On Saturday, May 30, the people of the Triangle came together to protest against injustices faced by the Black community and to fight for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many victims of police brutality.
We were able to sit down with Belvy, an NC State student who was able to attend the demonstrations in downtown Raleigh. Belvy describes various points during the protests and the feeling associated with those moments.
NM: How long were you at the protest?
B: I was at the protest from 6 to 8:30-ish. I never looked at my watch, but I could tell it was near there because I told the person I was with we needed to leave by sundown. I told her beforehand it was going to get bad the second the sun went down.
NM: When did you leave?
B: I had a friend who let me use their apartment in the middle of downtown. We stayed low until we started to hear screaming, explosions and multiple Stanhope-like alarms emanating from within the city. As we left the guard told us if we left they wouldn’t let us back in. As we watched the windows of Woody’s Tavern get broken into, it felt like the f*cking scene from “Cloverfield” where the general let the people go back into the city at their own peril. I was terrified. We drove around the city filming and photographing as much as we could and it was intense.
NM: Did you feel safe?
B: As long as the sun was out I felt marginally safe.
The amount of people I saw there did make me nervous. There was a pandemic and the crowds were enormous but most everyone had masks on which was beautiful to see some. Myself and others were handing out face masks to those who didn’t have them. The second I noticed the orange glow on the buildings fading and started to feel the warm summer breeze switch to cool the city felt different. It was palpably anxious. When we saw the tear gas, things started feeling scary. When I heard the first pop of the flash bangs I felt “the fear”, if you’ve ever had a bad trip you understand it. It’s the feeling of utter helplessness, sheer terror and panic you’d never hope to feel in your life. I knew I had to escape the city as quickly as possible
It was all nervous stares till the sun went down, once the masks were donned it was pure chaos. Tear gas was deployed heavily while we were going up to the apartment. I was stories above the city on a balcony and my eyes still managed to start tearing up and burning from the tear gas on the street.
NM: The moments that stood out to you?
B: At one point the crowd of people that started going up Capital Blvd (the one I followed for the majority of the evening) stopped in front of the courthouse and there were multiple speakers that spoke on the steps. It was peaceful, calm, cathartic. It made me feel hope for the first time in months. I felt things were finally changing.
Before we got to the point where tear gas was being deployed, there was a random flashbang that exploded near us. All I saw was running and I had a rush of adrenaline till we realized it was only a flashbang and regrouped and went back. I was overwhelmed with rage. We were doing nothing but just standing in the street, saying some chants, demanding justice be served. The pigs dropped a f*cking flash bang and chemical weapons.
When I saw the police in riot gear I knew something was wrong, until that, I hadn’t seen anything that had been violent. They had no reason to be deployed in that gear; they did it to challenge us.
The way tear gas feels in real life, it’s nothing like a video game, movie, or book could ever get close to accurately describing. It starts before you even see the gas. It starts as a slow burn in the eyes, like when they’re just a bit too dry, but then it gets worse. Really worse and f*cking fast and soon it’s burning. Every time your eyes water it catches more and your eyes burn even more. Every blink blinded me temporarily and that was just what the eyes felt. My chest felt like it had smoked a pack of cigarettes all at once, it was a deep and intense burn. Every cough was a sharp pain. Even still as I’m writing this 6 hours after it first touched my lungs it’s hard to breathe. I was just in it for mere seconds as I was running from it… I can’t imagine how bad it must have been for others.
Belvy’s account of the protest is a story of strength. He went to protest peacefully alongside many others for justice and was met with violence and intimidation from the police. He faced police brutality while fighting to end police brutality.