Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Police Statuary

Last week I was walking downtown Dallas towards the Rosa Parks Memorial because I had to catch a bus. The first thing I noticed were the cop cars. The second thing I noticed were rainbow flags and picket signs but I don't recall being able to read what they said. To be honest, I was more concerned about the cop cars. Two of them were parked where my bus was going to be in ten minutes. I walked over to one of the cops and asked him politely if this demonstration was stopping the busses or if they were going to stop somewhere else. He glanced back at the cars and gave a sort of noncommittal answer. I continued on to my bus stop and looked around.

There were about a dozen people standing around Rosa Parks' statue. I couldn't tell what they were demonstrating about. Based on the rainbow colors in the banners and signs they'd already taken down, my first thought was towards the Rainbow Coalition, which has roots in the Black Civil Rights movement but was later usurped by homosexuals. I should point out that I don't recall a single black person among the demonstrators. They were all white. Nothing wrong with that, but I didn't understand why a bunch of white gay people would be encircled around Rosa Parks. I'm sure there's a reasonable answer. I didn't care. I was waiting for my bus.

I believe in the right to free speech, but these individuals didn't seem to be speaking. They were just milling about. I soon realized that whatever it was they had been doing, they had already finished, and were just kinda packing up and comparing notes. The police were not 'in force' but they weren't sparse either. I'd guess there were about two demonstrators per cop. Some time later, on the Internet, I found myself reading a message board in which some nameless faceless somebody accused America of being a Police State. That phrase brought me back to this moment.

Standing there in the Dallas August sun, looking at the smiling face of Rosa Parks, permanently captured in bronze, smiling at whomever passes by regardless of race color creed or sexual orientation - a newly adopted hostess to downtown Dallas, surrounded by a bunch of white folk using her to underline whatever message they had, and those individuals surrounded by police. Surrounding the police? Well... Dallas. Us. All of us.

Walking up to the plaza and witnessing the aftermath of this little spectacle (one that no doubt the participants believe have somehow paved the way for resolutions towards whatever message they spouted that day but objectively speaking was a complete waste of their time and taxpayer dollars) one might have inferred that this is a police state. People gather together in public to make a statement and are immediately flanked by police officers. That causes one to pause and think that maybe the conspiracy theorists are right and we do live in a police state.

But if you looked at the demonstrators you'd realize these are not the people that could potentially cause trouble. Gay people standing in the middle of Dallas speaking their minds would tend to cause other nongay people to get angry. The demonstrators were mostly thin and frail and looked like they'd never eaten a hamburger in their lives. They're not a threat. However, if what they had to say pissed off someone who was not thin or frail and whose diet consisted of meat and beer and pharmaceuticals, then there might be trouble. The police were not there to stop the demonstrators from speaking. They were there to protect the demonstrators from people like me who would much rather catch a bus than listen to weirdoes carrying signs and banners in the middle of the Dallas August sun. I personally had no interest in accosting the demonstrators, but if I had such an impetus, I'd be the one hogtied on the ground; not them.

Police state? Who is policing whom? The cops weren't there to start a war. They were there to keep the peace. Sometimes that means meeting resistance with equal force. Sometimes that just means standing there and looking like statues themselves. Police state? Only someone who has never actually lived in a real police state would imagine that America is one currently. I'm not saying we're twelve to midnight, but at least in the small arena of the Rosa Parks Plaza, we're far from the End of the World.

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