Taking it to the streets

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All over the world, families gather with the ones they love this week and enact an ancient winter ritual, beautiful in its symbolism, if a little crass in its methodology these days.

But while Christmas bells are ringing, there’s something simmering in our cities.

The protests kicked off in earnest after the police officer who shot and killed unarmed Missouri teen Michael Brown was not indicted for the murder, and escalated after a similar episode in New York, this one with damning video footage of a cop killing an unarmed citizen that failed to produce an indictment.

But that was a month ago, and still they gather — just this weekend in Winston-Salem a crowd of protestors made themselves known at the Hanes Mall, but in cities all over the country the #blacklivesmatter hashtag has maintained traction.

The longevity of this chapter of the movement can be attributed somewhat to social media — the news used to rarely leave a community when a police officer killed somebody, but now even the mainstream media is keeping a tally of how many civilians are killed by cops each year. The news usually gets amplified on Twitter well before that. One of the latest is 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot to death down by police in Cleveland while holding a toy gun.

But people still protest because this is about more than Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, more even than the militarization of our police forces, though that’s part of it.

They’re angry because of inequality — in income, in justice, in opportunity, in representation, in the courts — in a country that by law must treat us all the same. They’re  angry that the promise of equal opportunity doesn’t seem to produce outcomes that are anywhere near equal.

At this point in the news cycle, the protesters’ positions have been overshadowed by a tragedy in New York City — a nut job ambushed and murdered two policemen, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Great effort is being taken to link the crime with the movement for justice, though the killing seems to be the work of a lone individual with mental-health issues and easy access to a weapon, like most of the rest of the senseless violence we’ve seen this year.

It’s not a rebuttal to the concerns raised by the protesters, as the machine seems to be framing it. But it does seem to escalate the situation that’s been brewing on the streets since the onset of fall.