How I’m Feeling, Whether You Asked Or Not: Rayshard Brooks
The title picture here is the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed.
It’s not a goggle photo. I took the picture myself.
I was going to my mother’s house and thought I’d just get off at the University Avenue exit where the Wendy’s was located, take the picture and be done, but driving towards the exit, I saw it was closed.
Curious, I drove down to highway 166, got off and drove over to Pryor Road thinking I could get to University Avenue from there, but the police had the street blocked at the last street going into Carver Homes. As I approached, I saw people walking towards University Avenue.
So I parked and walked right into a protest that I didn’t know was happening.
In the first writing of this series I mentioned being hesitant to go out and protest, but in that moment, I didn’t care to turn around and go back.
So I stayed.
I wanted to pay my respects to Rayshard.
I wanted to feel the energy of the impassioned crow. I wanted to feel the anger.
I wanted to listen.
As soon as I walked up people were saying that Keisha Lance Bottoms had just announced the resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields.
Upon hearing that, a young lady with a megaphone said, “Now we’ve heard that the Atlanta Police Chief resigned, but is that enough!?”
All around replied with a scream “NO!”
She continued, “What do we want?”
Announcer, “When do we want it!?”
Everyone, including me, “NOW”.
People were giving out free sandwiches and water. There were signs. Small groups where huddled together in conversation.
It was a peaceful protest.
Even when it looked like things might get out of hand.
At one point police officers blocked some people in the crowd from going onto the highway.
As I walked up, we were facing a line of police officers.
Some where shouting at officers, “Why do you keep killing us?”
“What did you keep killing our brothers and fathers?”
“Why do you hate us?”
“We’re sick of this shit.”
The officers stood there, surprisingly still. They didn’t yell back, they didn’t flinch.
They were in fact so still I feared it was a small calm before they attacked us, but they made no movement in our direction.
The standoff with police lingered on a little longer, then came a group of people on dirt bikes, motorcycles, and four wheeler’s, their engines screaming under the bridge. They had either managed to get through the area police had blocked off, or the police let them through, but either way, the crowd erupted in a cheer that made my heart leap with joy.
Though the sound of all the engines was almost deafening under the bridge, the cycles and four wheeler’s circling around us stirred up a palpable energy that I could literally feel welling up in my chest.
That energy is probably what then pushed the crowd onto an on coming Georgia State Patrol Car.
As he approached, his car was immediately surrounded, and he had no choice but to stop.
Well let me correct that.
As we have seen in other PEACEFUL protests, he did have the choice to plow through the crowd with his car, but he instead stopped, and attempted to get out of the car to move the crowd away.
As he stood up out of the car, the crowd was closing in on him. What did he do?
He stood as firmly as he could. He nodded in affirmation, at one point palming the head of one of the protesters like that of a friend giving encouragement. He was asking the crowd to move away from the car, but he refused to be violent, even with the crowd locking him in.
Most ironic here is that the same black woman from earlier with the megaphone was standing in front of him, telling the crowd to step back and that “Hurting him won’t do any good. That’s not why we’re here!” She stood, arms outstretched in front of the officer until the crowd moved back enough for him to get back in his car and drive away.
By the time he turned and headed towards the interstate, other patrol cars had lined up behind him.
They then followed the first officer to the interstate.
Meanwhile, we went to the interstate too.
We climbed up the hill to the side of the highway.
We were met at the top of the hill by Georgia State Patrol officers blocking us from actually entering the highway.
Signs were high and fists were in the air. It didn’t take long to get the attention of drivers who began slowing down, blowing their horns and putting up fists and peace signs. Some people yelled from their car windows as they drove by
“Black Lives Matter!!
We stood and shouted for several minutes. I then looked down and there was a young lady ushering us back down the hill.
I came down, and by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, a Georgia State Patrol Corrections Unit bus pulled up. I feared then that arrests may be at hand, and that the peace may then be disturbed.
So at that point I walked back to my car.
That Wendy’s is in the neighborhood I grew up in. I rode my bike on those streets, ran through Carver Homes with friends at Price Middle School.
My grandmother still lives in that area, so I’m still there almost every weekend.
I had in fact left her house not two weeks before and stopped at that Wendy’s for dinner, but the line was longer than I anticipated, so I left.
Yes, Rayshard failed a sobriety test.
Yes Rayshard fought with police.
Yes, Rayshard managed to get away from two police officers with a taser.
From the video, it looks like Rayshard was able to fire the taser.
No, Rayshard did not have to die.
Shooting someone in the back while they are running away is a cowardly act performed by those with far too much ego and far too much power.
It’s also illegal.
I know attending one protest doesn’t make me any kind of revolutionary. For me it wasn’t about that. It was about paying respect to the many we’ve lost. It was about feeling and relating to the combined anger of other black people.
The reason we crowded those officers at the highway, and the reason that Georgia State Patrol Car was surrounded is because we have no where else to put our anger. No one is listening to us.
We’re told to vote, but there are barriers created at every turn. We’re told to invest in our neighborhoods, but banks won’t give us loans.
We’ve told the police to stop killing us, but they refuse to listen.
The results are protests, and now a Wendy’s that has become a Civil Rights monument.
To be clear, we — black people — DID NOT burn down the Wendy’s, but now that it’s burned, it’s our memory of Rayshard Brooks, and it’s an indicator of the work ahead that this country has to do.