By Anthony Abraria
Author’s Note: Due to the confusion that both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter share the same acronym of BLM, this author has opted to distinguish them as BLM for Black Lives and PLM for Blue Lives Matter. “P” standing for Police.
Asheville – Tensions and tempers found their furious pinnacles throughout Saturday’s Vance Memorial protest in the heart of downtown. Black Lives Matter (BLM) Protestors held up signs that echoed the messages already seen and heard throughout the country. Calls for defunding the police beckons for saying George Floyd’s name and elucidating the various reasons why black and not all lives matter most at this point and time.
Stoically holding their ground, the Blue Lives Matter (PLM) crowd were also finding their place at the center of the protests. Despite the BLM’S masses; sending taunting and bruising insults, the PLM seemed to hold a quieter competence that felt more reasonable and receptive.
Unfortunately this seemed to fuel the rage for the militant outliers in the BLM bunch. “You are f**cking racists,” jabs were met with either grimaced silence or some version of the “You wouldn’t know what a racist was if one was standing in front of you!” The PLM outliers were folks hoisting signs with Bible verses. Usually more passionate and vocal, their quieter dispositions tried to bridge both camps with their savior’s message of love and forgiveness. One had to approach them and converse to get them to talk.
As vehicles drove by protestors on Broadway Avenue, both camps came to show their support of BLM and PLM protestors. The BLM rally chants were almost hypnotically robotic. Some of it felt fatigued as many from both sides stood by to watch the flames of passion from a selected few represent their positions. There was certainly a void lingering from each camp. Both sides, leaderless, failed to converse as a constructive outlet for their outrage.
As you withdrew from the center of the theatrics small fragmented clicks were in active conversation. Whichever side you were on there wasn’t a dispute that police reform was not eminent it was inevitable. Airely Ferrer was one protestor wedged in the center of the schism holding an American flag. She sees common ground, “we need reform but we can’t go with no police at all. That is ridiculous.” Resonating along the same themes regarding police accountability, Nancy Nesbitt another PLM supporter, “if a police gets reprimanded it should be on the record…however we don’t want our police officers to feel afraid to go home at night like they are in Atlanta.”
When it came to assessing BLM, Nancy interjected that ‘this [BLM] group seems to have radicalized.” Nonetheless she felt that if both sides can still come together and that they would find civility, “If I walked there and tried to have a conversation, it wouldn’t be yelling.”
Addressing the systemic racism claims that have stricken police departments around the nation with fear, one anonymous protestor fitted with a police bodycam called the problem a failure of state Attorney Generals. “It’s not the police. If the attorney general weren’t siding with the consortium of city council. If they weren’t complicit with the police department they can operate independently. That little tweak would get all the police departments online and saying we are being held accountable because the attorney general is independent of us.” Our attorney general [Josh Stein] he just let things slide.”
It was a perfect storm of screaming voices reaching deaf ears from barely six feet apart. Social distancing didn’t add a strain of concern from any of these protestors as they fought for their versions of what is right. Fewer were willing to convert the outrage into productive conversations and hardly any were ready to chisel out the healing works towards compromise, safety and a more refined vision for justice in this city and beyond.