My wife and friends were in attendance at the annual holiday lighting of Baltimore's Washington Monument when a presentation by a local choral group was interrupted by hundreds of protesters who filled the walkway directly in front of the stage, their incessant chants totally disrupting the remainder of the evening's entertainment ("Amid celebration, a protest," Dec. 5).
Immediately there were responses from the crowd. Two individuals nearby were instantly incensed, fuming at what they perceived as the inappropriate presence of the protesters, and quickly left the scene. Interestingly enough, I observed that most people were engaged in animated conversation the remainder of the evening, with some expressing outright solidarity with the protesters who were peaceably voicing their concerns about police brutality — "Hands up, don't shoot!" "No peace, no justice!" "Stop! I can't breathe!"
As a musician, my sincere hope was that this action would last 10 minutes with the festivities then resuming. I really wanted to enjoy the musical groups, some of whom were the best that Baltimore has to offer. But the protesters dug in their heels, and it became obvious that their intention was to totally disrupt and end the night's event. It was then that I decided to immerse myself in the moment, recognizing my own recent frustration with insincere promises and lack of action by politicians, our supposed servants in office.
Our recent expensive election, with historically low voter turnout, is indicative of a prevailing mood that is dangerous for any democracy's survival. I have proudly voted in every election since I was 18 years old; I am now 62. But each election, presenting a slate of career politicians with astounding financial backing, leads me more and more toward a feeling of futility and disempowerment as an involved citizen. These protesters forced me to consider that the times may again be calling many of us to nonviolent direct action.
As I listened to the music, occasionally audible from the stage and overwhelming the chants, I was reminded of an early Simon and Garfunkel tune, "Silent Night/Nightly News", that juxtaposed the ancient peaceful lullaby with the grisly news of Vietnam War body counts. Thursday night there was the same interweaving of songs of peace and hope with pleas for justice and peace in our communities. This protesting crowd of young adults was undeniably passionate and designated themselves as spokespersons for us all.
To my surprise, and that of my companions, we felt fortunate to be standing beneath Washington's shadow taking part in both the previously planned and totally unexpected displays of fireworks. There truly ain't no place like home/Bawlmer!