Article and Photography by Matt Hubbard | Owl Staff
Upon my arrival in Washington, D.C, I noticed that there was a relatively strong smell of cut wood in the air. This was particularly strange to me give that this is a city with little to no trees.
Once I began moving towards the protest area, I realized that the smell of wood was coming from all of the businesses that lined the empty DC streets. Almost all of the businesses had an overbearing amount of plywood over both the windows and doors.
At this moment, I started to gain an idea for how my day might go.
After about a 20 minute walk to the Lincoln Memorial, I became overwhelmed. I estimated about 150,000 people attending the event. As I began to make sense of the scene, I was quick to notice that the event organizers were doing temperature checks at the main gate that was set on the perimeter of the memorial stairs.
Given that the line was long and practically everyone had on a mask, I decided to skip the line and go to the general admission are to see what was going on.
The event was long and very emotional for a lot of people. Towards the end, a section of the perimeter gate was opened and almost everyone from GA pushed their way on to the memorial stairs.
Once I reached the top of the memorial stairs, I was astounded at the site of the Lincoln statue. This was my first time at the Lincoln Memorial and I can easily say this was something I will never forget.
After the ceremony ended, the group moved to the Martin Luther King memorial to hold a service. At this point, I was exhausted and borderline dying from thirst.
I was not willing to sit around any longer so I followed half of the crowd as they marched to the White House.
The march was long and energetic.
Once we arrived at the White House, everyone broke away to do their own thing and I grabbed food and took a break.
After beak time was over, the Black Panthers showed up. This was the first time I have ever felt genuinely scared at a protest.
“Y’all can keep on singing and waving flags and we support that, but when it’s time to put somebody on their a**, if you’re not going to help, then get the f*** out the way. And if you’re scared, then say you’re scared because a scared person fights the best… So stop screaming no justice no peace, because that is what they are giving y’all. No justice, and no peace,” the leader said over a bullhorn.
The cohesion and uniformity of this group was their main aggressor. Step by step, chant by chant, this group was ready to rage as the speaker continued to speak.
“Know you’re limits because when it is time to demand change, we don’t want any of you getting hurt.”
The Black Panthers brought a whole new level of energy to the crowd. The people were silent as they casually equipped their gas masks, helmets, and body armor.
I knew this was it.
As the speaker continued to preach to the crowd, a disturbance broke out behind us.
A man had jumped the fence to the church that the police stood out front of and held a sign right over the officers head.
The officers were quick to respond as they surrounded the church, but the crowd was quicker. everyone scattered and blocked the police from getting to the perimeter.
At this point, the police were cornered and the tensions exploded. You could see the fear on the officers faces as the crowd raged and became more and more aggressive.
By this time, the rain had started.
The majority of the crowd ran for cover as the rain became heavier. It was a complete torrential down pour.
The rain was heavy for about 20 minutes until it broke in to a semi-heavy drizzle. Once protesters emerged from cover, it was obvious that a vast majority of them had left the scene since there was roughly 50 people still willing to continue the fight.
My main objective was to find the Black Panthers to see what they were up to, but they were nowhere to be found.
The rain was miserable, and the crowd was slowly dying, so by about 11 p.m., I decided to head home.