Letter from Huntsville, Alabama: Minutes After Mayor Kneeling Photo-Op, the Police Attacked Us


Protesters in Huntsville, Alabama.

Editor’s Note: A protest of over a thousand people gathered on Monday in Huntsville, Alabama, after protests over the weekend. On Monday, peaceful protesters were attacked by police with no provocation. This is that story.

Submitted by Xiao Long

I was there very nearly the entire time, the protest officially started at 3 pm, I was probably there around 3:15. For the first part of the event, it was just 4 or 5 speakers making speeches in the park, then after that, a very organized march around our downtown square. There was probably a little over a thousand people, although I haven’t looked up to see if there’s any official numbers out yet.

At about 6 pm, the people that organized the event told us that our time was up and told us that another demonstration was planned for Wednesday, and that we should come to that. But the people weren’t having that, so we stayed and protested outside of our court house, right in front of a confederate monument. The protest consisted of nothing else but people chanting, and occasionally we would chant for the cops standing in front of us to take a knee as a show of empathy. For me personally, I know if the cops did this it would simply be for show, to appease people, but nevertheless, it is a very simply thing to do, just to show some shred of humanity or empathy. The cops didn’t move a single muscle. They couldn’t even do the literal easiest thing in the world just to show us that they disagree with the brutal murder of George Floyd, and that made people even angrier. In all honesty, if they had just done that simple thing, I truly believe most of the crowd would have dispersed.

A little while into this segment of the protest and Mayor Tommy Battle appeared. At first, it seems like he might actually be on our side, but he’s a snake. He kneeled (to uproarious applause) for about 2 or 3 minutes, then got up. It was all a photo op for him, nothing more. After a few more minutes, he stood in front of us, as if he was about to start giving a speech, maybe telling us some empty but soothing words like “he feels our pain” or “we can protest as long as we want” but within seconds of him starting to speak we noticed riot cops were lining up behind us. As soon as the people noticed the riot police, Mayor Tommy Battle immediately left the scene. His being there was just a disgusting display of false empathy.

We stayed and chanted for a while longer, until the police decided they’d had enough. Now even though I personally do not and would never condemn riots or violence in these protests as I see the violence as totally justifiable, I do feel it’s important in this context to note that there was not one single bit of violence at our entire demonstration. Not a bit. That’s important to say because then the police decided to start pushing us off the steps of the court house. At one point people linked arms to show that we would not be moved, and a cop pushed in a pressure point on my throat. Then not long after that, after they had pushed us back a bit, they threw a smoke bomb. That did little in the way of intimidating us, we just kept asking them why they were doing this when we had done nothing to them.

Then they threw a tear gas canister. I kicked it back at them and one of them raised their shotgun and aimed directly at me. Fortunately, he did not shoot, but my body was on an extreme adrenaline high anticipating the feeling of getting hit by a rubber bullet. They then kicked the canister back at us, and my partner kicked it back at them, at that point the gas had become too much for me, and I was forced to back off.

A smaller group of us were still together, and had been pushed down the road. We thought at that point the cops were satisfied with where we were, but we were wrong. After a few minutes they came up to us again, this time with those large pepper spray bottles. I was fortunate enough to not get hit with the pepper spray, but a man standing next to me got absolutely doused. I will yet again add that we had done nothing to provoke the police.

That’s about where it ended for me, but the cherry on top of this story is that, as they were forcefully asking us to leave, many people were telling them “my car is back the way you just pushed us out from” and the cops told them “tough shit, you’ll have to come back for it tomorrow” effectively stranding people there.

At one point, I said to a cop “honest question sir, if in the middle of a completely peaceful protest, we threw a tear gas canister at the police, how would you feel about that?” and all he could say was “I’m not sure how to answer that” which is complete BS. He knows as well as I do, that if we had been the aggressors, and maced them, or threw tear gas at them, they would come down on us with all the force in the world. It’s complete and total hypocrisy.

Categories: Interview, U.S. News

%d bloggers like this: