It was a remarkably cool, breezy and beautiful first day of June in downtown Raleigh this morning. As I biked around some of the aftermath of the weekend protests, I saw several striking and often weirdly contradictory images.
I saw, for instance, a handful of joggers — at least one pushing child in a stroller — as well as a handful of what appeared to be business people, trying to make their way to work around shards of broken glass.
In some places, public and private clean-up trucks and crews were pulling up outside of businesses as a helicopter hovered overhead.
Near the Marriott Hotel on Fayetteville Street, a father urged his infant son to pose for a photo near a segment of the street in which bricks had been removed.
Outside of Ashley Christensen’s Poole’side Pies, I saw someone who appeared to be the owner checking out the status of her boarded-up establishment.
Meanwhile, nearby, traffic hummed along on McDowell and Dawson streets at what appeared to be a fairly typical, pandemic-level volume and construction crews went about their business adding to a new high-rise at the corner of Dawson and Hillsborough Streets.
West of downtown along the Hillsborough Street corridor toward NC State, I saw a handful of broken windows and a couple of what appeared to be preemptively boarded up businesses.
The damage seemed mostly minor and symbolic and will, one presumes, likely be repaired in short order. While there is some shock and sadness in seeing familiar sites damaged — especially where it has a negative impact on innocent people just trying to earn a living — the fact remains that the damage from the protests pales in comparison to the murders of George Floyd and so many other men and women of color in this country by law enforcement officers (not to mention horrific damage done to the lives of millions of people every day by the disastrous and frequently racist policies our national, state and local governments so often pursue).
As Gov. Roy Cooper rightfully put it over the weekend:
“George Floyd should be alive, along with many others….We cannot focus so much on property damage that we forget why people are in the streets in the first place…Black lives do matter,”
One can only hope that the events of recent days will serve to wake people up to the systemic injustice that both plagues our society and helped spur the outrage that spilled across the national canvas in recent days.