More Than An “Off” Saturday Night

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I chose to voice my opposition to the newly elected president Trump Saturday night by attending a “Trump Resistance Rally” in Indianapolis.

My choice to participate in this event centered mostly around my opposition to the racist, xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic statements and viewpoints that have been expressed by the president-elect. I was very excited, and based on the posts to the Facebook page for the event, it was made clear that it was meant to be a positive and peaceful expression of free speech.

My friends and I arrived around 6:30 p.m., in the middle of the speeches being given at the Statehouse by various progressive leaders in Indiana. You could feel the energy, the anger, and also the hope. I don’t think anybody expected there to be so many people. Though media outlets report that there were 500 people in attendance, many who attended the rally believe that it was well over 1000. I have never been in that large of a group of people, and it was honestly invigorating because I knew every single person was dedicated in some way to making the world a better place.

At 7:00 p.m. we began our march through the streets of Indianapolis. As we marched, we held our signs high and chanted mantras like “Love Trumps Hate” and “No Justice No Peace.” I was proud to be a part of something bigger, but I know that it’s not enough. In our everyday lives, we have to stand up and speak out, not just when it’s convenient and fun.

Unfortunately, even the protestors faced opposition on Saturday night in the form of brutality by the police. Though the chief of police, as well as many news outlets, claim that protesters were “throwing rocks”, neither my friends nor I, the thousands of people on the Facebook event page, or the video footage, supports these claims.

At 8:07 pm, my best friend was live streaming to Facebook  when the first round of rubber bullets was fired. We had just passed the police peacefully, with our hands in the air. Twenty seconds later we hear shots and screaming. We started running but turned around to figure out what was happening. Several police officers had two people pinned on the ground, and another was spraying protesters that got too close.

We gradually edged nearer, as they took the two protesters into custody. One was a black woman with a “Black Lives Matter” sweatshirt, who only minutes earlier was leading protest chants with a megaphone. The other was a white man dressed in all black. With thousands still in the streets and unable to tell what was happening, they continued to chant and gather on the sidewalks.

We were in the midst of it when two officers on horses decided to charge the crowd on the street and sidewalk. A video on Facebook shows terrified citizens running away from the police charging them. I encourage you to join the “Trump Resistance Rally” page and watch the videos.

I’m not afraid to say it: I witnessed police brutality on Saturday night, in my own state capital, and it shook me to the core. This is some people’s realities, not just an “off” Saturday night, and it shows how far we have to go.

A protest, though empowering, is not enough. I encourage my peers to stand up to injustice and to believe those when they say they do not feel safe. It shouldn’t take an event like I witnessed to open our eyes to the injustice around us.