“They’re here again,” Kit said, grim resignation in her voice.
“Of course they are,” Sam replied. He was feeling unsettled by a whole swarm of thoughts that had nothing to do with protesters and really didn’t have the capacity to think much about their repeated complaints. Of course, the protesters had no intention of letting him off so easily.
The wall of humanity lining the curb in front of the police station held their signs proudly as they had every weekend for the last couple of months. However familiar the slogans had become to the officers who had to pass them, the demands remained uncompromising:
“Hands Up – Don’t Shoot.”
“Demilitarize the Police.”
“Don’t Kill My Son.”
“I’m Not A Thug.”
“Black Lives Matter.”
Bold statements in black and white, a report as loud as a gunshot in the night.
Sam’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel as a sea of angry faces turned toward their slowing squad car. There was no specific reason for these two parties to mistrust each other. There had been no incidents of violence at any protests in the county, and if the news reports were to be believed, this community had a more open dialogue than most in the country during the latest wave of discontent. Nevertheless, Sam and Kit tensed up under the scrutiny of so many angry faces. As their car pulled into the lot, a megaphone amplified countdown sounded off: “Four, Three, Two, One!” A riot of voices followed, shouting, “I CAN’T BREATHE!” Together, a couple dozen protesters threw their bodies to the ground in a simulated death.
Kit shook her head. “If only they knew how much of our job is just writing traffic tickets,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
Sam didn’t answer. His breathing had gone shallow. Was it a new sign? Or was it simply one he had never paid attention to before today? Resolute brush strokes of black paint asked, “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” Matter-of-fact and furious. The tall black man who held the sign stared boldly into the squad car, unflinchingly into Sam’s eyes.
“Sam,” Kit said in a soft voice. “Don’t engage, Same.”
It would be hours later when Sam realized that his partner had thought he was angry. He probably should have told her that he was actually terrified.
* * *
Story by Gregory M. Fox