On the corner of SW 5th and Oak, three police cars and numerous white male police officers had one black man in handcuffs, and were stuffing him into a squad car when I walked by. People all along the street, waiting for their buses, watched impassively from the curb. The man being folded into the police car met my eyes with an expression of resignation. He was used to this, I imagine. A black man in a white world.
Just down 5th street, toward Burnside, I saw another squad car, door hurridly swung open, stopped along the curb. It's occupant, another white police officer, had his hands on another black person, apparently a teenager. (Although I was a ways away, so he might have been older, but he looked like just a kid to me.) The cop had his hands on the boy's arm, and as I watched, he leaned down and pulled up the boy's cuffs and began pawing around his socks, as if searching for some reason to be standing there harassing him like that. He did not appear to find anything there.
While I watched that, the doors slammed shut on the police car near me, with the first man inside. I noticed that the officers involved all had blue rubber gloves on their hands, which I see a lot down here. I don't see it up in NW, at least not unless they're responding to a call regarding a homeless person. It's like they can't even bring themselves to touch "these people" unless it's with a weapon.
I don't know what happened to the man they took away, or to the other person. To my shame, I did no more than the impassive bystanders all around us. I stood and stared, I muttered a comment at no one in particular about my lack of surprise to see so many white cops aggressively putting hands on one white man, and then I walked away. I went to work, out of habit, because I did not know what else to do. After I walked away, I thought my culpability in this. I thought about the unmasked racism lately, in a world where national guard troops were dispatched to protect rich people's cars instead of black people's lives, and about my own part in it all. Because I did not stand there and demand accountability. I did not ask why the officers were detaining the people, where they were taking them, or why so many of their victims are people of color. I did not even wait long enough to make sure no one was shot, which in this city, is almost inexcusable. Yes, I may have gone to jail too, if I had spoken out. But it might be better to be Thoreau's "one honest [wo]man" than to have walked away and done nothing.