Protests amid a Pandemic

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Protests amid a Pandemic

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When George Floyd was murdered, the country erupted in a way I had never experienced in my life before. I thought I had seen chaos with the multitude of protests that followed the US 2016 election, but I was wrong. People who had always claimed to not be "political" were posting, sharing stories, and there was outrage. In the first week, in Ohio, we were met with violence. Being immunocompromised, and fearful, I stayed behind when I was in Columbus. Some of my good friends got arrested downtown. Others got maced, shot at with wooden bullets with a rubber coating, and went to the hospital in an already stressful situation. When I moved back to Cincinnati, I was no longer living with 4 roommates, and I decided if I wore a mask, and brought hand sanitizer and disinfectant, and did my best to stay 6 feet apart from everybody, I needed to get out there.

The protests I attended over the next two months included vigils, organizers meetings, community panels, and celebrations of Black lives. My parents were unhappy with my decision, due to the news coverage, and several people I know getting arrested. However, this was too important. Growing up, I heard the names Trayvon Martin, Eric Gray, Tamir Rice, Sam Dubose, Sandra Bland, and many more. This was the straw that had broken the camel's back. The pandemic had meant many were furloughed, and out of work, leaving more time to read the news, watch the news, and research issues. Many were angry at how the pandemic disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities, and for this blatant, act of police brutality to be filmed and shared across the world, it was too much. In Cincinnati, over 300 people showed up to hastily planned protests, and some of the more organized and advertised ended up with well over 7,000 people.

The protests themselves were nothing like what I had seen on the news. Every 10-15 minutes, a fellow protestor would offer everyone cold water, snacks, hand sanitizer, and masks to anyone who did not have one. There were always medics with a first aid kit ready for the people who overheated, twisted an ankle, or got maced. I learned the ratio of baking soda to water that many carried if people were to be pepper-sprayed again. It was a community of people who cared about each other, took care of each other, and want the world to be better.

I want that story to be told, because it never hit the media. The compassion I witnessed every single day. The groups of people meeting up every night, individuals carrying someone who was having an asthma attack to a shady area and giving them cold water, a ring of people around a young girl who stepped on a piece of glass that pierced through her shoe into her foot. Immediately, there were bandaids, water, alcohol wipes, and help to be given. The medics tent, offering granola bars, fruit, and snacks if anyone gets hungry. Food not Bombs catering many events, giving full meals to anyone who needed one. The care packs we had made for the friends who had been arrested, the community resource pages which allowed people to express needs and them being taken care of, from needing cat food to needing to pay rent. The resource guides, the calls and letters and emails to public officials.

Although this is a weird time, strangely it was one where I had felt the strongest sense of community, in my 21 years of living.

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This item was submitted on August 25, 2020 by Katie Huang using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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