We arrive in cars and on trains and on busses. Some of us rode bikes and others of us walked. Angry. Saddened. Fatigued. Scared. Anxious. We came to effect change. We came to be heard. We came for Eric and Michael and Tamir. We came so it wouldn’t happen to Jason or Tyler or Meghan or Hannah.

Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!

Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!

Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!

We march east, because that is the direction they have driven us. Penned, not unlike cattle, with rolled-in frosted metal fencing, away from the train line and the shopping center.

We are students, accountants, ministers, assistants, waiters, and clerks. We have a doctor and a lawyer. We are from both the city and the suburbs.

Arms locked, voices synchronized, the head of our parade is our firm, indomitable leaders, who have tirelessly marched all week, even before the cameras arrived. Our middle is made up of our younger, more boisterous members, phones out, documenting any and every thing, waiting for something terrible to capture. Our rear flank is composed of parents, clasping onto to children too young to understand why we chant. Why we march.

We are but six blocks from them now. A few dozen, rendered faceless by lowered helmet visors, weapons slung over their shoulders. Costumed in monochromatic soldier outfits. Licensed to intimidate. One of them barks commands into a megaphone.

We halt but a block from them. Chants become louder, lead legs and dry throats be damned.

Then it happens.

Glass explodes, a bottle, against one of their heavy-plastic shields. Whistles sound, chants transition to hushed panic, a fearful rumble of anticipation. Those of us in the front yell towards the back to remain calm. Along the side buildings, cameras mount on tripods, lenses aim down upon us. Waiting. Salivating.

Then comes a rock from our middle ranks, flung just feet from them. Their feet shuffle in concern, they begin to lose their form. They murmur indistinctly to one another. Then one of them aims what appears to be a shotgun above our heads.

The hollow explosion of the canister incites a panic before its smoke greets us.

We run. South. East. North. Everywhere but west. Anywhere away from them. The gas is warm on our faces—odorless, to our surprise. After a few inhales, the burning starts. First in our lungs, like a swallowed steam of coal, then in our eyes, tears fleeing our glands quicker than our eye-lids can blink in relief.

A young woman, maybe seventeen, formally in our middle, is down on the pavement weeping. A married couple, formally in our back, race up to get her to her feet and deliver her from out of the gas.

My mother, the young woman says, choking on short hysterical breaths, doesn’t know where I am. She hasn’t any idea where I am.

Photo By: Tina Leggio