Yesterday I went to the coffee house and I noticed a lot of people on the street, more than usual. There was something going on. As I crossed 7th street I saw that there was a crowd gathered at the courthouse, banners and signs and tall statues. A peace protest. I thought of going to join the protest, but then I also thought of the words of some connected with the peace protest. I wanted to be a voice for peace, but I oppose the notion of peace at any cost. I am no pacifist. I turned instead and went to the coffee shop and grabbed a seat in the window. While sitting in the window of Allan Brothers Coffee House I noticed a group of about a hundred walking down 5th street. It didn’t cross my mind that they shouldn’t be in the street, and I just smiled and watched them as they passed. They stopped right in front of me, their attention focused to the west of them, then I noticed that a few hurriedly backed away back down the direction they came. This got everyone’s attention in the coffee house and we crowded the windows to watch. A line of police officers with batons and face masks had made a single line across the street and soon a line of bike police officers had made a line behind them. A small crowd of protestors sat down in the street, most got off and onto the sidewalk. I listened as one of the hippy women in the coffee shop got up and ran to the front of the cafe, shouting outloud “there are peaceful protestors in the street and the police are harassing them!” Her tone was very damning of the police. I gave out the comment, loud enough for everyone to hear, that this wasn’t harrassment and if she thought this was indeed harrassment, she’s lead a sheltered life.
I watched people in the scene before me, looking at body language and facial expressions of everyone. Most of the protestors seemed to be along for the ride, some seemed hostile to the police and it seemed to me that they wanted the situation to get out of hand. The police kept a calm front. I watched all of them. Conflict has been part of my job for the last 14 years, as a Marine and working in clubs and bars. Most of the protestors didn’t want anything, but some did indeed want a conflict. All of the police that I watched acted in professional mannerisms. The sergeant in charged calmly walked up and down the line, bending over people, telling them that they had to get off the street or be arrested. He wasn’t pushy, but he was firm. It worked and everyone eventually got off the street and onto both sidewalks. The group then, feeling brave, began some chants, some anti-war, some anti-police. The police stoically took it all in and maintained an orderly and professional presence. After a while most people left, and the last group, mainly a group of 17 year old girls, who were closed to being arrested because they would not leave, finally did as well. I saw two arrests.
When it ended and people in the coffee house started to settle back into their chairs, I gave the comment that I was proud of my police department out there. They showed restraint and professionalism. I got some odd looks. I mentioned that other police departments that I’ve dealt with, other situations where I’ve been on both sides of such an incident, did not go as well. Things could have been worse, it was obvious that one group wanted a conflict and the other (police) wanted to simply disperse it. I got some agreement with that sentiment and one guy said that the police had indeed learned tolerance from a similiar incident a couple years ago.
I flipped to the section of my planner which holds a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and re-read the First Amendment and thought on the prevailance of legal loop holes.