COMMENTARY: The unrest in my community haunts me at night

June 5, 2020 /

I feel it is no longer safe for folks to be out after 5 p.m. Where is the medicine to alleviate the pain I’m feeling for my nation? Where is the cure? 

I don’t want my peers dying for exercising their Fist Amendment rights — their freedom to peacefully assemble and protest and freedom of speech.

The  members of my community have been holding peaceful demonstrations for the past week. They are standing in solidarity with the black community and demanding justice for George Floyd.

More than 500 people have congregated, including children, nurses, professors, college students, reporters and youth.

I was part of this congregation. I expected things to be peaceful and powerful, but instead, I left Friday’s protest traumatized — not because of the protesters, but because of the hatred within my community.

A man aggressively drove his car through the crowd of innocent people, striking and injuring a teenage girl. This traumatized hundreds of us.

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I was right in the middle of this, and I can not explain how fast everything happened. A crowd of approximately 500 people had to run as fast as they could out of the middle of the road — which was blocked off from traffic — onto the sidewalks. 

I knew one of us was going to get hit. We couldn’t outrun the driver, who was coming at us at a very fast speed.

We had no idea what this man was capable of or what his plan was after driving through the crowd. That’s why many of us were in search of a wall to hide behind to protect us.

As a result of this man’s actions, which disrupted the peace, the SWAT team and BPD officers were deployed. To my right I saw law enforcement pointing their gun at us, like we were the criminals, and to my left, I saw kids screaming for their parents.

As a result of this man’s careless actions, children were lost and separated from their parents, scared they would not be reunited. A protester with a megaphone called out, “LUIS,” the name of a lost child’s parent.

I saw so many scared faces and people running away from the SWAT team. It was this man’s hatred that caused fear and chaos in a peaceful gathering.

People knelt on the ground and put their hands up in front of the law enforcement officers and chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

As if this one incident wasn’t bad enough, another protester was hit by a vehicle Wednesday and was taken to the hospital with severe injuries.

I don’t live far from where these demonstrations are taking place. I can see the helicopters from my house and hear the sirens from the cops. I can’t seem to find peace in my own home because there is not peace in my hometown.

I can not sleep because I am afraid one of my fellow peers will be killed or ran over by a car. I fear my loved ones will be harassed because they have joined the protests. I fear my city will be burned down like other cities are across the nation.

All these traumas we are experiences are contributing to our life expectancy. Like Dr. Tony Iton said, we are a product of our environment, but if our environment is full of hatred, anger and brutality, our health will ultimately pay the sacrifice.

We shouldn’t fear the police. Their job is to protect and serve the people. I don’t want police brutality and protest to be the new norm. I want a healthy community, not a war zone. I demand justice for my community.

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The first step towards that justice is listening to the community. Earlier this week, community leaders met with local law enforcement and elected officials like Mayor Karen Goh to discuss the needs of the community. At this meeting, local African American leaders suggested engaging in conversations more with the community; initiating changes to the Peace Officers Bill of Rights for more transparency; and creating a community accountability committee to monitor law enforcement behavior.

I support this suggestions and think it is a great starting point to ending the racial inequities we see across the nation.