Hello there. This is Johnny Silvercloud, the Soul Brother #1 of a Kind. The Vicious Abolitionist. Frederick Thuglass. The Gordon Parks of these parts. Being that I was back home in Washington D.C. employing my lens during this historical event of an Inauguration, I feel compelled to discuss my mixed feelings on the micro-riot that occurred when I embedded myself into a set of black-clad protesters.
A Different Type of Protester
When I first saw these protesters arrive, they marched through McPherson Square (a spot for multiple protesters) and I’ll have to say that there was something different than them. The first thing I noticed was that they were decked out in black, head to toe. They all wore masks, and walked out in as a uniform front. Out of the various protesters meeting and crossing McPherson Square, these folks were the most intriguing folks out there.
The feeling they brought was different. They came with fireworks that shot into the air, similar to the 4th of July. They had firecrackers and popped on the ground.
Eventually firecrackers were not the only thing that went bang onto the ground; trash cans from another square we walked into got overthrown smashed. In short notice, this firecracker wielding crew became something similar to marauders.
I was there when these protesters technically became rioters. Long story short, I was there to document these protesters smashing up Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Bank of America downtown Washington D.C. (Click here for the podcast audio!)
If anyone were to follow my video feed of this event, one would know that initially I didn’t like the fact that they smashed up a few downtown businesses. The more I think about it, I believe I had mixed feelings about the whole thing.
The first thing that happened was an, “Oh shit, is this really happening?” response. I felt a combat-mode adrenalin rush. This mess was exciting. I really could not believe that these folks — seeming out of nowhere == began wrecking shit. Over Trump. Genuinely wrecking shit.
The police response was relatively fast. The riot control police (read: stormtroopers) seemed to come from out of nowhere. The police had bottles of pepper spray the size of medium fire extinguishers. CS gas (tear gas) was deployed by the time the mob got to 12th Street and I Street (as captured to the right) and I got a good whiff of that stuff. I’ve had CS gas before, but it’s been years. Being that I wasn’t targeted, I got a weaker whiff of the CS. Manly tears ensued. I’ll have to admit, the stormtroopers did an amazing job of not attacking the photographer guy who was close enough to smell light farts from these police officers. I always known that Metropolitan (D.C.) Police were a lot different than other city cops. D.C. cops (from downtown) know not to act a total fool. There’s a protest everyday in D.C., add the fact that it is the Nation’s capital and treating everyone like a rioter would embarrass the United States in front of the world. I shouldn’t have to be thankful of cops doing the right thing, functioning with precision, but since that’s not the norm it had to be mentioned.
“Is it a bad time for a latte?” ~ Johnny Silvercloud to the Starbucks manager, after the mob broke their windows
Eventually the police separated the free press and freelancers from the mob, and ended the mini-riot. With that being said, the damage was already done. Going back to the destruction, I jokingly asked the Starbucks worker, “Is it a bad time for a latte?”
And it was. There was enough glass on the floor to make Hans Gruber proud. No one was getting their espresso that day.
Upon reflecting on the vandalizing, I realized something: I was happy about it. I was glad that, in this case, no one would blame the black community for this riot. Black clothes? Maybe. Black people? No. These gentrified protesters — marauders even — were mostly a white crowd, by far. I think even the cops knew this. Perhaps the cops’ measured response was due to the fact that they were white. So maybe, despite the fact that the black clothing and masks provided them a dispersal of identity, they were all white to the cops and therefore not treated so harshly. After all, they were able to smash Starbucks, circle a whole city block, smash the McDonalds on the bottom opposing side of the block before police truly halted their riot. So they rioted with a bit of white privilege in my home town.
I found myself totally okay with that.
Local Nazis Getting Punched
Later on after a long day of covering various protests, I catch a treasure on the internet — Richard Spencer getting, as we say in D.C., stole in his face. The moment I saw this I sat there and thought, “Wow I wish I would have captured that moment.”
When I let the scene of an Americanized Nazi getting punched in the face marinate, I had a flicker in my head of something I captured earlier: A particular sign that came from the anti-fascist crew.
This set of protesters were not decked out with a lot of signs, but I did manage to capture this sign on the left: FIGHT YOUR LOCAL NAZIS. Then and there, as I put it all together, I realized that I really do like these guys. Fuck it, I love these guys. The mixed feelings were gone; I knew who hit this Nazi in the face and it was these guys. Out of everything that went wrong, everything went right — these guys punched a Nazi, which is, according to Captain America and the history of World War II, the most American thing to do. Anti-Fascists did something that a lot of folks didn’t have the balls to do, and that’s punch Richard Spencer in the face.
After absorbing all the tear gas and all of the protests that day I realized that I really don’t give a damn about Starbucks. Or McDonald’s. Especially Bank of America. These businesses, while only a small leaf of a bigger tree, have CEOs who would most certainly weigh in on the DAPL issue, Black Lives Matter, and other social issues taking place today. They at large, do not. Sure, Starbucks are more friendly to the socio-political activist, but they can do a whole lot more than what they have been. Fuck Starbucks. Fuck Bank of America. Fuck Ronald McDonald; Richard Spencer got punched in the face.
And we have the anti-fascist to thank for that.
I genuinely love the fact that some random, anti-fascist ninja went across Richard Spencer’s face like Bryan Fury’s forward forward right punch, rocking his dome, messing up his Nazi soldier haircut like it was a Hitler toupee. I’m glad they came to our city. I’m glad they were there. Talking to a few of them, they are most certainly against white supremacy, so I really don’t care anymore. I’ve grown to love the anti-fascist rage.