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  • It had been about an hour since the flash-bomb grenades went BOOM on 14th and Broadway, leaving scars on the ground and smoke in the air and a feeling that what the cops had just done was crazy.

    There were hundreds of police in full riot gear — gas masks, helmets, boots, billy clubs, and heavy body armor. They stood shoulder to shoulder, guarding the park, while kids in bandanas with bicycles pushed up against the fence, shouting and cursing and delivering pithy invective about what had to change in America.

    The underground vent of the BART train issued a loud, steady roar, and police choppers whirred overhead, lighting the streets with rude Orwellian beams.

    The night was warm and windless, so when you walked around the intersection, you’d sometimes hit a cloud of lingering tear gas that hadn’t quite dispersed from the air, and your eyes would start to burn so terribly that you’d run away in tears, thinking to yourself, “my god, so this is what it feels like.”

    “You’re on the wrong side of history!” a kid shouted at the cops. “History will remember this moment. It will remember you stood there and shot tear gas and rubber bullets at us, refusing our right to assemble. The whole world is watching right now. And you are on the wrong side of the fence. You will be judged for this. You will be shamed for this. You should be over here with us. You are part of the 99% but you are slaves to the 1%. Don’t you see it? Don’t you see things are changing?”

    A pretty girl came over to the guy and slipped under his violently gesturing arms to stand between him and the cops, keeping her face to the crowd and her back to the cops. She stood there like a human shield, a gentle passive presence, softening the words of the guy to the cops and the look of the cops to the crowd.

    She was a young kid, probably a sophomore in college, but at this moment she was like a guardian angel, protecting the boys and the men from what they might otherwise do to each other.

    She repeated this process for several more hours, slipping from one tense confrontation to another, never saying anything, but softening the pitch of every situation she entered, a simple quiet hero in a nascent revolution.
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