by Andrew K. Arnett

It started to rain so I ducked under a canopy. There were tables under there and seats. I turned around and there was in fact an entire bar, opened to the sidewalk. A bartender stared at me, grinning.

“Do you serve food?” I asked the man.

“No food,” he said. “You can get food next door.”

“Well what you got?” I asked.

“Alcohol. The menu’s on the sign there.”

He pointed down to a a sandwich board by my foot. There was an assortment of wine, beer and mixed drinks. The special was Corona Vaccine. I asked him what that was.

“Frozen drink with gin, tequila, lemon-lime and Corona beer.”

The rain was coming down quite steadily and I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance somewhere over Jersey City.

I ordered the Vaccine with an iced coffee and glass of water.

I pulled up a seat and settled down at a table, staring out onto 1st Avenue and Houston Street. It was nice to be able to have a drink somewhere, anywhere, outside of my own apartment. This was the first drink I’d ordered in an establishment since the lockdown went into effect in New York City. Ten weeks of quarantine can make a person pretty silly.

Sitting there, with my three drinks, watching the New Yorkers walk by in the rain, I finally felt a semblance of sanity. It was good therapy. It made me think of the old joke: I’d rather have a drink in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.

After about an hour the rain let up. I heard a different kind of rumbling from around the corner, coming up Houston. I paid my bill and headed in the direction of the commotion. There were police vehicles and cops marching up Houston and behind them, a large group of protestors brandishing signs, chanting, “No justice, no peace!”

Black Lives Matter protest in New York City (5/29/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett

They were protesting the viscous killing of George Floyd earlier that Monday, by a Minneapolis police officer, all caught on video for the world to see.

Floyd’s death immediately sparked protests in Minneapolis which turned violent. Looting and vandalism ensued, and the 3rd Precinct police station was set on fire. By the end of the week, over 300 businesses in Minneapolis-Saint Paul were vandalized, and 44 burned to the ground.

The justified anger over the senseless death of George Floyd spilled over into other cities and now, here it is, in New York City. I followed the protestors as they made their way towards Allen Street, where they took a right turn. Up ahead, two blocks away, I could see another large group of demonstrators coming towards us.

When the two groups merged with each other, there was a great whooping and hollering. People got really excited. Some protestors jumped on top of parked cars and started dancing. The cops were agitated but didn’t intervene. The march continued up Allen Street. I peeled off and headed back to Brooklyn.

Image from video by Andrew Arnett


The Bunker

I returned to my studio apartment in Bushwick, which also doubles as my recording studio, affectionally dubbed “The Bunker.” Coincidently, I flipped on the news to see the media reporting that the President had been rushed by Secret Service agents to his own bunker, located deep inside the bowels of the White House.

The Associated Press reported that “the president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds,” and “Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety.”

The New York Times describes the atmosphere at the White House as tense, writing:

Inside the White House, the mood was bristling with tension. Hundreds of protesters were gathering outside the gates, shouting curses at President Trump and in some cases throwing bricks and bottles. Nervous for his safety, Secret Service agents abruptly rushed the president to the underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks.

Early Saturday morning, the President re-emerged, tweeting that many Secret Service agents “were just waiting for action” and ready to unleash “the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen,” if protestors dared to cross the White House fence.

This came as a complete surprise and shock to most people. For starters, no one would have guessed Trump had a dog on the premises, let alone a whole kennel. As for “the most ominous weapons I have ever seen,” one only wonders if he is referring to lasers. Or that little gun used by Will Smith in Men In Black.

On Saturday morning I took the L train back into Manhattan. At Union Square, shops all around were boarding up their windows and doors. There had been massive looting and vandalism in the night. None of this was evident during the daytime march, as it was for the most part peaceful, with both protestors and cops respecting each others boundaries.

A different element emerged after nightfall. Wether this was part of the same group that protested during the day, or a different group taking advantage of the larger demonstration, it is still unclear. Either way, the results were devastating. Shattered glass lay on the sidewalk. Stores were ransacked and looted. Could this destruction be justified in the name of George Floyd? Those in the protest movement believe the system is corrupt, and needs to be done away with. As they say, “no justice, no peace.”

New York City (5/31/20). Photo by Andrew Arnett