Note From the Margins




Kids On the Move


Cops and Protesters, Troy Davis Protest, Soho New York

I was sitting in a bar in Soho, when I looked out the window and saw hundreds of kids streaming past. White kids mostly, some black, a few middle-aged people. And dozens of cops. Walking fast, turning back to people falling behind, and shouting, “Keep moving! Keep moving!” The protestors chanting something I couldn’t make out, waving placards and keeping their ranks tight in the middle of the street. A police cruiser came up behind one group, lights flashing, siren on full, nudging them along until some kids jumped on the hood, making the car stop. Despite these minor clashes, the protestors were relatively non-combative with the police who were relatively non-combative with them.

Everyone in the bar rushed out to watch. The protesters turned the corner and streamed downtown, possibly to join the protestors camped out on Wall Street. One of the other patrons said they were protesting the execution of Troy Davis, the man in Georgia who’d been on death row fourteen years and had just been executed that day. I’d been out of the news cycle for a few days, so had only a dim idea who Troy Davis was. I was raised a country with no death sentence and though I understand some of the sentiments behind it, at a minimum I believe the state should not execute where there is even a sliver of doubt, as there was in Troy Davis’ case. But I digress.

The protestors continued south. First they’d been flanked by dozens of cops then dozens became what looked like a hundred, half-running, spreading out behind the protestors. They weren’t in riot gear, and had obviously been caught off guard. I read later on twitter that the protest had started at Union Square, then veered south into rush hour traffic. They were organized, keeping everyone in line. For a few minutes the street was a blur of movement, chanting, color, sirens. Then it was gone and we went back inside.

We were energized. Not that everyone in the bar was interested in Troy Davis, or a leftie – not even remotely – but somehow it felt good that someone gave enough of a damn to shut down traffic for a few minutes. I’ve half-followed the protests on Wall Street. Even if they don’t take off, even if the aims seem incoherent, at least they’re happening. Even if the protesters are largely, as the NYT would have us believe, young, white, flaked out kids whose idea of protest is performance art (For more balanced reporting, check out – of all people – the Observer. Or Al-Jezeera English. Even if this is true – then why all the cops? Is the state really afraid of performance art?

Educated, middle-class kids are usually the ones who start these kinds of protests. They’re the ones with the organization, the education. I’m not sure that protesting does much good. It says a lot that neither the Troy Davis nor Wall Street Protests made the NYT, when every time five people calling themselves the Tea Party get together to scream absurdities, it’s a headline event. It says a lot that when 600,000 people (and millions more world-wide) in the city which bore far and away the greatest loss on 9-11, march against an unnecessary and frankly stupid war fought in that attack’s name, that they were ignored outright. But at least the passion was there, and hopefully more will be coming, that will they grow. This country, and the world, needs it.

But I digress. Back to the past tense in the next post.

  • Utherben

    It’s a double-edged sword for the majority of protesters: white upper/middle class college students do indeed have the time, money and learned organizational skills to engage in successful protest – but their privileged, sheltered mentality is a massive turnoff to others who share similar goals & desire for change.

    So they tend to preach to the choir, and aren’t taken seriously by the very people they need to connect with.

  • COS


    Yeah, I would agree. But someone’s gotta do it. These things are odd – they can gain momentum far beyond their core if the timing is right. Or they can just wither away.

    I’m old enough to remember, even witness, the anti-globalization protest/ riots of the late 90’s. Same basic demographic. Some of those kids really put it out there, getting tear-gassed, beaten up by riot cops. Did it do any good? The evidence is all around us. But at least they got the idea out.

    Times are much worse now, and the stakes that much higher. At least someone’s making these issues public – and the protests and the issues behind them, are being talked about in the foreign press, if not here.

    I guess we’ll see what happens.