- Headlines for September 02, 2021
- RIP Roe v. Wade? SCOTUS Won't Block Texas Abortion Ban That Is "Clearly an Unconstitutional Law"
- Elijah McClain Pleaded "I Can't Breathe" Before His 2019 Death. Now 3 Police, 2 Paramedics Charged
- Afghan Women's Network Pres.: Women's Rights May Go Back 200 Years If Taliban Not Held Accountable
- Was Afghanistan the First "Feminist War"? Examining the Role of "White Feminism" in the Longest U.S. War
- Headlines for September 01, 2021
- Biden Defends Ending "Forever War" in Afghanistan & Criticizes Using War as Tool for Nation-Building
- "Disaster for Me and My Children": Afghan Doctor Describes Escape from Kabul After Taliban Takeover
- "Blanket Unconstitutional" Texas Abortion Ban Takes Effect in Major Setback for Reproductive Rights
- Groups Demand Biden Halt Deportations as Haiti Reels from Earthquake, Storm & Moïse Assassination
- Headlines for August 31, 2021
- Afghanistan Faces Future Under Taliban as U.S. Withdraws & Drone Strikes Continue to Kill Civilians
- Peace Activist Kathy Kelly on Reparations for Afghanistan & What the U.S. Owes After Decades of War
- After Hurricane Ida, a "Just & Fair Recovery" Must Address Ongoing Disasters of Poverty, Inequality
- "Stop This Madness": Rev. Lennox Yearwood Calls to Divest from Fossil Fuels Amid Climate Disasters
- Headlines for August 30, 2021
- Hurricane Ida Slams Native Communities in Louisiana as New Orleans Loses Electricity & COVID Rages
- Hurricane Ida Hits Oil Industry in Black & Native Communities on Louisiana Coast Amid Climate Crisis
- Exxon's Oil Drilling Gamble Off Guyana Coast Could Turn Country from a Carbon Sink to a "Carbon Bomb"
- U.S. Winds Down Afghanistan Occupation Like It Began, with Drone Strikes & Civilian Casualties
- Headlines for August 27, 2021
- "Mayhem": Chaotic Scenes at Kabul Airport as Suicide Bombs Kill 110+ Afghans & U.S. Troops
- Who Is ISIS-K? Anti-Taliban, Anti-U.S. Terror Group Claims Responsibility for Kabul Suicide Bombs
- Ex-Pence Aide: Stephen Miller's "Racist Hysteria" Made It Harder for Afghan Allies to Get Visas
- California Recall: Right-Wing Radio Host Who Once Mentored Stephen Miller Could Replace Gov. Newsom
- Headlines for August 26, 2021
- Grandson of Notorious Warlord: My Family Is Celebrating the Taliban, But I Fear for My Friends' Lives
- Sarah Chayes: Afghanistan Was an "Afterthought" for U.S. as Bush Was "Hellbent" on Invading Iraq
- "An Inquiry Needs to Take Place": Jeremy Corbyn on Afghanistan & Preventing the Next War
- Headlines for August 24, 2021
- U.N. Warns of "Humanitarian Catastrophe" in Afghanistan Amid Political Turmoil, Economic Crisis & Drought
- Doctors Without Borders: U.S. Should Force Pfizer to Share COVID Vaccine Technology with Africa
- David Gilbert, Ex-Weather Underground Member, Granted Clemency by Cuomo. Will Parole Board Free Him?
- Voting Rights Groups Launch Civil Disobedience Campaign at the White House Urging End to Filibuster
- Headlines for August 20, 2021
- Spencer Ackerman: Today's Crisis in Kabul Is Direct Result of Decades of U.S. War & Destabilization
- Spencer Ackerman on How the U.S. War on Terror Fueled and Excused Right-Wing Extremism at Home
- Headlines for August 18, 2021
- "People Are Thirsty for Peace": Afghans Wary of Taliban as Group Vows to Uphold Rights
- Ex-Official Matthew Hoh, Who Resigned over Afghan War, Says U.S. Mistakes Helped Taliban Gain Power
- Advocates Call on Biden Admin to Move Faster on Resettling Afghan Refugees
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott Tests Positive for Coronavirus After Banning Mask & Vaccine Mandates
- Headlines for August 17, 2021
- Afghan Scholar: The U.S. Can't Distance Itself from Chaos Unfolding Now After 20 Years of War
- Ret. Col. Ann Wright on Reopening U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2001 & Why She Supports Troop Withdrawal
- Azmat Khan: Deadly U.S. Air War in Afghanistan Helped Taliban Gain New Recruits Who Wanted Revenge
- Damaged Hospitals in Haiti Struggle to Help Earthquake Survivors as Death Toll Tops 1,400
“There is a part of everything that is unexplored”
— Gustave Flaubert
Over several months during lockdown, I became increasingly aware of an urge to be able to see over the hedge of my back garden and across to the hills behind.
Finally, I felt moved to pursue this urge, as part of an ongoing campaign to listen to half-formed gut instincts. We don’t have much of a vocabulary in English in relation to the ‘gut brain’. Some people use the phrase the ‘enteric nervous system’ but – inexplicably – the phrase hasn’t caught on.
The following visual metaphor helps me remind myself to listen to my stomach:
But enough context. If I keep going down this line, I will end up at the beginning of the (current) universe.
I had two options for being able to see the hills beyond my hedge. The first was to chop the hedge down. This quickly turned out not to be an option after all. The second option was to raise myself up in or near the big tree in my garden. Being in or near the tree would provide shelter and discretion. I began to investigate the concept of an elevated chair.
One of the most common types of elevated chairs is the tennis umpire chair. A nice option because they are wooden and blend in with a tree. But they are expensive and, anyway, I could not figure out how to reasonably transport one from a tennis court to my house. Also, it seemed to be that the primary function of the elevation in this type of chair is to pronounce judgement on those below. It draws on the fact that people below you feel a little bit more inclined to listen to you. It is, in some ways, an elevated throne. “This person is in charge”, is what this chair says to those below. That wasn’t the vibe I was after.
Next I considered lifeguard chairs. I have spent many hours sitting in them because I used to be a lifeguard. So they are reasonably comfortable, but they don’t look so nice when positioned next to a tree. The primary function of elevation in this chair is to provide a sense of safety for those below. ‘This person will look after you’, is what this chair says to them. A pleasant vibe, but a misleading one in this context.
An astronomy highchair was a new discovery for me during those early months of my enquiry. It’s a type of chair where you can move the seat up and down according to the angle of, I guess, your telescope or the stars you’re looking at. The adjustable height was a nice feature. Only problem for me, even at the highest setting, an astronomy chair was never going to be high enough to let me see over the hedge. Stars and planets, no problem. Over the hedge, no way. The primary function of elevation in this chair is observation of what is above. “This person is on a different planet”, is what this chair says to those below. An unsettling vibe to convey.
So much for astronomy observation seats. But perhaps I was looking in the wrong direction: perhaps I needed to look down in order to look up? Perhaps I needed a baby’s highchair? The obvious problem was that a standard baby’s highchair was never going to work for me as a fully-grown adult male. The optics would be all wrong. The primary function of elevation in this type of chair is to provide access to that which is otherwise inaccessible, and thus was closest in spirit to what I was after. “This person is not yet fully grown”, is what this chair says to those below. I quite liked the concept of improved accessibility but could do nothing with the idea since a ‘high’ chair was, in actual fact, far too low for my situation.
For all the reasons set out above, and others I’ve left mercifully unmentioned, none of these chairs suited me. I extended my search to the world of art, and happily discovered lots of different uses of elevated chairs. For example, the idea behind this elevated chair below, from an artist called Angie Hiesl, is to make more visible people in society who are usually invisible:
The primary purpose of elevation for this chair is to provide social commentary about how older people are treated in a society. “This person deserves greater respect”, is what this chair says to the people below.
I like the chair in this picture for very many reasons, but was not interested in the idea of making myself more visible – I’m plenty visible enough, thank you Angie! – and, besides, I was distracted by logistical questions such as: how was the chair attached to the wall? How did the person get up there? Did the person definitely want to be up there? Had they changed their mind? Therefore, the chair didn’t help me with my immediate purpose, although it prompted a still-unfulfilled urge to look into different uses of giant furniture in art installations.
Inspired by Hiesl’s work, I discovered other art installations featuring elevated chairs, many providing an element of surrealism that rang the invisible telephone in my gut. But I was no closer to finding an actual chair that might actually work in my actual garden.
Moving on from the world of art, I started to see elevated chair-type structures wherever I went. Travelling on a train I spotted the structure in the photo below, which I immediately wanted to take home with me, but of course the train was in motion:
Am I the only person who ever looked at this structure and thought “with a cushion incorporated into the round bit on top, this would make a nice place to sit”? Probably. Does that matter? Probably not.
Another time I saw this cherry picker, and for a while played with the idea that what I really needed was a mobile elevated seat on wheels:
But even leaving aside the fact that I lacked the disposable income for such a machine, there was no way I could get something of that size into my back garden without demolishing part of the hedge. And if I did that, I wouldn’t need the cherry picker because the view would be clear.
Sharing my dilemma with a practical friend, I was advised to visit a shop in my local town that sells ‘high quality tat’. I asked the proprietor, Becky, to see if she stocked any elevated chairs of any description. The most elevated chair she had in stock was a bar stool.
It struck me that the purpose, and implied message, of a bar stool is actually quite similar to that of a baby chair: namely, providing access to that which is otherwise inaccessible. It was a nice bar stool but, as with the baby chair, it would not be high enough to enable me to see over the hedge.
Becky then mentioned something called a ‘hanging egg chair’, which could be suspended from different heights. An important and exciting suggestion, which among other things made me more confident in my assumption that there did exist, somewhere in the world, a chair that would meet my exact needs.
And so I discovered a line of chairs which were available from a well-known discount supermarket, but which had rapidly sold out during lockdown. It seemed like Covid had really brought out in others, too, a strong urge to want to sit in or near trees.
Still, the hanging egg chair looked promising, and confirmed the idea of using the tree as part of the structure, rather than being free-standing as I had imagined it up to that point. It seemed to me that the primary purpose of elevation for this chair is to provide suspension from gravity, to enable the chair’s inhabitant to move somewhat freely around in three dimensions. “This person is in mid-air”, is what this chair says to the people below.
I was still thinking about hanging egg chairs when I spotted my daughter inadvertently recreating one half of Magritte’s painting ‘The Lovers’, using a chair hammock, and the thought occurred to me, Oh my God, what if I already have everything I need to create my own hanging egg chair? What, in other words, if the thing I most needed had quite literally been right in front of me all along?
I waited for my daughter to finish her surrealist re-enactment and elevated the chair hammock way up high in the tree, so that it would enable me to see over the hedge, to the hills beyond.
It seemed to offer all the anti-gravity attraction of the hanging egg chair without any of the online queuing hassle, but in my excitement I had forgotten about the fundamental drawback of the non-anchored chair, which was that there was no way to get in or out of the chair without risking serious injury.
I considered investing in a crash mat or a safety net, but decided against it on the basis that no chair should have to come with its own crash mat. I lowered the chair hammock back to its original elevation, a couple of inches off the floor, to the relief of the family, and came to terms with the fact that I had moved precisely no closer to my target.
Sometime later I was talking to a friend, who lives on a different hill, about my fruitless chair quest. He mentioned that, in the woods near him, he had seen a type of elevated chair which hunting folk strap to trees and sit in so they can shoot at birds and other animals without being spotted. He said it in a matter-of-fact way, like, “Everyone knows these are a thing, what’s wrong with you?” I began looking into ‘shooting chairs’ and ‘hunting chairs’, but neither seemed to be the right term. Was this definitely a thing or had my friend been taking hallucinogenic drugs while walking in the woods?
Then I tried looking for high seats. Stalking high seats, to be precise. A place for, I guess, mostly men to hide themselves up a tree while waiting for birds and animals to kill. The primary purpose of elevation in this instance is to provide camouflage. “There is no person up that tree”, is what the chair says to the unsuspecting prey below. But what if you sat in the chair and didn’t shoot at animals and birds? Well, here was surely an actionable idea. The right-wing gun lobby had already solved the problem that had been presenting itself to me for such a long time. The lesson was clear.
I found a company called ‘Keith’s High Seats’. The idea of such a literal, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin company name profoundly appealed to me. It made me wish that, back when I worked as a freelancer, I’d had the guts to call my business: ‘Dave’s consulting’. But Keith offered premium models, designed for the serious shooter.
After a while I found the closest thing I could get to a budget stalking high seat, not wanting to cut too many corners on the cost of something that was going to support me while halfway up a tree.
There followed a period of internal wrestling with my conscience about whether or not it was, all things considered, appropriate to invest one hundred actual monetary pounds on what appeared to be a fundamentally non-essential item. I sat on the decision for several days, wasting money on things like takeaway food and drink, realised I still wanted it, though not really able to explain why, and made the purchase.
A short while later, a stalking chair arrived in a flat pack. Assembly occurred, minus the cross-piece to lean a gun on. I then strapped the whole thing to the very old yew tree in my back garden. At one point during the ratchet-strapping operation, I had to stray onto my neighbour’s driveway to get the strap all the way around the tree. As I crashed around in the undergrowth, my neighbour came out to ask what I was doing. I hesitated, wondering how far to go back in the story, before settling on explaining what I was doing and leaving out the why I was doing it, a question I could only answer once I sat up the tree.
Then it was ready. I climbed up the disturbingly high ladder and, for the first time, sat 3.5 metres above my garden.
The view out to the hills beyond was mostly obscured by branches, but it didn’t matter: at least I could see over the hedge. More importantly, leaning my head back against the trunk of the centuries-old tree conveyed a particular and unusual psychological flavour, which my stomach seemed to appreciate. And I was level with wood pigeons and blackbirds who, I liked to think, accepted me as one of their own.
The primary purpose of elevation for my chair, I realised, was to enable metamorphosis. “This person is a bird”, is what the chair says to the people below.
During the course of my research, which ended on such a deeply, strangely satisfactory note, I had compiled possibly the most comprehensive and defiantly useless list of elevated chairs that has ever been compiled, which I’m pleased to share in Figure 1, below.
Figure 1: Types of elevated chair, by frequency
In 2008, the Israeli military launched a bombing campaign in Gaza, killing over one thousand Palestinian civilians. Here begins Cloud Studies, Forensic Architecture’s latest exhibition at the Whitworth, consisting of two single channel films and a series of smaller installations. The headline film immediately immerses us in a cloud of dust, an insidious grey shroud emerging in the wake of necropolitical destruction.
“Mobilised by state and corporate powers, toxic clouds colonise the air we breathe across different scales and durations”, states the collective. Bombs erupt and explode. They are dropped either in isolation or in coordinated groups, yet we understand their effects to be temporally enfolded, condensed into isolated moments of utter destruction. But what of the traces they leave?
The term ‘necropolitics’ was coined by African philosopher Achille Mbembe to describe how state technologies of violence create ‘death-worlds’ — “new and unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to living conditions that confer upon them the status of the living dead”. The Gaza strip, subject to repeated acts of targeted aggression and paralysing economic blockades, is one such necropolitical formation.
But it is not just the Palestinians’ exposure to mass death that confers upon them the status of the ‘living dead’. Every act of violence leaves a cloud, literal or metaphorical, a suspension of noxious chemicals and conditions, that inscribe such depredations upon marginalised bodies. It is through this lens that Cloud Studies explores the formation and dispersal of clouds as technologies of violence and colonialism, purposely dispersed by states and corporations in an attempt to deprive populations of the ‘universal right to breath’.
The exhibition surveys a variety of contexts, ranging from the 2014 bombing of Rafah to Indonesian deforestation. In every case, clouds form part of the architecture of slow violence. The term was developed by Rob Nixon to describe “a violence that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous, but rather incremental and accretive”, scarcely recognised as violence because of its dispersal “across time and space”.
By way of example, Nixon draws upon the US’s nuclear testing regime in the Marshallese Islands. Between 1946 and 1958, 23 nuclear weapons were detonated on Bikini Atoll in an effort to develop weapons of mass destruction. This led to the mass dislocation of hundreds of residents and the poisoning of the surrounding sea and soil. The destruction has since been driven into indigenous bodies; well into the 1980s, Marshallese women were giving birth to severely deformed babies, “more jellyfish than child”, in the words of Marshallese poet Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner. A 2005 US Senate Hearing suggested that fatal birth defects were continuing to appear in Uitrik Atoll at the time of writing, over 300 miles away from the original testing sites. The enormous mushroom clouds that came to represent the programme have inseminated the bodies of humans and non-humans in the island nation with radioactive particles.
Nixon alerts us to the ‘representational, narrative, and strategic challenges posed by the relative invisibility of slow violence’, asking:
In an age when the media venerate the spectacular, when public policy is shaped primarily around perceived immediate need, a central question is strategic and representational: how can we convert into image and narrative the disasters that are slow moving and long in the making, disasters that are anonymous and that star nobody, disasters that are attritional and of indifferent interest to the sensation-driven technologies of our image-world?
Cloud Studies offers techniques to make slow violence visible. Through a range of methodologies, including fluid dynamics and 3D modelling, Forensic Architecture pieces together the lifecycles and dynamics of clouds as they besiege the colonised and oppressed. The atmospheric consequences of forest burning are mapped through the visualisation of gaseous concentrations in Indonesian rainforests. Security footage is used to monitor the use of teargas in mass protests and civilian uprisings. The erosion of black cultural heritage in the American South is revealed through comparisons of historical and contemporary maps showing the disappearance of sacred groves.
Clouds, and the slow violence they represent, resist simplistic notions of causality. Temporally and spatially diffuse, clouds cannot easily be traced or attributed; “their dynamics are governed by nonlinear, multi-causal logics”. As such, “cloud studies is forensics without inscription”, states Cloud Studies’ narrator. Legal and political doctrine conceives of violence as temporally bounded, reducible to isolated events with clearly demarcated victims and perpetrators.
The absence of such easily definable borders in cases of slow violence allows for the avoidance of accountability and the spread of misinformation. As such, Forensic Architecture maps the spread of ‘information clouds’, formed in the wake of the Syrian government’s release of chemical weapons upon its own civilians. Political actors and commentators hide amidst the clouds’ haze, manipulating the course of events to favour given ideological positions and geopolitical interests, showing little regard for the experiential realities of the clouds’ victims.
In situations unamenable to simplistic narrativization, we must foreground the lives and experiences of those at the interface of such harm. Cloud Studies alerts us to the immense power of testimony and bearing witness. It is through the assembly of testimonials that Forensic Architecture gives shape to otherwise indiscernible events. The consequences of herbicide spraying by the IDF along the Gazan border are made visible through photographs and samples of damaged crops. A timeline of the 2020 Beirut explosion is assembled by an analysis of video testimonials indicating smoke trajectories. The Grenfell Tower fire is modelled with the aid of survivors.
The work of scholar activist Flora Cornish, too, shows the value of witnessing. Having meticulously documented events unfolding in Grenfell’s aftermath, she is compiling a timeline that attests to many of the disaster’s lingering after-effects, including persistent soil toxicity. Through careful co-production and knowledge exchange, her work makes visible the consequences of structural neglect in the aftermath of state violence.
In attending to slow violence’s scattered effects, we are alerted to new forms of resistance. Borrowing from Donna Haraway, Cornish uses the phrase ‘staying with the trouble’ to understand why community organisers and Grenfell survivors continue on despite their abandonment. Communities continue to garden on the contaminated soil, fully aware of the potential risks. Yet in doing so, they provide a vision of communal care that imagines other ways to live amidst toxicity.
Similarly, Manuel Tironi describes the actions of residents of Puchancaví, Chile’s most heavily polluted industrial compound, as ‘hypo-interventions’. Here, small, relational acts of care and survival, like tending to wounded plants and wounded bodies, create “the conditions for the flourishing of life in a devastated landscape”. Resistance, especially in the face of destruction and precarity, rarely conforms to the assumed public spectacles or linear ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ through which we have come to understand activism. It is instead through the everyday that slow violence is both enacted and resisted.
As dominant frames of accountability thus encourage a focus on isolated events, slow violence and the resistance it generates are left largely ignored, unamenable to systems of evidence-gathering that fail to draw the necessary connections between acts of aggression and their dispersed, toxic after-effects. Cloud Studies shows us the power of visual documentation and creative assemblages in challenging state logics that seek to silence experiences of protracted suffering. It gives us tools to unearth struggle as it is suppressed under the weight of formless and diffuse threats. It emphasises the primacy of testimony as a form of resistance, giving shape to the amorphous, deadly clouds that envelop entire populations, and moving us further toward accountability and closure. If we are to oppose colonial and oppressive structures, we must engage in the slow work of bearing witness and piecing together stories. Forensic Architecture offers insight into how we might do so.
[All photos: Forensic Architecture]
- Headlines for August 13, 2021
- Afghan Journalist: Only a Political Compromise Can Stop Taliban's Military Takeover of Afghanistan
- Press Freedom Under Attack in Mexico as TV Anchor Gets Death Threat from Cartel over Reporting
- "Not Going Quietly": Paralyzed with ALS, Ady Barkan Continues Fighting for Medicare for All
“But these grinning men were someone’s brother, son, husband, father. They were human beings, people who took immense pleasure in the utter cruelty of torturing others to death—and were so proud of doing so that they posed for photographs with their handiwork, jostling to ensure they caught the eye of the lens, so that the world would know they’d been there. Their cruelty made them feel good, it made them feel proud, it made them feel happy. And it made them feel closer to one another.” — Adam Serwer
Earlier this year, on March 31, 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez was stopped by a Chicago Police officer, Evan Solano. The reason for the stop remains unclear — body camera footage of whatever led to the stop is yet to be released. A foot pursuit followed which ended with Alvarez being fatally shot in the back five times. Two days earlier, 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot dead after a foot pursuit by another police officer not far away in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
I briefly knew Anthony. He was a student at my first school. While I did not teach him, I was aware of his reputation as a kind, caring, and inquisitive person. One interaction which remains clear in my mind was when Anthony greeted me when I returned to school after having a seizure. He told me he was so glad that I was back, and I was taken aback by this as I never had him in my class.
On Saturday May 29, I attended a protest for Anthony. While I was not close to him, I felt a duty to attend. The gathering, outside the 16th District Precinct, drew “Defend the Police” counter-protesters too. Two days later, on the two-month anniversary of Anthony’s killing, Police officers turned up on Chicago’s Laramie Avenue to tell mourners that they needed to take a memorial to Anthony down. In a video of the incident, the approaching officer begins by asking, “Where is your attorney? … does somebody speak English?” Latinx people did not speak English, was the clear implication. The crowd responded that they all did.
The video is disturbing and illustrates the degree of the disconnect between US police officers and the communities they claim to serve. The racial implications, too, are glaring. There are, for instance, plenty of memorials around Chicago for White cyclists who have been killed in accidents, yet police somehow never harass their grievers.
By the following afternoon, Anthony’s memorial had been cleared.
It is impossible not to pay attention to the timing of these events in the wider context not just of the rise of the far right during the Trump era but of the long history of police violence against racialised communities in America. As Adam Serwer points out, “the cruelty is the point”. While his article specifically refers to Trump and his supporters, it is applicable to police officers too.
Last summer, as police assaulted protesters—shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground, blinding a journalist with a foam bullet, tear-gassing a toddler—they produced a counternarrative of growing danger: Their milkshakes were being poisoned; it was no longer safe to order at the drive-thru. The threat was everywhere. Claiming to be hated for ensuring public safety reinforces the idea that critics are malcontents or sociopaths.
For the police and their defenders, maintaining this false construct is necessary to counter the idea — unfathomable for some — that the police are not only unjust, but cruel. More concretely, this police-as-victims narrative allows perpetrators of police violence to evade moral and legal culpability and accountability.
The counter-protesters on May 29, too, seemed to relish the cruelty. One of them came into our crowd, attempting to intimidate us, and nearly knocking over Anthony’s two-year-old daughter in the process. Another counter-protester appeared to be making angel wings and jumping up and down, mocking Anthony’s death. “All communists are bastards” was an overheard chant. They brandished middle fingers at us, including one motorcyclist slowly driving by, honking his horn. These ‘blue supporters’ gleefully appeared to take pleasure in our anguish.
In one interview with some of the counter-protesters, Anthony was painted as a “gangbanger” and criminal. Yet not only is there zero evidence that Anthony was ever in any gang, plenty in law enforcement are open supporters of the vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two people last August. For those who defend Kyle Rittenhouse but degrade Anthony, the cruelty, once again, is the point. The obvious truth is that the “Blue Lives Matter” movement was never about treating the police with respect, but rather a fig leaf for dehumanising Black and Brown bodies, including Anthony’s.
To add insult to injury, the officer who killed Anthony is now being investigated not for that shooting but for a road rage incident where he pulled his gun on a (White) citizen. He has been stripped of his police powers but still has his job, and faces no legal consequences for Anthony’s killing.
That the only reason Anthony’s killer is facing any consequences at all is his on-camera aggressiveness toward White citizens is hardly novel. In the words of Ibram X Kendi, “This is the legacy of racist power” — Black and Brown bodies are viewed as intrinsically more dangerous than white ones. To the police, Anthony’s life did not matter, but those of the White citizens of Chicago do.
Having spoken with one of Anthony’s family members, it is clear they remain undeterred, as are their supporters and other local activists. In the face of hatred, contempt, and cruelty, and in the absence of real justice, we will keep standing for Anthony.
“I appreciate everyone who has been supporting us ‘til this day,” Anthony’s stepbrother, Alex Martinez, told me, “the fight isn’t over until ‘till we get justice.” For those who demand justice, we do so in the name of love, and for Anthony’s two-year-old daughter who will now grow up without a father. For her, Anthony will be a shadow without a body.
In times of frustration, it can be easy to give in. My own grandmother, a Jewish Czech Holocaust refugee, cautioned me against this danger. Until her passing in 2017, she always made it clear giving up was simply not an option. As she explained to me after Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, “What choice do we have?”
Today we manifest that same spirit in the name of Anthony Alvarez. Despite the cruelty, injustices, and feelings of futility at times, we do not give in. In his latest book, Charles M. Blow references Theodore Parker’s famous quote, popularized by Dr, Martin Luther King Jr., about the arc of the moral universe “bending toward justice”. Blow points out that this does not happen on its own, that citizens must “force the bend.”
Activists, along with the family and friends of Anthony Alvarez, will continue to pursue justice. Despite the cruelty we witnessed, from the police and from their supporters, we will keep fighting, we will keep standing up, we will keep forcing the bend.
As my own grandmother noted, we have no alternative.
[Photo credits: Mike Friedberg]