It’s a little after 10pm on Friday, June 5 2020. My negatives are hanging in a nearby window to dry and my shoes are still sopping wet too.
Today was the Frederick March for Justice, one of innumerable nationwide demonstrations in honor of George Floyd.
A storm front began lingering around the area Thursday afternoon and forecasts called for heavy rain to continue through the planned first hours of the protest. Despite the cold downpour from about 2 through 5pm, nearly 4,000 people marked themselves as having attended the march on its Facebook group, and I don’t doubt the numbers at all.
It was about 4pm when I arrived in downtown Frederick. The houses that line the final blocks of West South Street featured bright blue porch lights, showing support for the police. I turned left onto South Market to see that the big windows of Black Hog and Downtown Piano Works were covered with foreboding sheets of plywood. Conversely, the firefighters were still hanging out in front of the station as they always do; a symbol of normalcy amid the tension that was beginning to creep into my mind.
It wasn’t long before I could hear the rhythmic, collective din of chanting and car horns echoing through the buildings.
“Say his name!” a woman called.
“George Floyd!” the crowd responded.
Say his name!”
“George Floyd!” they’d repeat.
“No justice!” the woman called.
“No peace! the crowd replied.
I pulled on my face mask and loaded Tri-X into my vintage Nikon SLR’s as I walked, pausing under awnings for shelter occasionally, keeping rain out of the cameras.
At the intersection of South Market and West Patrick, each corner of sidewalk was filled with protesters. Black Power fists punched and colorful signs bobbed in the cold, wet air.
My glasses were spotted by thick water droplets and it wasn’t long before wiping them on my saturated t-shirt became ineffective. Keeping my camera lenses clean was almost as impossible and the viewfinders were also fogging. I stopped down my aperture more than normal to correct for the focusing inaccuracies that would surely result.
People were everywhere. But the vocal and visible protest occurring in the heart of downtown served as a type of beacon while hundreds walked from nearby streets and paths by Carroll Creek, past the Frederick County Courthouse and Police, converging at Mullinix Park.
I hung out under another awning to observe the ebbing crowd and to dry off a bit. I watched an elderly black man with a cane and a brightly colored umbrella enjoy a chuckle with a white officer standing nearby. Then, a the group of punk rock white boys strode by us with cardboard signs exclaiming FUCK THE POLICE.
A heavily reinforced Ford Excursion barreled slowly towards the courthouse. I observed either several of these or the same one circling by multiple times.
Shortly before streets were closed, Chief of Frederick Police Pat Grossman kindly escorted protesters across the South Market crosswalk near La Paz. Several people uttered a muffled “thank you” through their masks for the gesture.
The anticipation was building at Mullinix Park. Hundreds of people stood or walked purposefully around the field and playground areas. People were not keeping the regulatory 6 feet apart, they couldn’t, but there did seem to be an effort to stand back from others. Some people handed out water and snacks. Others gathered in small groups around people speaking their minds. I peered into one such conversation; “hopefully events like today bring that interaction and that discourse that we need to have in this country.” They listened and nodded with enthusiasm.
“This is what democracy looks like” alternated one group with “no justice, no peace” as a stream of people began heading back towards Market. The rain slowed and Police cruisers parked diagonally, blocking traffic from the street.
The march had officially begun. I ran ahead where possible, then let the marchers pass me for a while, run up ahead, and let them pass me, as I slowly advanced the sidewalks. I saw neighbors and old friends but didn’t stop to talk to anyone, nor did they me. Everyone had a decisive purpose and order was maintained.
A number of parents brought their young children to the march.
A man stood outside the empty Starbucks, sound-tracking the demonstration with soft recorder music and Brewer’s Alley staff clapped rhythmically in unison; all reminiscent of the anti-war protests of the 1960’s.
People flowed over Market Street in a natural pattern; for about every 20 or 30 people who passed, there’d be someone leading another chant, shouting another echoed slogan. I didn’t hear it but someone must have shouted another fuck-the-police-type sentiment to which one of the chant leaders, responded “No, no, no, NO! We can’t keep using that violent language. You’re gonna get someone hurt! We’re here for peace!”
Thanks for reading. All images ©2020 by Johnny Martyr. If you’re interested in using any, please feel free to contact me directly.
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