Helicopter and Blue Skies Above War Memorial Plaza

Monday was one of those days where I worked all day but didn’t get anything substantive done. It’s amazing what bureaucracy will have you thinking is labor, but I digress. At the end of it I didn’t really have the energy for a bike ride, but I knew I’d feel better after a ride, and I was right.

I hopped on my bike and headed down the hill, a quick stop at S.’s to pick up some posters that wouldn’t fit in my bike bag, so I left them for later and kept on riding. I passed another person on a bike–a rare thing, not because nobody’s out here riding, but because I’m so slow. I started seeing the crowds around Centre Street, walking together, all in masks, carrying signs. I figured we were all headed to War Memorial Plaza to join that day’s protest.

People have been gathering every day, and War Memorial Plaza is a reliable place to go to find company. People are angry, people are motivated, and it really feels like new levers for change are popping up everywhere, and we best not miss this chance to push them. There’s also the part where we’ve been alone for so long, and suddenly not only does it feel possible to be together (in a masked and socially distanced way), but it feels imperative.

I made my turn on Fayette and hopped off my bike to walk through the plaza. There was a small crowd listening to a speaker, and I kept my distance because I’m still more wiggly about COVID than a lot of people seem to be. I was there for maybe three minutes before I was offered a squirt of sanitizer, a mask, and a bottle of water. I had those things with me so said no, but I was grateful for the care so many organizers are taking right now.

I found a spot in the shade to sit and listen, but it was a bit hard to hear because of the *thwip thwip thwip* of police helicopters circling above. These sounds are ubiquitous, and have been for awhile. I’m trying to learn to hear the difference between these thwips and the sounds of the spy plane that circles Baltimore, taking pictures of all of us all the time. I know I’m supposed to be worried about the metadata on my cell phone, but use all the airplane mode you want–the surveillance state has us covered.

Other than that incessant sound above, cops were mostly standing around. The bike cops in particular looked bored, while the cops behind the barricades and closer to City Hall stood like soldiers, zip cuffs hanging from their belts. The set piece is set, rimmed by violence and the boredom that settles in with it, oddly. I cannot believe how normal it gets, and how fast.

I was getting ready to head back home when red hair came toward me. We examined each other’s eyes–yep, that was D., and I was me. She offered me a sandwich, we chatted in person for the first time in months, and I felt that deep longing to see everyone I know, in person, all at once. It was such a treat to see her, and I’m grateful she’s handing out sandwiches. This is a protest movement that knows how to take care of protesters.

And then it was time to head back up the hill and home. I rode up Fallsway, like always, past the many prisons and jails that are just the other side of the freeway from downtown. I wondered what might be happening in there right now, as all eyes are on War Memorial Plaza. They’ve got us under surveillance using systems that blanket much better than ours. So much to look at, all at once. And then I was home, reminded, again, that I never regret a bike ride.

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