Touting the Tiny Protest

By Danielle Kulp

There is no rock large enough to live under that would keep you from being aware of what’s going on around the world right now.Black Lives Matter, and this message is being heard globally-all 50 US states have had protests. If you haven’t been to one yourself, you’ve seen the footage of mass marches on the news: the UK, France, Germany-even Finland is in on it, as hundreds came to march at the capitol building in Helsinki. Phildaelphia had a thousands-strong march from the steps of the Art Museum to City Hall. These massive protests are magnetic, and the buzz of a throng of hundreds is electrifying. With every footstep you know you are participating in history.These giant cohesive crowds are many an activist’s dream. How many organizers have labored every second of every waking hour trying to connect and network to draw out crowds for a cause, only to have a handful of people show up and weakly chant? These tiny protests, especially in small towns, might seem anemic from the outside and feel disappointing to some when held up against their robust city march counterparts, but the small protest deserves a lot of credit.Upper Darby, a small township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, was recently the site of a protest directly outside of its police station. It was put together by local organizers and at its largest there were thirty people at best. The police didn’t bother to poke their heads out the door, the National Guard stationed just around the corner at the shopping district did not move from their post. It was too tiny to garner more than some side eye from passing police patrols.Upper Darby and its surrounding townships have jarring class lines that butt right up against each other. You can be on a block with large sprawling single homes, and two blocks away families are living on the poverty line. If you’re one of the people in these large homes, say in Drexel Park, where even the street signs look expensive, you might try to avoid the so-called “bad neighborhoods.” You might plot your route to drive through mostly white and polished, pretty, sections of the town on your way to the Acme, and only talk to your white neighbors. You might see the news of these large protests and think to yourself, I’m glad I live here where people are good and respect their homes and don’t riot. Your neighbor agrees with you, and *their* neighbor agrees with you. “Black Lives Matter? What about Blue Lives?” your neighbor says as he mows his lawn.No one you know thinks differently from you and no one is questioning your opinion.This is where the small town protest deserves its praise. That small protest in front of the police station was not the flashy protest of the big cities but it challenged residents passing from their exclusive white neighborhood, and it was a message of solidarity to Black folks out and about running their errands. The neighborhood directly surrounding the police station is a racially mixed area that has definitely known some struggle. A South Asian woman peaked nervously around the corner to watch us. A Black family peered out of their window to read the signs before a little girl excitedly hopped out the door and quickly scrawled on a scrap of cardboard, joined by her sisters. Her small face was bright with the sense of community. Cars that drove by with people who held fists in the air and honked; had shocked smiles; and gave emphatic nods, supported the minute group of activists. The street became a cacophony of car horns that rang in the ears of stern white faces that did their best to ignore us.The small town protest is not as glamorous as the titanic marches, but we owe it to our Black neighbors to challenge the angry white guy who thinks that everyone in the community thinks like he does. We owe it to our Black friends to show them that they are worth it, even if we’re standing alone on the corner shouting to the passing cars that Black Lives Matter and police brutality will no longer be tolerated.

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