Interviews with protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement and in reaction to the murder of George Floyd.
By Michelle Lozano, A-LMFT
Please share your first name, age and any identities you want to share.
I’m Hayley, 27, Black American woman.
Q. When and where did you attend protest? What streets did you cover?
I attended the protest in downtown Chicago on Saturday, May 30th from about 1:00 to 4:30 p.m.
I started at a church on 26th and Michigan Ave., and biked alongside a car caravan that paraded from 26th & Michigan to State Street and we took State all the way down to Federal Plaza.
From there, cars circled Federal Plaza and continued to push north to the County Building & City Hall. We gathered there for a while, and then continued to head north toward River North & Trump Tower.
I stayed on the south side of the State Street bridge on Wacker Drive, and headed back home from there while many protesters continued to push north fully into River North.
Q. What should we call it, a protest, riot, or both?
That’s a tough one. To me, they are fundamentally different but I’m learning they can occur synchronously, and ebb & flow throughout the course of a large public demonstration.
Based on what I experienced, it honestly just depended on your vantage point. It was such a large crowd with a lot of things happening all at once. I’d say for the most part, what I witnessed was a protest overall, with moments of riotous acts at times (i.e. burning of the American flag and tagging buildings with spray paint).
Q. What stood out to you the most?
Honestly, I would say two things stood out.
1) The amount of white people present and 2) at times, the very choreographed and coordinated effort of it all.
On one, I was honestly surprised by how many white people were there. The friend with me (a Black woman) and I commented to each other when we first arrived to the church as we were walking down State St, we passed a barbershop with a Black man standing outside and he called his friend saying “Man this is beautiful, you wouldn’t believe how many white people are out here.”
On the comment about the coordinated effort – don’t get me wrong, there were times when there was chaotic running and what seemed to be mass confusion, but then there were times when an organizer coordinated a mass crowd to follow a directive, with a shocking deal of ease.
For a example, at one point a group of about 100 people were organized to participate in a moment of silence, kneeling on Wacker Drive for 9 minutes in honor of George Floyd, blocking traffic, forcing cars to turn around. It was truly amazing to see and be apart of.
Q. There is plenty of footage nationwide of protesters looting and causing destruction, as well as police aggression and violence. Can you comment on either from what you saw?
I didn’t specifically see any looting during my time there. I did see some vandalism like I mentioned earlier, the American flag being burned at the County Building and the spray painting of many bus stops and buildings throughout the downtown area, but no looting or outright “bricks thrown through windows” type of property damage.
I also didn’t specifically see any police violence, at least not the way I’ve seen it in the media. It did seem like there were times that the police were inciting aggression. I’m not sure if they were enforcing crowd control strategies, but it did seem like they were deploying intimidation tactics against a crowd that was gathered in a peaceful protest. For example, there was a point that police put on the full riot gear and ran through the crowd in a large group with their batons out, but it wasn’t clear where they were running to or why, so it was confusing to assess.
Q. Why did you go out?
To be honest, I’m not even sure. This is actually the first protest I’ve intentionally attended. I wouldn’t consider myself a protester as I sometimes fall prey to anxieties being in large crowds (I avoided concerts for so long because of it but have grown more comfortable in managing over the recent years).
All that to say, I’m truly not sure. It just felt like something in my spirit compelled me to go, to see things with my own eyes. And I don’t know… the tragedies that we’ve faced as a Black community (both past and present) have just weighed so heavily on my spirit.
I know it’s time for a change (it’s been time for one, really) so I thought maybe even changing the way that I go about things and getting a different perspective would give me further insight, and a way to process all of this on a deeper level.
Feel free to leave Hayley a comment below!
News: Live Protest Updates in Chicago