Four hundred souls, young, old, Black, Brown, Native American, White, joined together on Saturday, July 16, 2016, in McAllen, Texas.
The purpose: to honor the fallen (mostly young, mostly Black) victims of shooting by police (Louisiana, Minnesota) as well as the five officers murdered in Dallas.
They marched from Archer Park to McAllen City Hall. There will be a rally in Brownsville, this Sunday, July 17, joining those all over the nation. The tag for further information and Facebook following: #RGV4BLM
Police of McAllen were not in noticeable attendance, as had been those in Dallas, where they came to protect the constitutional rights of peaceful protestors. The McAllen Police had been notified hours before of possible danger (incitement by a Tea Party leader).
Had guns been drawn and fired, had people died, the nation would be demanding answers from McAllen officials. These marchers today spoke with reverence of the bravery of the Dallas police. But they do not accept racism among other police in other cities.
Angry and irreverent bikers, without their own rally, arrived, revving their motors, pumping up loud boom box music, in order to quiet and intimidate the crowd. They flew a desecrated American flag, marred with an off-color blue stripe. The shouted “all lives matter,” a truism with which no one in the crowd would disagree.
In contrast, one woman in the #BLM group held a sign reading: “Pro-Black does not mean Anti-White.” Students were aplenty, enthusiastic in their dedication to opposing racism. Four or five professors from UTRGV and STC attended, plus two retired professors from UTPA. Members of local churches and civil rights groups braved the 100 degree heat. Bottled water was supplied.
Present, I suspect, were armed counter-protestors. Erstwhile leader of the Tea Party, Jim Barnes, had called for “Motorcycle Patriots” and his own members to turn-out (regretfully, in these pages). He urged them to bring covert weapons. Nonetheless, police (cyclists) arrived only at the beginning.
There was no safety escort though town. They were not present at City Hall so they did not intervene when the two sides came jowl to jowl. When questioned as to “why not?” one officer managed: “I’m sorry.” But, obviously, there was no higher-up command to assist in maintaining order. Explications?
Fortunately, there were only “near misses.” Cyclists pushed their vehicles through the crowd. Petite young women were not intimidated. One biker hit a female bystander in the chest with his handlebars. Another clearly intended to run over on demonstrator’s foot, then relented. Still no police.
The civil rights supporters were wonderfully self-disciplined. I heard no nasty chants, saw not one middle finger raised. Did the media catch it? I saw only Telemundo and Channel Four. Where were the rest of the media? Perhaps incognito? If they were present, my apologies.
Other signs read: “Afro-Latinos Exist! Do Not Forget Black and Brown;” “If You Are Not Enraged, You Do Not Understand Black Lives Matter;” and, quite incisive: “The New Racism is to Deny that Racism Exists.” The opponents to this rather mild exercise of constitutional rights had few signs, no instructed argument.
They voiced their feelings though wasteful use of gasoline, complete with exhaust and glaring noise. (Certainly, there was a violation of codes, but no police to charge them). Their main intent was to display their abilities to bully and to disrupt those who were putting the First Amendment into action.
Amazing, if they think their tactics changed any minds. They were also quite within their rights to protest the protestors. What a shame there was no chance to have a “sit-down” exchange of points of view. Voices talking over each other.
But, at least for a brief shining moment, the national movement of “Black Lives Matter” came to fruition in the famous Texas “Valley.” It was a moment marked joyously with the unique south Texas contribution of Mexican American, African American, Native American and Anglo American supporters of oppressed minorities.
Young speakers (inexperienced, hesitant in front of such a large crowd, but brave) admitted their concerns for safety. But they insisted their consciences forced them to be there and speak out.
One young student concluded his remarks with readings from Psalms and Isaiah, recalling how the God of the Book called on His people to support the oppressed. He could have added New Testament scripture: “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE OTHERS DO UNTO YOU.”