Literary Journalism Uncategorized

Protest and the City

By Shelby Slifer

Carly Butera steps foot in New York City. She has been there before, but this time it is for a different experience. In about four short hours, she will be seeing a play, “The Falsettos,” among of a group of classmates. While she has attended such an outing before, there is always a difference in each trip.

As she traverses through the concrete jungle, she goes with the flow of the city. The sky slowly begins to lose its light as the sun sets earlier. Fall lessens the time but not the energy. Just three and a half hours after she steps foot off the bus, she finds herself amid a commotion. It is confusion at first until the words become more and more clear. Caught off guard, she feels herself shoved away and nearly into a shop window. Seizing the moment, she unlocks the screen of her cellphone. Her thumb taps upon the Facebook application, soon finding her way to live so she can broadcast to her friends.

“F – – – white supremacists!”

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”

“He is not my president,” the protestors chant. Simple, yet catchy. A snare drum sounded rat-a-tat in the background. She hears it all and finds herself cornered, unable to move from the spot she is in.

“For those of you who can hear me, I’m cornered on the streets from this,” Carly films away, unable to move as the line has barricaded her where she was.

“People, united…” their voices fade off as the Doppler effect takes hold, the sound waves of their voices drifting away as their feet carry them down the street. Carly keeps her phone on, recording moment by moment the events that are taking place.

“So that was a little, uh, scary, coming down the street. Um, I’m in the middle of Times Square and uh, people who are unhappy Trump is their president are coming down the street. They were chanting, they have signs. All this crazy stuff,” She continues to record. The camera flips back to her face, showcasing her serious look; eyes trained forward as she watches out in front of her to make sure that she does not bump into anyone.

“Um, I’m not saying these are my views, I’m literally just standing in the middle of Times Square and I happen to have my phone on and that’s what came down and cornered me into right next door where the white sign is,” Carly distances herself from the opinions of the protestors. While she is open to everyone’s views, she remains neutral. Where it is clear many care about Donald Trump winning the presidential race, she chooses to hope for the best. It does not matter to her who won, only that they will be successful. She wanders forward, reporting moment by moment as the crowd moves forward, passionate and filled with fire. Her heart pounds; the idea of mob mentality runs high. She is afraid but keeps wandering onward. The lights from the city dazzle brilliantly, glistening and hued in the drizzle.

The energy from NYC, this fire, is very unlike that back at home. At school, there is a somberness that took over, a quietness resonating from the core of shock that took over the campus. Most of the students and professors that morning before she left were wandering, seemingly still processing what had just happened in their country. The dismal atmosphere is reflected by the gray sky that looms above, threatening with rain as does later in the day. Just one hundred miles away, the people have taken that and collated this very same emotion into an outcry.

It is just half an hour later, 7:05 p.m. now, as she continues her journey through Times Square. During the three hours, she has explored the city and gone to visit a few wonders she

found in a shop or two; she is especially looking for Midtown Comics in search of comic issues with a Native American main character. Before long, there is a chorus of voices raised together in a chant. She recognizes the chorus with slight apprehension due to the fear she felt earlier. She reaches back for her phone to go back on live, recording the moment as a piece of history unfolds before her eyes once again. “Oh it’s happening again?” Carly rhetorically asks, having just braved through the other wall of people. The night has been rainy and an uncomfortable medium shifting between warm and chilly.

“Not my president!” A mixture of male and female voices fill the air of the already noisy streets.

“Is this a different one?” her brain searches aloud for answers as she watches on. Nearby by a loud bloop bloop jingles from a cop car as a warning to the protestors not to get out of line. Uniformed guards are on call nearby, ready to use whatever force necessary should the protest become violent. Unlike before, however, it is more calm.

“NYPD are keeping…bystanders. This is continuing to be a peaceful protest,” she explains the sound to her audience as she keeps filming. Her hands hold the camera steady, watching on through the lens as the crowd snakes through the streets with picket signs. Her own words get lost of the loud chant of the crowd.

“Racist, sexist, anti-gay. Donald Trump, go away.”

“A lot bigger than the one.”

“I’m not part of the protest. Standing in the middle of Times Square,” Carly reaffirms from earlier. She continues filming the train of people who are marching against the decision to elect Donald Trump as president.

With just about twenty minutes left until the doors open, she tracks her way back to the theater. Lights dazzle brilliantly, especially in the rain as the dim hue is reflected in the droplets. Bodies swarm around in the lively city. It is dark and getting later, but the spirit is as much alive as it was even when they had arrived earlier at 3 p.m.

Directly after the play, they will be on their way back, the two-hour commute, to their college. The electrifying energy of the city will dissolve back into the communal spirit of the college campus. On time, she meanders up to the familiar faces of her peers from the university. They jovially greet her beneath the underpass, glowing from the theater’s lights aside them. Dozens of others have (and continue to) file in, ready for the opening of the doors to get in to be seated for the play: “The Falsettos.” The city is much sweeter smelling at this part; no sewage wafting up through the graters. Outside of the Walter Kerr theater, they wait, tickets in hand.

With a benign deviousness etched into her features, she addresses her friends, talking about their time in the city up until this exact moment: “What are you talking about, I didn’t get into any trouble.”

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