The sirens haven’t stopped for four days.
Here in Los Angeles, you can hear them in the distance as a sort of ringing in your ear, though every three minutes or so a line of black SUVs goes roaring down Venice Blvd. (As I’ve written this last sentence, literally forty-plus have streamed past the Stab LA office.)
Just minutes ago we were sent footage of Patagonia’s Santa Monica flagship store just a click down the road being cleared out of its last midlengths by un-masked looters. Channel Islands’ Santa Monica reportedly got cleared out, too, though we haven’t gotten confirmation from anyone at the brand.
Stab’s Video Editor Sam Moody sent photos taken a short walk from his house (gallery above), after being teargassed at this afternoon’s protests in San Diego.
After months feeling like Los Angeles felt vaguely apocalyptic under quarantine lockdown, this weekend called for a return to (something like) normalcy, with the simple fact of restaurants being allowed to reopen for dine-in service feeling like truly massive good news.
Then the first reports of George Floyd’s murder began to come through the news feed on Thursday. By Friday morning, the tension was palpable in the air here, those sirens in the distance and the streets empty even for COVID-era LA traffic.
For the last three days, social media feeds have been filled with posts offering solidarity—amongst the WSL’s soft-edged well-wishers, Sal Masakela’s heartfelt to-camera IG post got heavy rotation—though perhaps the most poignant message was Killer Mike’s earnest call for those hoping to effect change within the American justice system and police forces nationwide to “plot, plan, strategize, and organize.”
Now, it would be cheap and easy to ignore the current American meltdown—we’re a surf mag, what business do we have talking about American racial politics and police brutality. Maybe none.
But over the last three months we’ve endured limitations on our so-called freedoms, as petty as being told we can’t go surfing may be in the grand scheme of things. Surfers have for the first time truly felt criminalized for just going about their routines. For the first time in my lifetime surfers have felt marginalized (evidenced in the last three months by armchair amateur Constitutional lawyers fucking whinging about it daily).
Now, we know and have known a lot of good, decent, generous, humane, benevolent, selfless, noble police officers. We celebrate men in The Force like this officer in Flint, Michigan, Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, who took off his helmet, put down his baton, and marched along with protesters and fellow police officers.
But there is no ignoring that America has cancer within its police force, one that’s been there all along, best diagnosed by James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Ta-Nehesi Coates, etc.
The sirens are still ringing now, as the images and video of George Floyd’s murder are still running through the collective American imagination. Watching the countless examples of police aggression on peaceful, unarmed protesters the last two days, it’s hard not to hear that famous line from Orwell: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.'”
It will be another restless night in Los Angeles, as it already is in cities across the country. Stay safe tonight, and look out for each other.
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