By all outward appearances, I am a nice white lady. This gives me a lot of privilege, but it also means people make a lot of assumptions based on my appearance and demeanor.
Recently, I went to Mayor Hancock’s Cabinet in the Community here in Denver. I didn’t really want to go, but I have committed to getting out as much as possible to meetings and events so that I can livetweet the events and keep people updated. I’ve gotten a lot of comments that people like the livetweets, so I try to do them often.
In the first 5 minutes after I arrived, 2 police officers and one city official came up to me and said “I want to know how much I appreciate the way Coloradans for Justice does things.”
This is amusing, because if you’ve been watching, Coloradans for Justice is primarily an activist calendar service. We will organize events if it is needed, but there are so many groups in Denver organizing that it currently is NOT needed. We’re all about doing the work that needs to be done. We are also a really tiny group that does not hold meetings.
When I started organizing, shortly after connecting with @kennyswiley and @eliasheibert on Twitter back in August, none of us knew what we were doing. We didn’t know how to organize a vigil, a rally, a march. We hadn’t taking any organizing classes. Our main experience was that I have BEEN to a lot of marches and protest activities. We called around and no one would call us back. So we made some mistakes and we tried to build off of them and not make them again. I think we did a good job.
A friend of mine pointed out that the Denver police had run through all their informants and probably see me as a likely informant about activist activities. I get why.
Why does the city like the way we do things?
Because we met with the cops. We got permits. We asked permission.
This is why they like us. Because we played by the rules of respectability and this gets you things like handshakes and meetings with public officials.
There is a time and place for permits. If you are planning to hold a rally several weeks in advance for an annual event, you should get a permit. If you are responding to recent events, there may not be time to get a permit. You may not have time to meet with city officials. It is still vital to hold your event. It is still important that there is some level of organization and communication happening to ensure the safety of people attending your action. Having connections with other groups can help with this.
There are also times when you are just NOT going to get permission to exercise your right to free speech. When you have to realize that the requirement to get permission is an insult. That you don’t have to get permission for many activist activities.
I want to be clear that I am in solidarity with the protesters at Saturday’s #DefendDenver March Against Police Terror. I had intended to march and even went to the park, but I was really sick that day and my fellow activists encouraged me to rest. The media and police in Denver were quick to focus on red paint being thrown on a memorial for fallen police officers. They were quick to arrest a friend of the Hernandez family for overdue tickets on the day of the protest so they could claim another arrest that day.
Whenever there is a police involved death in our community, the police are quick to utilize the media to slander the name of the victim. To paint the dead person as a “thug,” to show how they deserved to die. And we, as activists, play our role. We argue for the worth of the value of the life of the dead person. We try to convince the community, the media, the country, that person’s life mattered. It is exhausting, and I hate doing it, but it must be done.
Paint that can be washed off of a statue does far less damage than the actions police take to destroy the worth of a victim’s life. So many people are so insulted by some red paint that was quickly removed… but did you think about how it feels to families who are victims of police violence to hear over and over that their loved one deserved to die?
You’re not going to catch me yelling “fuck the police” because it’s just not my style. I am generally analyzing what is happening, looking around for safety, watching people in the crowd, and looking out for my fellow activists. I’m not going to be yelling “fuck the police” but you can be sure, in my head, I am figuring out ways to subvert your system.
I am not a nice white lady. I am a radical, gender non-conforming activist. You should not let my outward appearance allow you to assume I will be your mouthpiece or your informant. I don’t want the respectability that is being offered me. I understand that in order to effect change, my personal respectability may be affected and I accept that.
The revolution is going to require we give up our attachments to respectability and public opinion and solidify activist relationships with one another. I am here for it. I hope you are, too.
Posted on February 16, 2015, in Activism, feminism, Police Brutality, Police Militarization, Prison State and tagged DefendDenver, Denver. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Rejecting Respectability.