On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department. Suspected of having used a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store, he was roughed up by four officers and then held on the ground, a knee to his neck, for over eight minutes, until the life had drained out of him and he lay dead on the street.
George Floyd. Say his name.
In response to this murder, protests and uprisings have erupted throughout all 50 states and the world over, lashing out at a system of order that too often fails to serve the most vulnerable in society.
Former Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms, now retired and the voice of Revolution Radio on 98.5 the Sports Hub, is well acquainted with this inequality and with the daily threat of oppression and violence that comes with being a black man in America. On June 7th, he shared a deeply emotional window into his experience, on his Instagram.
“TIRED. I’M SO TIRED.”
On the night of Sunday, May 31st, 2020, the Boston Police Department threatened and escalated what was otherwise a peaceful but passionate protest and demonstration against police brutality, performed in George Floyd’s honor. The incident fit a pattern of unrest and violence across the country as American communities turned out in numbers to challenge the enforcement arm of the State.
“The reality is that things have been, and continue to be, out of hand. It’s simply not fair. Life is hard enough as it is, but to be treated like we get treated is just not right. And for what?! The color of our skin? This isn’t how it should be.”
That arm responded by rioting against the citizens it was supposed to be sworn to protect. Per the accounts of protesters who were there in Boston that night, the demonstration remained peaceful and inspiring, right up until riot police swarmed the common, exits and escape routes were cut off, and cruisers were driven right up to the crowd. In the ensuing chaos, a cruiser was burned, citizens were shot with “less-lethal” rounds and poisoned with tear gas, and storefronts throughout Downtown Crossing were smashed and looted.
“A kid shouldn’t be called a ni**er in the driveway of his own house because he beat a kid in a basketball game.”
As demonstrations in Boston continued throughout the week, they were constantly shadowed by armed and armored riot police, keeping tensions high. The inexplicable decision to shut down T stations, effectively stranding demonstrators in areas the police then insisted remain empty, didn’t help.
“A kid shouldn’t be stopped in the mall and asked for a receipt for his candy, while the 5 white kids he’s walking and eating candy with don’t get stopped.”
Police in Brockton tear gassed citizens in one of Massachusetts’ most-prominently black communities on June 2nd, apparently attempting to control a rally of people that numbered only in the hundreds.
“A man shouldn’t be turned away from a bar because he has on sneakers when the white guys right behind him in sneakers walk right in.”
Demonstrations, rallies, protests, and minor clashes with police have continued throughout Massachusetts since, with recent kneel-ins and demonstrations in Watertown, Taunton, and other communities. That said, Massachusetts has had it easy.
“A man shouldn’t be denied a loan from multiple banks when he has over the minimum credit score needed and is also told his business can more than support the loan.”
In New York City, the NYPD has carried out a brutal campaign of crackdowns and violence against residents of the Big Apple, with the explicit blessing of a historically-unpopular mayor. The courts have gone so far as to suspend Habeas Corpus, an unconstitutional outrage allowing the NYPD to hold protesters in lockup essentially indefinitely.
In Washington D.C., peaceful, unassuming demonstrators were gassed and beaten to clear the way for a presidential photo opp.
“A man shouldn’t walk into a house with his white female friend and she immediately gets a call from her neighbor asking her if everything is ok and that she’s safe. And wonder - if she didn’t pick up, would the neighbors have called the cops? What would have happened then?”
In Seattle, things have gotten so bad that the people of the city have literally taken over a multi-block city section they are calling the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, forcing SPD to abandon an entire precinct, after the PD refused to stop using tear gas during 8 days of brutal crackdowns on protests. The SPD continued to use tear gas even after the mayor banned its use for 30 days.
“A man shouldn’t be pulled over regularly in his own neighborhood, with no explanation, and be ‘let off’ with a warning. And in an area where there aren’t many blacks, let alone blacks driving a nice car.”
In Buffalo, ornery police nearly killed 75-year old Martin Gugino, shoving him to the ground where he smashed his head and began to bleed from his ear. Mr. Gugino is out of the ICU, but still recovering. He had simply approached the officers to talk to them.
“A man shouldn’t be so worried about getting pulled over that he takes the long way home because the more direct route usually has cops sitting and waiting.”
In Louisville, KY, local restaurateur David McAtee was gunned down by police and national guardsmen during the protests, right outside his business. He had a reputation for serving free barbecue meals to police and military customers. His body was left to rot on the pavement for 12 hours.
“A man shouldn’t lose his breath every time he sees those blue lights come on. Even when the cop already has someone pulled over up ahead.”
Closer to home, in Providence, RI, a black firefighter in uniform outside the station was approached by Providence PD with guns drawn, ostensibly because it was after a curfew established in the wake of Providence’s own clashes with protesters.
“There’s no reason for us to live like this anymore. We don’t deserve it. This is the stuff my parents used to talk about....I have a son now. Will he be going through this too? Will he have to feel the pressure of trying to be absolutely perfect every single day just to stay on level playing field, at most??”
Clyde is not the only Revolution player who has spoken out. DeJuan Jones released a heartfelt statement on his Instagram and Twitter accounts. Goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell spoke about the need to be an ally.
“We have to change this.”
Across the league, other players have shared their stories and thoughts. Jeremy Ebobisse and Jacori Hayes have written stirring and emotional essays on, well, Being Black in America. Messages of support from Sebastian Lletget and Alejandro Bedoya have made the rounds.
“I get treated this way to the point where I’m basically numb to it.”
Across the United States, a black person is almost 2.5x more likely to be killed by police than a white person, and there are studies that show that number to be as high as 3.5x more likely. Nearly 1 in every 1,000 black men will die at the hands police.
“We have to educate ourselves. Seek out to learn more about black experiences. Look within yourselves. Be honest with yourselves. Ask yourselves the tough questions. Figure out how you can play a role in changing the narrative.”
The New England Revolution have set up a convenient hub of materials for those interested in joining the fight against this injustice, either through direct action or through introspection. It contains reading lists, petitions, testimonials, and other recommendations for a person who wants to be a conscientious ally.
We are in the midst of a virulent, world-wide pandemic that has already claimed the lives of at least 114,000 people in the United States alone. Despite that, black men - especially young black men - are likely far more threatened on a daily basis by an officer in uniform than by a deadly virus. It is not just the right thing to do, for those of us who do not experience these daily transgressions, to educate ourselves and make ourselves into the allies that our friends and fellow people need. It is our duty, full stop.
If this journey begins to make you uncomfortable, good. If it forces you to confront hard truths about your conduct and your past, even better. Welcome to the club. And if you think the prevailing progressive winds have shifted in a direction too radical for you to have considered before, remember what we are trying to solve, here. Remember what is at stake. Remember what we are trying to end.
“A man shouldn’t have to worry about the cops.”
Black Lives Matter.