A Participants Account of the 14th Street Rampage:
I arrived at 14th and Franklin an hour later, just as police were backing up the crowd that had gathered a block up on Broadway.
As I looked around at the diversity of the people who were gathered in the intersection I realized the profound potential of what was beginning to unfold in the streets. An older Black woman was screaming at the police. A group of young Latin@s were standing in front of the police line refusing to be moved off the streets. A white 30-something-year-old was being dragged away behind police lines. These were “everyday” people, indignant, refusing to be moved.
Everyone was out together, defying police orders and screaming their disgust at the system. The police first corralled us on three sides. Then they charged into the crowd, grabbing people and making arrests.
Some of the moments when solidarity among strangers and defiance to authority were most felt was during unarrests. Throughout the night, unarrests were made unflinchingly and without second thought by all sorts of people who came together in the streets and knew that their common enemy was the police.
As the police continued to move their line down the street, a sudden tactical decision swept through the crowd. People turned around and began heading the other way down 14th Street, with the police behind them. It was then that the first SUV went up in flames, and windshields of lines of cars began to get kicked in.
The crowd moved quickly and hit a McDonald’s on the way. The riot police, confused by the burning SUV, stayed behind to order people away from the car that was now engulfed in towering flames. Suddenly an armored police truck came tearing wildly down the street toward the destruction at the McDonald’s, sending people running in all directions.
People began to casually regroup fifteen minutes later. Another SUV had been set on fire, and police were still trying, and failing, to get people off the street.
Before a group of us turned and ran down side streets, I was struck by the image of a dozen white police officers tackling a Black man to the ground while behind the orange flames licked the evening sky. For some unknown reason, almost every cop on the streets that night was white, and at one point while they pulled Black youth from the crowd, I heard someone shout, “What? You looking for a race riot now?”
I was one of the only white people running down the street with about 50 Black youth. More cars were being destroyed and the helicopter with its intrusive floodlight wasn’t anywhere near us. We were alone in the streets and we thought we were in the clear.
In the chaos of the group trying to decide where to turn and nearly running into a deadend courtyard, we almost didn’t get away. I felt a billy club sting the back of my head and a sharp pain shoot down my spine. All at once I felt blows land all over the right side of my body. Instinctually, I put my arms over my face. My right arm was swollen for days after the riot.
Every car on Lakeside Avenue was being smashed. People were walking casually, from car to car, with two-by-fours or poles in their hand, smashing out windows. From above we heard a gunshot from someone on a balcony, most likely watching their car be destroyed.
When we saw the armored vehicle appear again, two blocks behind us, we all split up. I headed up towards 14th Street. The adrenaline from the police beating I had received earlier was beginning to wear off and I winced with pain as I walked. I need a cigarette, I thought. Walking to the next corner, I came across two men with masks on, casually standing around smoking. I bummed a cigarette and told them where I had last seen the police. “I don’t care about no police,” one of them said. “We got this shit tonight.”
Practically limping from the blows to my right leg, I continued to head up 14th without a plan. Then I ran into the mayor…