I'm writing this a little over a month after the event. I happened to find myself really close to where this protest was going on and I had a friend just drop me off in the middle of the street so I could walk over and join them. I wasn't really planning on going.
I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.
Everyone gathered up at Lake Eola in front of the Amphitheater around 7:30 - 8PM, July 11th. I'm glad I had my camera with me too to take photos of everything going on. Everyone then walked out to the street. About 500 people.
Personally, I grew up heaving a fear of cops, way before this recent surge of cell phone footage showing what really happens. I had heard enough stories. And recent stories about what has happened around the country haunt me.
Sandra Bland's story stick outs to me the most. She was just stopped for a frivolous reason. Sure, she gave the cop a lot of attitude, but that did not warrant her death. Or staged "suicide". The story about Tamir Rice, a 12 year old who was shot while playing with a toy gun. The worst part about that is the police weren't even indited for! What does that mean? It literally means a judge didn't even think the situation needed to be reviewed by a jury even though there was a recording clearly showing the cops not in any kind of threatening situation. But what it ultimately means is they can shoot us in broad daylight and get away with it. It means the system is corrupt!
So walking in the middle of this huge pond of people, hands raised in the air, chanting things like "hands up -Don't shoot!", "Who's lives matter?! -Black lives matters!", was really surreal for me. Especially being surrounded by cops and yelling "don't shoot". My deep sense of empathy kicked in and I felt the genuine fears of everyone around me and what could happen on an unfortunate night with an Ego Enforcer deciding to take his frustration with his life out on me. I was left speechless. I couldn't chant a single world. Thinking about how there's waaaay too many people grieving over the loss of a family member or friend who not only died for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but no one being held accountable for their mistake. And this is where the Black Lives Matters movement is justified. Every time someone attempts to make a counter-claim showing an article about a police officer shooting an unarmed white guy, you can follow up and see that the officer had consequences for their negligence.
With alllll of that said, I know Officers have THE hardest job in the country. Every single moment, your life is potentially at risk just because of the uniform you're wearing. Someone can easily pretend to be compliant with you, and the moment you have your guard down, they can take 2 seconds and shoot you just like that! And now it's your friends and family who are mourning you.
It's also worth mentioning that I'm extremely lucky to live here in Orlando. The police/public opinion of police is not a bad one at all. During this march, there were people actually going up to police and thanking them. And the police were very kind and returned pleasantries with big smiles. It made me think of all my run ins with police here and how pleasant they were. Well, I was on edge while they had an expression that was sort of like "what's wrong with this guy?" and they never treated me like some kind of threat or animal. And I don't hear any stories about cops in Orlando being unfair or too rough with anyone here.
Here are a few of the images I captured that day as well as a link to a news video covering the event.
Thank you for reading :)
Cez Photo & Design