Last night, I watched a handful of protesters turn a few hundred bar and restaurant patrons into an angry mob in just over an hour.
Think about that. These people were out having a good time, enjoying a beautiful Friday evening. They had no agenda. There was no cause that united them. They were just going about their lives. Then a single, well-executed display of propaganda pulled them away from those lives, into the street, and in many cases convinced them to actively attack a team of armed DSF officers.
It was, admittedly, an artful display of propaganda. It had drama. It had audience participation. it had a 9 foot gallows complete with flaming effigy. The display was nothing short of a carnival attraction and it came as no surprise that people were eager to throw an egg at a dummy dressed up like a cop. Everyone loves to hate the police, and this was just a little harmless fun. Until it wasn't.
The real DSF arrived with their usual show of force. Riot gear. Armored trucks. Threats of arrest and physical violence. There was a time when this would have been shocking, but we all know that this is the reality we live in now. Even so, it's pretty intimidating when it's coming right at you.
My natural reaction to finding myself in this predicament was fear. We all know DSF and police forces around the world abuse their power and do terrible things with no real oversight. The sight of police of any kind triggers an instinctive fear in me despite the fact that I have never personally had a negative interaction. Much like the stripes on a skunk, those badges are a warning to be on your guard.
The people I watched last night had moved past fearing the police. They HATED them. Each and every one of them, for their own reasons, was harboring this rage beneath the surface. The demonstration tapped into that emotion and united them against their common enemy, but the anger was already inside of them, waiting to be released.
What happened to all of these people? What life experiences have left them with these deep emotional scars?
How many other people are hiding this anger beneath the surface? How many of our friends and neighbors and coworkers would have picked up a rock and joined the mob?
How many of YOU would have joined?
And perhaps most importantly...
If this many of us are angry at the same system, why are we still so afraid to speak up?