So given the way protests have been going, some people do not want them in their own neighborhoods. There's never been Brooklyn, Redhook, where there was a debate about this couple weeks ago. One woman who is white woke up, read the news today and then posted online that she wanted to have a protest. She got several responses from local community leaders asking her not to do it. The wife of a local pastor wrote, please reconsider this.
There's more damage than good that will come from this. The hurt and angered that the black community has right now will not allow this to end up peacefully. In the end, you will be able to go back home to a quiet, peaceful block. But the residents of nature. That's the public housing won't. They will end up with more police presence, possible curfew. Some may get hurt and so much more. The one who wrote the initial post back down.
But last weekend, there was a protest in Redhook, one of our producers, Dana Chipper's, who lives there, explains how that happened and how it went.
The protest that did happen was organized by a 22 year old named not Dortch, who had never done anything like this before. I met up with him just before the protest started. Have you been in touch with the police? Have they contacted you as the organizer at all? Oh, yeah, they have. What have those conversations been like?
This is mainly interested in the role and what's going to happen in and thing and things like that. Has it been cordial, like your conversations with them? Oh, no, no, no, no, no. It's been it has been cordial. It has been called you. But they say things like, so we need the route. And I say, I don't think you need the route. And they say, well, you don't have a permit.
You know what I mean? Like, hey, if you don't give me the route, we're going to shut it down because you don't have a permit. Things like that. So you didn't give them the round? I didn't give them the road at all. I didn't give anyone a row. I gave people a general route.
The police told me they didn't try to shut down the event three weeks ago. Now, I was doing what a lot of us were literally.
I was doing nothing, literally nothing. I was just home in my house doing nothing. Just going outside sometimes get some air. But I was like, doing nothing. And then George Floyd was killed.
The country erupted in protest.
Now, I looked out at his neighborhood and saw nobody's come coming to fucking rock and nobody's like out here protesting. I was just like fucking I want to protest.
He'd been to a few protests over the years. When he was 17, he joined the Black Lives Matter group for a few days. But he felt like he was too young to make a difference, to be heard like everyone else in the group is ancient in their 30s. He texted his friend Crystal. She agreed to be his secretary, made a flyer with the date and time for the protest, not pulled in his friends. Moe Pringle, like the chimp, she told me.
Now, Stevenson, who plans to go to law school, and a few others, they came up with a name, the new black leaders black spelled B l QCA because the other version was taken. Objectively, 20/20 has been an unremitting shitstorm of a year. Things have actually been going OK for now. He recently came out to his friends and family. Most of them are supportive. His grandmother asked a few awkward questions and then tried to get some hot gossip about who else was gay.
He's been feeling more empowered lately, more like himself. But when he and some friends decided to have a protest, they got the same response from some community leaders as the other woman. The one who proposed a protest on Facebook. They worried it could be dangerous. People from outside the neighborhood could come in and start trouble. It could give the cops a reason to harass them or to get violent. One of them felt like people have been protesting for years and nothing had changed.
We want the new black leaders had a zoom call where they tried to convince them everything would be fine.
I'm going to express all throughout the protest. We do not want agitators here. If you see anyone who looked who, who who's trying to agitate, stop them. If you feel like you are going to get agitated or if you are here to be violent, leave, we're going to I'm going to constantly express that after this call with the community leaders, though.
One of them is a guy who serves as a community liaison to the 76 precinct, sent an email to the police telling them what route he thought the march would take and giving them the names and photos of the organizers. Things like it may not feel even more targeted than Herrity did it.
It hurt me. It almost discouraged me because it made me feel like, damn, why nobody believes in us, you know what I mean? Even though we constantly express how I was gonna go and we expressed that, like, you can help us, you know, make sure that these things remain like the protest is safe. But it almost discouraged me. It kind of made me feel like I didn't know what I was doing. Now, his friends, the other organizers convinced him to keep going.
And that email, it was actually the reason one of the reticent community leaders, Tiffanie Davis, decided to go to the protest.
It's crazy. There is an empowering but scary day.
Tiffanie runs an organization called Red Hook Art Project Kraddick. On Sunday, the day of the protest, she showed up early. A handful of people were hanging around outside the community center, getting ready, making signs and T-shirts.
Were you scared of it? No, I didn't. I've just seen a lot of the police ride around in ways that they I mean, they always patrol the neighborhood, but their patrol ran it way too much now because they know that there's black leaders behind his protests and they're looking for him to do something that day. Not that that's not what their intentions are. You're seeing them drive around more today. I did see them drive around today. And I'm a little frustrated by what I'm seeing as in the police.
I'm frustrated because these are young children. They all my son. My daughter is. I'm very I'm disappointed at the community police. I'm very disappointed. What are you worried that might happen? I don't know. Just that any kid can make a wrong move like that. Right now is bouncing a basketball. What are the basketball? Roll over and hit a police officer and then they try to blame that on something negative and a reason to start shooting.
Look at them. Did it look like they want to start trouble? No. They look like they want to make T-shirts and signs. They just want opportunities to be seen and heard or respected.
The signs and T-shirts had George Floyds face on them and Black Lives Matter and also forever Deon. Deon Flood was a kid from Redhook who died in 2013. He went through a subway turnstile without paying. Some cops tried to arrest him and he jumped into the subway tracks to get away. He ended up in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down in a coma and shackled to the bed. The police say he was hit by a train, but his family says he woke up from the coma and told them the police had beaten him and left him on the subway tracks.
He died from the injuries not long after.
When four p.m. comes, there are probably 100 to 200 people waiting for the protest to begin now. Is walking around with a bullhorn in hand. He's tall, wearing a white black lives matter t shirt. His mask is around his chin. Nervous. I'm a little nervous talking to this many people. I've I've I've been in front of this many people doing other things, just not talking. Well, I'm not worried about talking to my eyes. It was on a mission on drive.
I don't really I'm not thinking too much about my speech or anything. Stand up. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm not I'm not that nervous. Obviously, I'm I'm shocked really. More people than you thought there'd be. A lot more people do not know a lot. Yeah.
One by one by one. All right. Well we worldstar right now we are just waiting for people call. I'm so glad to see so many people out there for a guy who's never led a protest before.
He seems totally at ease. There are also police there, about ten of them, by my count, including the commanding officer of the 76 precinct, which covers Redhook, Deputy Inspector Megan O'Malley. She's talking to Nazeem Nars, advance man, telling him certain streets are closed, including the block the 76 precinct is on. Did she say that was because of construction or did she say. She said it was because of construction production. And they've been making Moctar mocktails, like Molotov cocktails, like the fire bombs, not as planned the whole thing out.
Yes. The bikers in the crowd to move to the front of the march. Next comes six people carrying a banner that reads Defund the Police and a more and more common tactic. The white marchers are put at the front of the protest and on the sides. The thought being that police will be less likely to harm them now stands in front of the group with his fists in the air. Crowd gets silent, puts their fists in the air, too.
And then. He leads a protest, a redhead. The crowd is amped. There are a bunch of young people.
A first time I've seen a lot together. All right. Out in front of the marchers are eight or nine cops and more cops flanking the crowd. The protesters do the usual cheers. No justice, no peace.
As well as a few hyper local chants say 70 things I say suck my dick. Seventy six. Seventy. We know the cops are like him, let lead in the way. Yes, very we're very, very. This is a guy named Rocky Harris expected.
None of that does give you a hand as they actually lead the way. Oh, no. The cops are there to keep the community and the marchers safe. Deputy Inspector OMalley told me that the marchers were there to protest the cops for making them feel unsafe. Now runs through the crowd. Front to back. Leading the chants of this bullhorn. The march winds through the public housing high rises, picking up people as it goes. What started as a couple hundred people just keeps growing.
I did not think there would be as many people at all. Oh, this is crazy. I expect the like 200. This is like 500 like commanding this crowd. Yeah. I gotta make sure it stays in shape. So far, so good. The planned route, they find out, is to march over a little bridge, a highway overpass and get as close as they can to the 76 precinct station, then turn and head back into Redhook.
But as the protest gets near, not changes the plan. He tells Nazeem he's been walking out in front of the marchers, communicating with the police that he doesn't want to turn around and on the march. It's going too well. You have too many people to stop. We could go to the bridge and we could walk down. Downtown is downtown Brooklyn near the Barclays Center, which has been the location for a lot of protests these last few weeks.
They get onto the overpass and cross it and find a police barricade at the end line of those metal fences blocking off the intersection. They have to stop hundreds of people pile onto this bridge above the expressway. And this is where Nazeem tells Deputy Inspector OMalley that now wants to change the plan, whereas he planned to go back in. That's right. No more cops. I'm just information that obviously I understand that you gave me a ride you wouldn't give me around.
You never get to the end of the road. We agreed upon a footbridge facilitated, but someone needs to tell O'Malley where they want to go. Nazeem turns and looks for now. He's walked back into the crowd so he can just speak to the organizer and whatever. We can do it. I grabbed him. I'm grabbing. Right. This isn't a stand off. Don't try to trap anybody. No one's gonna go in. Hang out. Now, Sheen is miles full name.
It's a little confusing. It's very close to last scene. His right hand man, this guy Nosheen. I need I need you.
You need to articulate what you like. Stand back, back, back. OK. This has been great. We're OK. We're going to keep being OK. I know you're under a lot of stress. Where do you want to go? You wanna go downtown to get us out? No, I'm going by what you want. I'm here to facilitate for you. What do you get downtown? No arrests? No. This downtown is going on. You want to go downtown?
We can go down. And I just want to say why we're here. Information that I got was from him and I donated to you when I got it. I just want you to know what I know. It's tense. There have been plenty of protests in recent weeks where things did not go well right here in Brooklyn. Cops beating protesters driving cars into them, people throwing firebombs at police. This stuff's on everyone's mind. So there was no decent living.
Everything's gone. Everything's gone to good for you. And the rest is crowd. Let's get moving. All right. They have momentum. Let's take it in a positive direction. We go to try opening. So we're all gonna go downtown, right? We're going to stop traffic. All right. We're going to open this up. All right. We're good. We're in agreement. Yeah. So once we want a good job, you're doing a really good job.
All right. Very successful. Let's keep in mind what he got. One for you. Hello? Anybody? Where are you? Once we're out of the seven six, it's out of your control. No, I'll go for your Barclays or whatever. You're going with us. We're gonna do this together. Started back up. No, just. Just go slowly. Slowly, please. Give it announcement. Slowly, slowly.
The officer swing one of the metal gates. So only three or four people can walk through at a time. Now is back in the crowd with the bullhorn. Naseem and I walked through together with the head of the crowd. He turns and blew some kisses towards people on the precinct side of the barrier, blowing kisses to blankets. I used to work. I used to work here. Something. How to one of my co-workers. Where do you work?
Seventy six. Seventy six? Yep. When asked about it, he doesn't have anything bad to say about the officers until six. And he tells me he's planning to have a career of some kind in law enforcement. It's a peaceful march to the Barclays Center, about three miles away from where it all began. The protest picks up more and more people along the way. Police estimated twelve hundred people at its peak. The young woman in the crowd walks up to not and gives them a number.
But she takes politely and they continue even deeper into Brooklyn. At Grand Army, Plaza now stands up on the wall of a fountain and looks back at a sea of faces, waiting to hear him speak before it all even knows it.
This is so many people to think it started all the little rogue. This is crazy.
This dick, this gives me hope, you know, see all these people here, all these allies, all these young black men, all these young black woman listeners. Can we just put a fist up, please?
John of the Cross, I'm blah, blah, blah. I met up with LA a few days later in a park in Red Hook. When you walked up to me, he was talking to his team, saying maybe next he would run for some kind of elected position. I think to back to something local.
Yesterday, I was like in my house. I was just laying on my bed. I'm like, wow. Like, you know, I really fucking did badly. Black queer man, broken to boot. I'll be like, shit. I really did. You know what I mean? Like, this feels like the orders that are stacked against me and like and I'm. I like winning. I like winning. Can you give us one of the producers of our show at 4:00?
Do not pass. Go do not collect. Two hundred dollars. So this is video making the rounds at a bunch of asare.
And we thought the writer who is in it, Kimberly Jones, did such a good job giving context and laying out a history quickly in a way that anybody can understand that even though this video has gotten a lot of views online, and even after we learned that John Oliver ended his HBO show last week with this video, we still wanted to play it here.
Kimberly Jones starts this video by talking about the Wooters and the recent protests, and she says people say all these negative things about the gooders, but don't ask why they're looting and to explain a feeling that lots of people have.
She launches into an economic history of black people in America, starting with slavery.
We must never forget that economics was the reason that black people were brought to this country. We came to do the agricultural work in the South and the textile work in the north. Do you understand that? That's what we came to do. Now, if I right now decided that I wanted to play Monopoly with you and for 400 rounds of playing Monopoly, I didn't allow you to have any money. I didn't allow you to have anything on the board.
I didn't allow for you to have anything. And then we paid another 50 rounds of Monopoly and everything that you gained and you owned while you were playing that round of Monopoly was taking from you. That was Tulsa. That was Rosewood. There are those are places where we built black economic wealth. We were self-sufficient, where we owned our stores, where we owned our property. And they burned them to the ground. So that's four hundred and fifty years.
So for 400 rounds of Monopoly, you don't get to play at all. Not only do you not get to play, you have to play on the behalf of the person that you're playing against. You have to play and make money and earn wealth for them, and then you have to turn it over to them. So did for 50 years. You finally get a little bit and you're allowed to play. And every time that they don't like the way they took play with that, you're catching up with that.
You're doing something to be self-sufficient. They burned your game. They burn your cards. They burn your monopoly money. And then finally at the release and the onset of that, they allow you to play and they say, OK, now you catch up. How can you win? How can you win? You can't win. The game is fixed. So when they say, why did you burn down the community? Why do you burn down your own neighborhood?
It's not ours. We don't own anything. We don't own anything. There is Kevin. No, I said it so beautifully last night. There's a social contract that we all have that if you steal or if I steal, then the person who is the authority comes in and they fix the situation. But the person who fixes the situation is not. So the social contract is broken. And if the social contract is broken, why the fuck do I give a shit about burning the fucking Football Hall of Fame, about building a fucking target?
You have the contract when you killed us in the streets to give up talk. You broke the contract for 400 years. We played your game and built your wealth. You broke the contract when we built our wealth again on our own by our bootstraps in Tulsa. And you dropped bombs on us when we built it in Rosewood. And you came in and you slaughtered us. You broke the contract. So fuck your target. Fuck your Hall of Fame.
Far as I'm concerned, it could burn this bitch to the ground. And it still wouldn't be enough. And they are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge. Kimberly Jones, she's writer, author of a young adult novel. Her Web site is Kim Jones writes dot com. Three ages one to four from the age of five, shift weight your body to education to really. Test scores predicted prison population about who's going to lose Mr.
I nodded agreement and beam to win me. People who made today's show include Emmanuel Barry, Susan Burton, Zoe Chace, Danny Chivvied, Sean Cole, the people, the Cornfeld and our guillotining graves. The City of St.. Nelson captain on a Monday. Ben Feiglin. Robyn Semien with the ship. Lilly Sullivan, Christopher Shaw, Tyler Matt Tierney, Nancy Updike and Whitaker are managing editors of Diane Will and Sarah Abdurrahman. Executive editor is David Kestenbaum. Thanks today to Eric Stevens and staff and Mr.
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IRA Glass back next week with my stories to this American life.
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