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#WeCantBreathe : A protester on Eric Garner, activism and police as a universal threat to security

‘When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.’
In a comment on “post-racial” America, NYPD executed an innocent black man on July 17, 2014,by putting him in an illegal chokehold. The entire episode was captured on the video given below. On December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who had killed Eric Garner.
The event, especially in the wake of the Mike Brown incident where a similar grand jury decided to not indict the office accused of murder, stirred countrywide public protests, which resulted in a brutal backlash from the police.

Eyezine caught up with Anabell Fedorko, who has been an active part of the protests against the Eric Garner case. 

My name is Anabell and I identity as an Anarcha-Feminist which combines the idealisms of Anarchy and Feminism. I have been a Feminist for my entire life but I didn’t know or recognize it until I was in a situation where I was berated for standing up for myself and experienced victim blaming firsthand in 2009. Since then, I have dabbled with activism in my way, through my website.

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What sparked off the protests?  

The protests were sparked by a lack of indictment in the case against Officer Daniel Pantaleo. This is the second time in a month that an officer accused of murdering a human being by way or excessive force or unnecessary force has been set free with no consequence.The officers in this situation were white while Eric Garner being black.

Americans responded against authority the best way they could, protests. The police were being recognized as a threat instead of safety. There is a massive racial tension that is underlying the protests.

 

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What are the protests like?

This was my first protest. The police blocked off the entire street where the meeting place was held. Once we parked and walked into the crowd of about 80 – 100 people, it was 6:30pm EST. There was disdain against the massive police presence. The chanting started shortly after which lasted for about an hour and signs were being made. At around 8pm EST, the march started in the street. The chanting was louder with each step down the main road.

A quarter mile and you can still hear “No Justice, No Peace!”

 

Are they violent/ non-violent?

I honestly believe that it depends on the protest that you attend although I believe that every protest should be peaceful and completely non-violent.

What is the turnout like?

When we first arrived, there were maybe eighty people. When we separated from the march, there were around two hundred crowding the streets of Providence, RI.


What resistance are you facing there?

Most resistance was more along the lines of surrounding citizens being annoyed that their route was being interrupted. There was a large police presence that held the perimeter and filled the air but caused no issues or response to any feedback.

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How do you feel about “white privilege”?

I feel as though it is impossible for me to say that it doesn’t exist because it definitely does.

White privilege hangs as heavy as the patriarchy. I am a white woman. I do not discriminate in any way but I recognize that discrimination exists. I believe an individual should be judged on their self, regardless of gender, preference or color.


How big of a concern is safety at the protests?

There is a definite concern of safety. Especially when the protest is against police presence while being surrounded by police. I always carry this keychain with me everywhere I go which is very effective. I am also well versed in fighting if need be as well. All this being worst case scenario and last resort of course.

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What are the long term and short term goals of the protests?

For myself, the short term goal is for more and more people to pay attention and recognize what is happening in their backyards.

Law enforcement officers are just that. Enforcers. They are not there to protect anyone. Their entire job is to mistrust anyone they come into contact with. Long term goal being law enforcement dismantling.

 

What mode are you using- candlelight vigil, marches, music, etc? 

This protest consisted of rap music, chanting and marching while holding signs.

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Is there dissent among the protesters?

There was dissent among some of the protestors. It is impossible to ignore the two major cases in recent weeks with a lack of indictments against police consisted of white police officers and black victims. I think it is ignorant to say that race wasn’t involved.

There is another issue that we need to address though. EVERYONE IS IN DANGER. Police as an entity is not there to protect anyone. No one is safe. Addressing this issue addresses others as well. Race is definitely related to this and should be noted but it not the only thing to note.

 

Do you face sexism at the protests?

I personally did not face any sexism or discrimination. There seemed to be an even amount of men and women.

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How do you feel about “reverse racism”?

I think that the term “reverse racism” is made up. There is just racism. If one person discriminates or hates another based on their race, it is racism no matter who hates whom. It’s very entitled to believe that only white people can hate someone and call it racism but for someone to return that hate in the same manner it has to be “reversed” and not considered equal.

 

How can an international community aid the protests?

I am going to be completely honest with you, I don’t know. I think that posting and writing articles about it like you are doing is amazing. The best way the world can aid the protest is to acknowledge it and maybe recognize something that needs to be changed in their own neighborhood. Law enforcement is everywhere, not just the USA.

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Is being an ally enough, or is it important to be an activist?

Being an activist is important. I think that people can be activists in their own way but it has to start with being an ally. That transition is so important.

No one wakes up one day and just decides to have an opinion on politics and go picket. It starts with becoming an ally. “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem. Getting pissed off is being an activist. Finding out the truth and learning more, is being an ally. You can’t help but get more involved.

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Who is your audience at the protests?

EVERYONE.

There is not one person that is unaffected by police. They are there whether you want them to be or not; not especially. It’s important that people not see this case and what happened to Eric Garner as “Oh, the police were doing their jobs, he’s a big guy and that’s not a chokehold – that’s a headlock!”No. Please explain the list of excuses to Mr. Garner’s family or even Kelly Thomas’ family. If you don’t recognize his name, I recommend looking it up and start getting pissed off.

 

Eye Art Collective expresses solidarity with everyone protesting against police violence, and for the indictments of the murderers of Eric Garner and Mike Brown.

Interview conducted by:কালো বেড়াল (Kaalo Beral)

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