Update: The lady (she prefers to be anon) I was arrested with reached out to me when she was released. Ive met her friends and husband outside of 201. We’re making plans to do our community service together.
The tale was brief but riveting. I wanted to know more. So, I asked him.
Memphis Flyer: All right. Can you start at the beginning and tell me what happened? How did you get there? What were you doing?
@tommytypo: When I was informed that there were going to be protests for George Floyd and the many other black bodies that were unarmed and murdered, I had to show up. I was hesitant to show up because of corona, but the first night I arrived, everyone had masks and they were also giving away masks.
MF: What happened when the cop detained you?
TT: The night I got arrested, I arrived with my roommate and our friends. Everyone had written numbers in Sharpie on their arms just in case they got arrested. Me, an intellectual, thought that was silly.
We arrived at Lorraine Motel and were met with a divided crowd. [The] majority of the crowd wanted a peaceful protest, but there was a smaller group wanting to incite violence. Everyone was confused and a good chunk of people left. I vocalized that I wanted to as well but my friends Charley and Chase were determined to stay with no intention of being violent. Inciting violence is just another reason for the right wing to feel justified in their ignorance, in my opinion.
We finally catch up with a crowd of protesters and joined them. At this point, the leader of the peaceful protest, [DeVante Hill], left after being confronted for being a suspected informant. So, the lack of leadership at some point literally divided the crowd, leaving the people I arrived with stranded.
After a while, we met up with a crowd of at least 200 people. We marched from the Lorraine toward the Pyramid. We were met with a line of cops with shields and full gear.
This is were the divide between violence and peace became apparent. Most of the frontline wanted to have a stare-off, for lack of a better word. Some were livid that we weren’t taking action. Someone on our end of the crowd set off a fire extinguisher. No one knows who or for what.
Once we gathered back to the line — realizing it wasn’t tear gas — there was some pushing between the protesters and cops in gear. I instinctively pushed back then realized I was on the other side alone.
As soon as I realized it was just me, I saw three cops shoot tear gas into the crowd clear over my head like fireworks. I instantly put my hands up. A cop asked me to go back. I asked him what law I was breaking. He said obstruction of an interstate.
Even though I wasn’t even attempting to go toward the interstate, I stood on the grass so he didn’t have a reason to arrest me. The cop was black and could tell he didn’t really want to arrest me. I asked, “Are you scared?” And he said no. I clarified by saying, “I meant are you scared for me?” He couldn’t find words to respond and that’s when a cop yelled to just arrest me.
At least five cops swarmed me, putting cuffs on me. I yelled “help” and one of the white cops told me to shut the fuck up.
MF: Tell me about your conversation with the other person who was detained.
TT: They placed me in the cop car with a girl I’ve never met and we started talking about our situation and our prior experience with the police.
We were talking about how the white cops were listening to Travis Scott and other black artists on the radio but trying to silence black voices by being a cop against the movement. We cracked jokes on how the camera made us feel like we were on Cash Cab. We were still waiting to get processed and talked so much that the cops thought we were trying to get their attention.
When we got to the station, they let her out of cuffs, for whatever reason. We asked for water and they handed us one cup. Instead of drinking it, she put it up to my mouth so I could drink while still handcuffed.
MF: You said the cops asked if you were in a gang.
TT: It was around this time when they casually asked me if I was in a gang. It threw me off because I think I’m an obviously queer man. So, I just gave them a puzzled look and shook my head. Eventually, [I and the girl I was detained with] had to part since she had to go to the women’s jail and we kept telling each other how much easier it was being arrested together. After she left, the police officer asked if I knew her before getting arrested and was shocked when I said no.
TT: When being processed, I was told that I would likely be out in 12 hours. I sat there for a while watching other familiar faces from the protest all pile into the holding area. Around the 12-hour mark, instead of letting me go, they made me put on the jail uniform and put me in a closet-sized cell with another stranger. I stayed there for another six hours without any updates until they let me out with the other protesters. Turns out, at least two of them were kept in there for another day at least.
When I got out, I found out my friends have been waiting for me to be released all day! My phone was filled with messages of people checking up on me, including my friend I made in the cop car. The next day I saw her in court and we shared a moment.
MF: And y’all are going to do some community service work together?
TT: We both ended up needing 20 hours of community service. So, we’re going to be working at an animal shelter together. We ended up staying, waiting for others to get released from prison as a sign of solidarity.