December 7, 2014

Garner Aftermath: The Most Poignant "Die-Ins"

As a nonviolent protest in the aftermath of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury non-decisions,  the “die in” has proven powerful and effective. There have been so many across the country the newswires have been full of them.  Demonstrating how one moment is not like another, these three particularly stood out to me.

Given how grand, trafficked and stately Grand Central is (sort of “the Saint Patrick’s” of commuting?), the protest was like a lightening rod for the intense reaction throughout the city to the expungement of the Garner case. This particular photo that circulated on Twitter was especially dramatic. My retweet claimed it was notable for the sense of the protesters being trampled. Seeing it larger, however, it seems the cop’s stepping carefully, capturing instead the NYPD’s all-too-evident looming authority. At the same time, however, there is the sense that the particular action has actually stymied the officer. Finally, photographing, texting, gramming or tweeting, the guy with the cell demonstrates how much protest has become, at once, about witnessing, reporting, watchdogging and theater.

I don’t know if this is the student union, a library or something else but this scene from Wash U. almost quakes with magnitude. Besides “power in numbers,” it’s also one of the few die photos I’ve seen in which the action actually suggests how the bodies have been piling up.

Finally, this picture nearly laid me out, too. If you haven’t seen it (as it circulated widely, especially via Twitter), it shows citizens acting dead outside the Lorraine Motel. (The place, by the way, is now a civil rights museum.)  With the famous scenes from that balcony burned into history, it’s an incredibly poignant and evocative photo. Talk about power of place, these citizens, almost channeling Dr. King, link the current upheaval, at once, to the loss, hope and impact of one man’s legacy.

(photo 1: via @AndyBCampbell Dec 3 caption: Protesters are lying down in Grand Central Terminal as police circle. No train traffic blocked yet 2: Adrees Latif/Reuters. caption: Student activists, demanding justice for the fatal August 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, stage a ‘die-in’ at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. photo 3: commercialappeal. caption: Protesters outside the Lorraine Hotel, where King was killed.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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