The pandemic has done something strange to the experience of passing time. It feels a bit like we've been launched into orbit, and memories float weightlessly, somehow untethered to a chronological timeline. It's been such an Alice in Wonderland season of history -- curiouser and curiouser.
According to my calendar, it's been a month since I rode my bike to Dundurn Castle and walked the street to City Hall with roughly two hundred fellow protesters. The March for Black Lives and similar demonstrations held elsewhere have given me much to reflect upon in recent weeks.
"Elsewhere" feels so close at hand these days, doesn't it?
Two thoughts from that afternoon have been loudest in the echoes that still reverberate regularly through my conscious mind. Both concern the police.
The gathering place for protesters was on the grounds of the Castle that face York Boulevard -- a patch of grass on the city-side of their parking lot. Across the road from the banner-carrying, mask-wearing throng of people were a few hovering police cruisers. They were quietly surveying the crowd. They were watchful. They were standing in a graveyard.
Four lanes of no-man's-land separated the marchers and the police: Black Lives Matter on one side, cops and graves on the other.
I cannot get this picture out of my head. It's too profound. Too summative.
At 2:30pm the drums started and a small team of Indigenous dancers in traditional regalia stepped out into the street. The police cruisers turned on their lights and the constables came out of the cars. The call-and-response began quickly and chanting never let up.
"No justice, no peace! No racist police!"
"Say their names! The list is too long."
"Defund the police!"
"I can't breathe."
The police stepped into the street, too. The cruisers moved into place, forming a formidable blockade. The police officers stood in the road with arms raised in a clear signal to stop. As protestors moved past them with shouts to strip them of significant public support, the cops stopped traffic. They were there to protect us, not to arrest us. The police shut down the road so that we could march against them safely.
The internal tension those officers must have been carrying did not show on their faces. every pair of eyes I looked into was attentive without anger. There is so much to learn about, to discuss, and to feel in this (perhaps too recently) race-conscious cultural movement. This post is only a skim of what I've been wrestling though on the topic, but I wanted to write something down if only to pinpoint where I am right now.
The rallying cries are still loud in the air.