Good morning. I had the pleasure of taking in the protest in Wakefield Friday night.
Not on purpose, but the road to my home was blocked off by police. So being the Walter Cronkite I claim to be at times on FACEBOOK when the mainstream media gets me upset at forcing their own political agendas instead of just reading facts of the situation they are reporting, I asked the police lady what was going on and then found a safe parking spot to leave my vehicle.
After trying to navigate the bushes around the YMCA parking lot and scratching up my legs, while trying to slip by the police barricade, I realized I didn’t have to. Anyone who wanted to walk in the protest could. They were not stopping any one from joining the group. The police were there for the protestors’ safety, to keep them from getting hit by cars. The Falls of The Neuse is a very busy road, especially that time of day.
What I walked up on was a group sitting in a circle in the intersection, listening to a young girl through a speaker. The girl was doing her best Angela Davis impersonation, but in her defense, I doubt she knows what Angela Davis means to American history, since history is really not taught in schools anymore.
The young girl’s name is Lauren Howell. She told the crowd she was only 20, but later when I interviewed her she admitted she was really 21.
Ms. Howell was well dressed and groomed. She looked like a leader. And the crowd of maybe 60 or so, were listening to her as if she was their leader.
Howell wasn’t as much “speaking” to the crowd as she was “ranting.”
Her speech was well rehearsed, but at times she would get ahead of herself and get lost and stutter, causing her microphone to screech. But she kept going.
Her speech was not one to motivate or uplift, but one to incite.
Her group, NC Born, came to the area to protest a racially charged letter allegedly sent to an interracial married couple living in Wakefield Plantation. It is a letter the FBI is now investigating.
She was trying to start a fire under this crowd using hate, racism, oppression and a disdain for everything police. But with this crowd, her matches were wet.
They offered applause, fist pumps and the snapping of fingers when they really liked something. You know how beatniks used to relate in the 1960s to the likes of poet Rod McKuen and Bob Dylan, usually in coffee houses crowded with white kids in mini dresses and goatees going to college to stay out of Vietnam?
The fire never got past smoldering.
That could have just been the crowd and not Howell.
Some of the crowd looked like they came to hear what she had to say. Others look like they came to see what it was about. Some looked like they took a seat in the circle to take a break from jogging and others just seemed like they wanted to belong to something or were dateless on a Friday night.
Racism is not something we need in this country, but there are those with a message and then there are those with an agenda. And the one’s with the agenda don’t want racism to die, because if it did, what would be their excuse for their actions — black, white, yellow or Trump orange.
Howell has an agenda. Her talk on racism floated on the struggles of the 1960s. Many of her facts were wrong. She even got some of the names wrong. She did mention Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once, but she got his quote wrong.
She kept saying the police were there to block off the road so people couldn’t hear her message. That was not true. They did keep cars from going down the road so no one would get run over. It was not to stop anyone from hearing her message. If that were true, no one could have walked up to the group and took part in the sit in at the intersection. I walked up. No police interferred with me.
Howell said she didn’t trust the police to keep them safe, so they brought their own marshals to keep traffic away. The marshals came across more as a farce than a force.
Young men standing a few yards from the police cars to protect their group from the police and any cars the police would let by to ram the crowd. They stood like the statues, very much like groups such as this one have torn down in the last few weeks. It reminded me of the photo of all the men around Martin Luther King Jr. on the motel balcony when he was shot in Memphis. It was a nice show of force and protection, but completely worthless.
After a free Gatorade break, offered by someone in the Wakefield neighborhood, the group marched to Wakefield High School. They chanted, raised their protest signs and beat cooking pots with sticks or utensils. It looked like a marching band on the first day of practice.
When I finally made my way to the high school parking lot, I was stopped by police to ask why I was there. The crowd had beat me by a good 10 minutes, so I walked up alone. I told them I was with the newspaper and they let me go. I still had a good 400 hundred yards to go to reach the crowd.
When I got to crowd, Howell was giving the same speech she had just minutes before, to the same crowd. However, with it being the last speech of the night, the last 10 minutes offered up something new, the payoff, that explained it all. It was a campaign speech against President Trump. All the racist talk, wanting three Raleigh police officers fired, oppression and fear for thier lives all came to this: don’t vote for Donald Trump.
At that time, when I looked at the speaker, I could envision the check in her pocket. All credibility went out the door.
The speeches were over and the crowd left. They must not have feared too much, because Howell was left behind with a white-bearded, old white guy – me.
After checking my credentials as a journalist, which meant showing her the WSJ30.com website on my phone, I started the interview.
At first she still had the hate she had carried in her eyes for the time I had been at the protest. She was with N.C. Born and they were going to get things done. Stop racism, defund the police, stop the KKK and take care of business no matter what it took.
It sounded rehearsed. I’m sure they have a media package.
But then I threw her a curve. I asked about her and how she was holding up through all her stressful work. The hate came out of her eyes. Even though she was wearing a mask, I could see her smiling eventually. Then I got her to laugh a couple of times, even blushing, before I walked away.
Lauren Howell appeared to have the tools to be a leader on Friday night. And like many that do, they get stuck on the wrong message. Hopefully Howell will realize that theatrics, threats and smoke and mirrors are not the way to go and common sense, real knowledge and a cool head will get her closer to achieving her goals.
And yes, Ms. Howell, all lives matter.