Throwing Rocks at God
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I remember the sounds of drums pulsating to the rhythm of the people on the street. The crowd swelling with anger, the beat flowing in sync with our mantra …No justice, no peace! I held onto my wife’s hand, like you would a child in the heavy current of the ocean. I feared that she might be taken by the riptide of pent up aggression and be swallowed, into a world that she did not belong. Though she might not have belonged to this world of mass anger and resentment, I felt as though I had been baptized by it. I was reborn that day in the Heart of Downtown Oakland in a sea of clenched fist that carried our message high above our emotion stained faces, No justice, No peace. That day we gathered beneath the steps of the tribune and below a grey and remorseful sky to ask for too much, justice for an innocent man, justice for Oscar Grant. I knew before I had cast the first verbal stone, that I was in a sense “Throwing rocks at God”, an expression I would become more and more familiar with as my activist career continued. For it can sometimes seem that protesting against a larger more powerful force is just as inane and intangible an option for those seeking true change. It was that day, and the events that unfolded therein that made me shift my life’s focus from film-making to freedom fighting. It was that day that I discovered my own personal reason for “throwing rocks at God”
For perspective on long passed events, Oscar Grant was murdered by his arresting officer Johannes Mehserle on January first 2009. Johannes Mehserle, a policeman with the B.A.R.T transit authority was under investigation for multiple racial complaints. Oscar grant leaves behind a daughter and a grieving mother and fiancee’, Mehserle is long since out of prison, receiving the shortest possible sentence for his crime. Grant was shot while handcuffed and pleading for his life, his stomach and face pressed against the floor. Though the actions that unfolded were captured by more than 10 nearby cameras almost all video footage was stricken from the proceedings the reasoning still to this day unclear. I did not make it to the first in the series of protest; I watched them unfold from my highland hospital bed close by. But on the second such encounter with protesters the police came well prepared. More than 1,000 officers had come from neighboring counties literally volunteering in some cases to help quell the violence before it ever started. They came equipped with armored cars and full Kevlar swat gear. I was quickly becoming immersed into an America that I could no longer Identify. An America that resembled more so a tyrannical embodiment of empirical evil than any Cuba or Venezuela that the news media had assured me were the very definition of just that.
We the protesters were being filled into a kill box, a strategy often employed by the German Blitzkrieg’s advancing armies during world war 2. Though we were outnumbered, and though we were out gunned, we were inspired. It’s when your back is against the wall that you realize you have no options left but to fight. That day I turned to my wife and asked permission to join the front lines, she reluctantly said yes, I placed her near a recently drawn Mural of Oscar Grant near a group of women I thought she would be safe by. I had been shouting “This is not America” as we strolled past the police lines of storm troopers, screaming it at the faceless soldiers in a war that they did not truly understand. This however was not enough for me, I wanted, I needed more. I had dwelt in this city overrun with racial strife for too long. I had been witness to oppression and I had done nothing to stop it. Edmund Burke once said. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing.” But I believe that once good men stand vigil while evil transpires they soon cease to be good. For you cannot abstain from evil, it permeates past that which it touches. It spreads and taints even the purest of souls, so long as they let it. With that notion by my side I marched toward the front line, I was armed only with a camera, but the fear of death left me as others joined my side. When we arrived at the line of boots and radio chatter a curious thing happened. The police began pulling back, I remember looking up from my view screen on my canon stunned. As we continued are march more and more of the protesters broke off from our formation retreating for safety within the mass of moving people. We stopped our march when I realized that our front line consisted of myself and another cameraman us both to concerned with the image to notice that we were alone, we nodded at each other and strolled backward slowly the police line now advancing with us. We meaning the unidentified camera man and myself were of one mind we laughed out loud together, I shouted “Their afraid of us!” We marched forward again to see if it would have the same effect as before, to our delight it did. I realized then the object of these officer’s fear were not the mass of angry people behind us, they feared our camera’s most of all. More specifically than just the camera’s they feared what they represent. The truth, unadulterated evidence, and more specifically what that evidence might mean to the populace at large.
My wife and I retreated that day to the sounds of breaking glass and boots marching in unison. We were quickly being surrounded all means of escape were being cut off. They were marching up the stairs of the subway system shoulder to shoulder wall to wall batons in hand. We could overhear an officer asking permission to use live ammunition on their shoulder walkie talkies, he was quickly granted it. Gunshots could be overheard as we squeezed past an officer row in an alley. We then walked 30 blocks back to our apartment, bewildered we exchanged our perspectives on the events that had just transpired. It wasn’t until we got home we realized that most of the protesters we had been standing beside moments before were being arrested from charges ranging from aggravated assault to arson. And to our utmost horror and disgust another unarmed African American man was shot while handcuffed two blocks from where we had just been protesting. “I had just thrown my first rock at God”. To me at that moment I felt as though crushed by gravity, fate had returned my stone to me, it never having reached the heavens.
Though that day we failed to besmirch the face of the creator, I realized why it is I who must never stop protesting and therefore never stop “throwing rocks at god”. I protest for those, whose voices have been silenced. I am an activist for those whom no longer have the ability to act. I throw rocks at god because people like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Jordan Davis no longer can.