If you wanted to hear both sides of the argument about race relations in America last night, you might have made your way down to City Hall in New York, where pro-NYPD and anti-racism demonstrators yelled at each other across barricades. "You're a fucking racist," one side screamed. "You're a fucking moron," the other side screamed back.
I asked one man wearing a "I Can Breathe" t-shirt what the phrase meant. "If he hadn't resisted arrest," the man said with a shrug, "he could still breathe."
A chant started: Hands up! Don't loot! A demonstrator next to me asked his friend, "Are they saying, 'Don't loot?' or 'Go blue?'" His friend laughed. "Either one, they both work," he said. Over 1,000 people had RSVP'd "Yes" to the listing for the event on Facebook; on Friday night I didn't see more than 50 people on the pro-NYPD side, and half of those were probably reporters.
One man had flown in from Colorado specifically for the event. He brought the "I Can Breathe" t-shirts with him. "I'm not pro-cop, I'm not anti-cop," he told me. "Whenever somebody gets killed there's going to be tension." Another chant started: Don't resist arrest. Don't resist arrest.
If this isn't an ugly version of white privilege I ain't sure what is pic.twitter.com/iAvqxc5voW
— Steven Thrasher (@thrasherxy) December 19, 2014
"We've got four more years of this," one man, who told me his name was Bill Owens, a retired NYPD detective, said to another. "Three," his friend replied. "Don't make it longer than it already is."
"This is what happens when people don't vote," Owens said. I asked him what he meant. "This," he said again, gesturing vaguely towards the opposing protestors, City Hall, New York City, America, etc. "This... progressivism. This whole thing that Obama and De Blasio are on."
"These people are pyschos," John Plant, a retired member of the FDNY, said, referring to the counter-protestors. "At what point does it end?" Owens shook his head. "They're professional agitators. It goes all the way back to George Soros," he told me.
"These people talk about 'white privilege,'" Plant said. "I don't call it white privilege. I call it family privilege. American privilege." He was just gearing up. "You know, a lot of black people don't feel safe in their own neighborhoods. There's a lot of talent in the black community, and it's suppressed. It makes me sad."
[Image via AP Images]