“Wow. We just don’t give a shit.”
This thought crowded my mind as I drove away from the scene of a protest, where an order for dispersal had just been given by local authorities. I had been covering the event since 10:00 am.
On January 18, 2014 a protest mobilized in front of the Fullerton Police Department, where hundreds joined to speak out against the verdict in the Kelly Thomas case. Family members, friends, same-case victims, and justice seekers in general, attended to voice their thoughts on the acquittal of all charges of Officer Ramos and Cincinelli.
After a little over four hours of being there, protesters began to crowd the streets, almost completely blocking the intersection of Highland and Commonwealth Avenue. I remember saying to myself that if the protest went on this way, things would escalate into an authoritative measure due to the common “disturbing the piece” nonsense.
“No matter,” I thought, “I’ll just keep taking photographs.”
In no less than 10 minutes after that thought, word was spread of the order for dispersal. Some protesters began to leave, and without a sliver of doubt, I did the same.
As I walked away from the protest, a video started playing in my mind; my video. I was mapping out the organization of my story, the placement of each intrinsic photograph that would perfectly illustrate the literacy perfection that I would soon gift to my editor, and to the web.
The further I walked, the more and more I became preoccupied with the idea of all the people that remained on the streets, blocking traffic, holding their banners up high, crying out at the top of their lungs for justice to be served.
How did they not care? Did they not realize that they could be taken to jail? Did they not understand that their actions would lead to undesirable circumstances that could possibly ruin their day and, perhaps, a suitable amount of their lives?
“Wow. They just don’t give a shit,” I thought.
All I could think of was this, even as I turned on the engine to my tiny, keychain-looking Yaris and drove off, taking small streets — avoiding the traffic that the protest was channeling all over the downtown area — to find my way to the freeway.
“Poor guys, man,” I thought, “this won’t end well for them.”
As I made my way to merge onto the 91 freeway, I realized the idiocy of my thoughts, and now words as I spoke to myself in the security of my little car. What the hell was I saying? They don’t give a shit? How did I come to that ill-purposed conclusion?
An immediate reminder of why the protest was taking place grounded me. They were doing everything possible to make the injustice that had occurred to Thomas known. They were exercising their right that the first amendment and its authors so gallantly illustrated on a list of righteous governing behavior — “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Who was I to claim them to be fools for rendering everything, save their pursuit for dignity and justice, before the very town and individuals that were meant to protect them?
“Wow. I just don’t give a shit.”
When I got home, I quickly checked Twitter to see what was happening and streamed a live feed. My predictions had been accurate. Independent journalists were being taken into custody by the authorities, as is the case in many situations. Authoritative figures aren’t too fond of us — but that’s a different matter all in its own.
As I opened up a word document to begin typing up my draft, I struggled. I sat there staring directly into the flashing vertical line. As it blinked away, it was a constant reminder of the seconds I had let pass while walking away, each second I allowed myself to believe that they (protesters) were wrong and that they (authorities) were right.
No story was published with my byline on it. I couldn’t write.
I didn’t write, until now.
The only way I could justify my actions was in writing this and in posting these images that are not mine to keep in a vault. These are the faces of true citizens, those who look out for one another, regardless of the consequences. These are the faces of individuals who fight for the rights of those who don’t dare to give a shit.
Let’s face it, most of us, we just don’t give a shit.