Stop Bothering Us: Vignettes on Peaceful Protest

one

I’ve been involved in many peaceful protests, and the opposition always uses the same basic rhetoric — stop bothering us.

Outside of the organization I was protesting, a 20-something man rolled his eyes at my sign and told me to $%&# off and stop harassing people. Others just told us to go away, some yelled in our direction from afar, and one even stopped to scream profanities in our faces while my 2-year-old daughter was strapped to my back.

Security guards stood by, not to protect us, the ones being screamed at and sworn at, but to protect the people going in, as if we were dangerous. Four old ladies with rosaries and brochures, several members of the clergy, plus me and a toddler holding a stuffed kitty-cat—some societal menace we were.

Still, I stood there.

Silently standing up for what I believe in, even though I knew it would bother some people. I just kept hoping and praying that others might see me and join in. See me and feel emboldened to stand up too. And, if nothing else, see me and simply pause to think about why I was there.


two

I was at a minor league baseball game a few months ago, and we arrived just as the national anthem began to play. As I stood in a line of well over 100 people, I showed my kids how to put their right hand over their heart and looked around for a flag to face. I immediately noticed how I was literally the only person who seemed to notice that the song was playing.

People were shouting to their friends, digging in their bags for their tickets, ordering food, and otherwise milling around. No silence, no saluting, no notice at all… while the orchestra sounded through the loudspeakers about the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air.

Honestly, it bothered me.

I come from what I sometimes call a “rah-rah America” family. The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday.

To me, a flag is not just a piece of cloth, and an anthem is not just a song.


  • Fact: In the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the past 24 years.
  • Fact: There has been just one fatal shooting by Icelandic police in the country’s 71-year history. The city of Stockton, California – with 25,000 fewer residents than all of Iceland combined – had three fatal encounters in the first five months of 2015.
  • Fact: Police in the US shot and killed more people – in every week of 2015 – than are reportedly shot and killed by German police in an entire year.
  • Fact: Police in Canada average 25 fatal shooting a year. In California, a state just 10% more populous than Canada, police in 2015 fatally shot nearly three times as many people in just five months.
  • Fact: Police fired 17 bullets at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was “armed” with a rock. That’s nearly three times what police in Finland are reported to have fired during all of 2013.

Source


three

Last night, my husband mentioned to me that, at the Christian school he attended as a child (which has its roots in the Mennonite church), they didn’t salute the American flag at the beginning of each day. The Christian school I attended (a non-denominational mess) nonsensically required us at some grade levels to pledge allegiance to the American flag, the (obscure, poorly designed) so-called “Christian flag”, and the Bible.

Like any curious 2017-er, I Googled “mennonite church american flag national anthem” and found Eastern Mennonite University’s statement on why they abstain from flag pledging and national anthem playing on their campus. It is worth a read: FULL TEXT

Here’s the crux of it (emphasis mine):

“This practice […] is rooted in deeply-held historical beliefs that God is ruler of all nations, not just ours, and that our allegiance to God as such transcends all nationalities, even our own.

“Further, as followers of Jesus we are invited to join a visible fellowship of believers (the worldwide church) that knows no national boundaries. Consequently, for many of our members, it is a denial of our faith to pledge our allegiance to anyone or anything other than to Jesus.”


1. A study by a University of California, Davis professor found “evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being black, unarmed, and shot by police is about 3.49 times the probability of being white, unarmed, and shot by police on average.”

Additionally, the analysis found that “there is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.”

2. An independent analysis of Washington Post data on police killings found that, “when factoring in threat level, black Americans who are fatally shot by police are, in fact, less likely to be posing an imminent lethal threat to the officers at the moment they are killed than white Americans fatally shot by police.” According to one of the report’s authors, “The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black. . . . Crime variables did not matter in terms of predicting whether the person killed was unarmed.”

3. An analysis of the use of lethal force by police in 2015 found no correlation between the level of violent crime in an area and that area’s police killing rates. That finding, by the Black Lives Matter–affiliated group Mapping Police Violence, disputes the idea that police only kill people when operating under intense conditions in high-crime areas. Mapping Police Violence found that fewer than one in three black people killed by police in 2016 were suspected of a violent crime or armed.

Source


49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat down during the national anthem on August 14, 2016. It went unnoticed until he sat for the third time, on August 26, when a journalist tweeted a photo of the team during the anthem, and people noticed that Kap wasn’t participating.

Upon being asked, Kaepernick stated:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Source

Cue the mayhem.

By the 2017 season, Kaepernick was unemployed, scapegoated, and called crass names by everyone from NFL owners (who I generally expect to be unpleasant) to the President of the United States (who, sadly, I also generally expect to be unpleasant).


four

Listen, my children, and you shall hear of what the President of the United States, about half of my friends and family, and that guy who swore at me in front of Planned Parenthood have in common—

STOP BOTHERING US.

Play football; don’t think or have opinions or stand up for the oppressed you see.

Get your concussions and permanent brain damage, but don’t look at the world around you and see your platform to effect change.

Entertain us, and we’ll pay you millions… but if you dare to do something we don’t like, there will be hell to pay.

Sometimes.

I mean, feel free to beat your wives & strangle your girlfriends or run a dog-fighting ring, and we will forgive you, welcome you back with open arms.

But don’t you dare sit.

Don’t you dare kneel.

We see your friends and neighbors and cousins bleeding out in the street and in their homes and in their cars for the crime of their blackness, but THIS IS THE NATIONAL ANTHEM we’re talking about here.

Not human lives.

(Never mind that the anthem itself contains seriously disturbing lyrics in the third verse about how former slaves deserved to die because they fought for the British army—who had promised them freedom. We don’t sing that verse anyway, so why does it matter?)

I mean, an anthem is not just a song; it’s a symbol of this country and what we believe.

Human lives are… um.

Ahem. Moving on.

Of all the ways they could disrespect our flag, our country, our veterans, and our anthem, they choose to SIT in silence? To KNEEL in silence?

Like we do when we PRAY?

The nerve of some people. 

I do believe I’m getting the vapors. Where is my fainting couch?

“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.
He’s fired.”

— President Trump, articulate & classy as always
Source

Or, as one young man said to me equally as eloquently in front of Planned Parenthood, “Fuck off. Stop harassing people.” 

Don’t bother us with the
convictions of your soul;
we aren’t interested.

#takeaknee #thisisbiggerthanfootball #thisisbiggerthanananthem

TL;DR? A protest is supposed to interrupt you and disturb you. That’s the point.