High school journalism is alive and well in Salem, judging by this highly professional story by Eddy Binford-Ross in the South Salem High School online newspaper, the Clypian.
It's a first-hand account of the protest in Salem on Saturday night that led to city officials declaring a state of emergency and imposing a curfew. I believe the state of emergency is in effect until Monday, but the curfew has been lifted.
UPDATE: Just saw that Binford-Ross is using Twitter (@Clypian) to report on tonight's, Sunday's, protest in Salem. Here's a screenshot of a recent tweet. Good job!
I've got some thoughts about the protest, which I'll share after Binford-Ross' story. She is the editor-in-chief of the Clypian. Hopefully she won't mind me copying her story into this blog post.
(Did I mention that you're an excellent writer, Ms. Binford-Ross, whose work deserves to be shared as widely as possible, regardless of minor details like copyright law?)
Hundreds of protestors took to the streets late Saturday night in downtown Salem. They were protesting against police brutality and in honor of George Floyd. The protests remained peaceful until around 11:20 when a few protestors began to throw fireworks towards the police. The organizers attempted to force the instigators away from the protest, although this was seemingly unsuccessful.
The police, dressed in riot gear, responded with flash bangs and calls to disperse the crowd. They notified protestors that if they did not disperse they would be subject to tear gas and projectiles. The crowds remained and tear gas was released. The protestors retreated to the Capitol area where they proceeded to take a knee.
Around midnight, the City of Salem declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew. Following this, the police announced that the protest was now unlawful and that if protestors did not leave they would be subject to arrest. An organizer told those assembled that “if you are here for George Floyd, you should go home.” Most protestors remained.
About twenty minutes later, the police began to move in on the protestors. They used tear gas and flash bangs in another attempt to break-up those gathered. The crowd dispersed and most protestors left.
Following the dispersion, police officers gathered at Salem Center after a small group of protestors were heard saying that they were going to loot the mall. There were reports of bricks being thrown at the officers around 12:40.
Prior to the altercation between police and protestors, the protestors gathered peacefully for hours. They marched to chants of “no justice, no peace,” “breaking stuff is not the answer,” “say his name, George Floyd,” “I can’t breathe” and “black lives matter.” They called society to address the racism in the police force, as well as, justice for Floyd and others like him.
Floyd is an African-American man who was recently killed when police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his throat for a prolonged period of time. Despite Floyd telling them “I can’t breathe,” Chauvin continued to kneel, leading to Floyd’s death. Chauvin lost his job and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
These protestors join hundreds of thousands of others demonstrating across the nation in response to the murder of Floyd, as well as the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Taylor was an African-American EMT who was shot when police entered her home unannounced while allegedly searching for a suspect who was already in custody. Arbery was a young, unarmed African-American man who, while going for a run, was shot by George McMichaels and his son, in early February. Arbery’s killers were not taken into custody until May, when a video of the shooting began to circulate.
Many protests elsewhere have turned from peaceful gatherings into riots, including in Portland, Eugene, Minneapolis, Atlanta, LA, and New York City. Buildings have been set on fire, including the Justice Center in Portland, and have been subject to looting and vandalism.
The extent of damage in downtown Salem is unknown at this point. However, there were graffiti messages written on the roads and the Capitol Steps. The windows in the glass structures on the Capitol mall were also broken.
Counter-protestors were present. People stood in front of various businesses with rifles, including Glamour Salon– whose owner publicly asked for armed protection. There were no reports of altercations between counter protestors and protestors.
This is a breaking news story and will continue to be updated. The last update was 1 a.m.
Here's my take on the protest as described above.
Like most people, I was appalled when I saw the video of the police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on George Floyd's neck, which led to Floyd's death. Chauvin deserves many years of jail time, and the other officers at the scene who stood by probably deserve more than just being fired.
But there's no reason for protests against this injustice to turn violent in any way.
That includes throwing fireworks at police, as reported by Binford-Ross. Spray-painting graffiti also should never happen. These actions by a few Salem protesters were a major distraction from what should have been the focus of the protest -- bringing attention to the unjust deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police.
When I was in college -- the ancient days of 1966-71 -- there were frequent protests against the Vietnam War. I took part in some of the protests in the San Francisco Bay area.
Yes, we screamed at the police, who weren't exactly hippie-lovers, of which I was one. Looking back, I wish that hadn't happened. Because while the protests were completely justified, whenever violence accompanied them the irony of protesters acting warlike (even to a small degree) while protesting the Vietnam War diluted the message.
Here's an iconic photo by Marc Riboud of a girl at a massive 1967 demonstration against the Vietnam War. The following Wikipedia description demonstrates the power of meeting violence with gentleness.
I realize "flower power" isn't a thing among young people these days. But maybe it should be. Sure beats throwing fireworks at police.
The Ultimate Confrontation: The Flower and the Bayonet is a photograph of Jan Rose Kasmir (born in 1950), at that time an American high-school student. This iconic photograph was taken by French photographer Marc Riboud. Riboud photographed Kasmir on 21 October 1967 while taking part with over 100,000 anti-war activists in the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam's March on the Pentagon to protest U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Seventeen-year-old Kasmir was shown clasping a chrysanthemum and gazing at bayonet-wielding soldiers. The photo was featured in the December 30, 1969 special edition of Look magazine under the title The Ultimate Confrontation: The Flower and the Bayonet. The photo was republished world-wide and became a symbol of the flower power movement. Smithsonian Magazine later called it "a gauzy juxtaposition of armed force and flower child innocence".