HOBOKEN, N.J. — One thing you learn when covering a protest in person– if you are honest — is that you probably know less about what’s going on than almost anyone else. All you know is what you see right in front of your face. In the chaos, there’s no time to check Twitter or other sources for perspective. So I’m going to say very little about today’s Black Lives Matter protest in Hoboken, a now-gentrified enclave just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, a kind of Brooklyn in New Jersey. (Of note: My parents grew up here, when it was not a nice place to live. Everything has cycles).
I made several videos of the protest as well. One is above; the rest of the series is below the images. You can see the entire video collection on my YouTube page at https://youtube.com/bobsullivan4
- The protest was impressively well organized, right down to the free snacks and water stops. As the various groups snaked around town, abandoning the planned march route, they still seemed to know where they were going.
- I experienced a lot of kindness on the streets. A lot of excuse me’s and thank yous and people ducking for photographers. That’s not always true.
- At times, it felt like a parade or festival. Plenty of locals with their children and their dogs marched.
- But make no mistake, there were angry chants. Lots of expletives directed at police. The police officers I saw were admirably stone-faced and did not react to any of it; no small feat. In between chants, they directed traffic around the protestors, who at times followed police direction to stop marching and let cars through intersections. So even with the anger, the groups seemed to work together. Still, there were riot police tucked around the corner, police choppers, and at least one drone in the air.
- Mayor Ravi Bhalla, a Sikh, marched with the group. Earlier in the day he announced support for a review of police force policies within 90 days. He’s getting high marks for the small town’s handling of coronavirus, and so far, it appears he’ll get high marks for handling this protest.
- The city got criticism earlier in the day when many businesses boarded up their windows in anticipation of violence. Small business owners have been hit hard lately; they haven’t been able to operate normally for almost three months. Meanwhile, many businesses stayed open and added signs of support — some even offered free pizza to marchers.
- The crowd was bigger and more passionate than I anticipated; I’ll let you be the judge from my images.
The image I’ll remember most — which survives only in my heard — was seeing the owner a local coffee shop jump out of a car with his daughter. They’re a mixed-race couple, and she’s probably four years old. She was gripping a Black Lives Matter poster she’d made and when I asked her to show it to me, she beamed. I think today probably mattered a lot to her; it might some day be among her earliest life memories.