I had been marching in downtown Los Angeles since May 27, two days after George Floyd’s killing. The police would show up in riot gear, tell us to disperse, while also blocking us from being able to go anywhere safely. That pattern continued on to Friday, when we gathered at City Hall to march. That evening, the police blocked us in and told us we were under arrest. They told us to be seated so we could be arrested peacefully.
They wouldn’t tell us why. They zip-tied our hands and loaded us onto these sheriff buses. On the buses, we were put in literal cages, two at a time, that were meant for one person, and were driven to the precinct, where we learned that a curfew was put in place. We were cited for breaking curfew and let go in the wee hours of Saturday. I went home to sleep knowing I’d wake up to head to Pan Pacific Park to the rally organized by Black Lives Matter L. A., led by Melina Abdullah, Ph.D., and Patrisse Cullors, and BLD PWR, led by actor and activist Kendrick Sampson. There was a rally, with singing and speeches. Everybody knew about this protest, everybody was posting about it. There were children, families, and older folks. So I was thinking, Well, the police won’t be crazy today, right?
We began to march, and what happened next reminded me of the footage from the marches in Selma in 1965. As we walked through West Hollywood, the police formed a line, and the rally heeled. A blockade of police in riot gear stopped us. They told us to disperse but continued the pattern of not giving us any safe place to go. A police cruiser was on fire, and as the smoke billowed, the police just went at it.
I remember feeling a baton come across me, and we all began to run. We saw a parking lot off to the right and ran to it, but the police blocked us off there, too. Two minutes after that, I’m seeing police officers aim at protesters. I see one aim in my direction, ready to shoot his rubber-bullet gun. I turned left to try and escape, and as I turned, I felt the impact on the right side of my face.
My mask flew to the left, and I saw the bloodstain on my light-blue dentist mask. Immediately, my face swelled big and wide open. But the most intense part was that as soon as the bullet hit me, there was a ringing in my head. And the ringing in my head is where I thought the bullet hit my temple. I thought I was going to lose consciousness or, at worst, die. But after a while, the ringing subdued. My friend Niara started carrying me out. Then I fell completely on the ground.
A medical professional who was protesting ran up, and the bullet had literally broken my face. She began to disinfect it and wrapped the wound with gauze. We tried to hail an ambulance, but none stopped. This woman I had just met, whose name I can’t remember, drove me to Cedars-Sinai. I remember them telling me I was the first protester that Cedars admitted that day. In the ER, I found out that my entire zygoma area (the bone under my eye) was fractured. I had two broken bones in my face. I had a head injury and a facial laceration where my head was busted open that required seven stitches. Cedars had me there until midnight. Then I went home.
I found out later, from an ophthalmologist, that the bullet hit me an inch from my temple and my eye. That was a sort of blessing. I could’ve been blinded or had a deadly head injury. I come from a spiritual background, and there is this constant thought and reflection: “Use me, God. What would you have me do?” is always part of my deeper reflection.
There’s trauma with this that becomes harder. There’s the dizziness, coughing up blood, things that make you scared to go to sleep, thinking you may not wake up. Then come the dreams and nightmares. I’ve woken in the middle of the night with the sensation of that ringing in my head, when I thought I was going to die. In addition to the trauma, it’s the idea of knowing that I feel changed. I know I’m changed.
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I’m going to charge forward, to keep up the fight to dismantle the system of white supremacy. Police are meant to protect us and serve us. Instead they are beating us, killing us. #DefundThePolice didn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s a literal movement to save Black lives. We know salvation doesn’t come from the sky. It comes from the ground. Our liberation cannot be in increments anymore. It has to be in totality, and right now I do believe it’s in our grasp.
—As told to Zachary Siegel
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