Shells of police vehicles, burned and blackened. Killer KKKops in graffiti on a brick wall. Fuck Trump scrawled in spray paint across another.
A bunch of men rock a white van, which stubbornly refuses to topple, a metaphor for the establishment. They give up and smash its windows instead, with baseball bats and tire irons and crowbars.
Broken glass glitters on asphalt. Spent canisters of tear gas and plastic water bottles litter the streets, projectiles that reinforce the inequality at the heart of this conflict.
A uniform and a civilian grapple on the ground. Before his fellow officers can arrive to assist, the crowd attacks the pair, succeeds in rescuing the man from the law. I cheer. Fucker, I say out loud, through tears.
What do you think, I wonder, standing there silently in your riot gear, as civilians shout their anger and frustration into your face, phones at the ready to capture violence. (The cell phone camera, the most powerful weapon we have.)
Do you hate them? Do you see the enemy? Or do you understand the pain and grief? Do you see human beings who have no other recourse when everything is against them and they are murdered, over and over again, because you are afraid of dark pigment and poverty? Because you abuse your power, over and over again, and get off with a pension and a slap on the wrist while black men already in handcuffs die in the streets of a baton blow, a gun shot, a taser shock, a choke hold, a knee on the neck?
Stand there and take it. It is the very least you can do. I don't hate you, I don't believe all cops are bastards, but all of you need to suffer. You protect your own before you protect the innocent, and for that, even the noblest among you is culpable.
I don't revel in violence, but I, too, want to see it all burn. Burn the police stations, burn the courthouses, burn the White House to the goddamn ground. Fuck the police, fuck the unfair laws that keep people imprisoned, literally and figuratively, fuck the rich white men in power whose only motivators are fear and greed. Make them listen.
And when our immediate violence and anger have been spent (as they must, since violence and anger are not our natural emotional state), don't let it burn down into hopelessness. Make them listen in a different way, with an X on a ballot, your name on a petition, your voice at a rally, your kindness and compassion in the face of oppression and fear. And riot on.