Phoenix Protest Sparks Student Desire to Enact Change

"So all we need now is a medic and a legal observer; and you guys should probably wear black in case we decide to form a black block. Masks are pretty important, too."What the heck is a black block? Sitting in a room full of smoke, feeling out of place and slightly lost on some dude's bottom bunk, I kept my mouth shut as I listened and watched the people with whom I would be spending the next 24 hours. They spoke of all the dangers of a high-strung protest. Pepper spray, tear gas, violence, arrests. Images of gaping wounds and bloody noses crossed my mind. I read a handout as their voices sunk into background noise: "Things to Look Out For: Scenario 1) if you see policemen putting on gas masks ..." This abundance of information left me feeling much more nervous than prepared. My friend Becky and I left the meeting wide-eyed and jittery; she was clearly much more excited to dive into the midst of this predicted ruckus, while the only string keeping me attached was the fact that I'd already made the commitment. Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of the Maricopa County Police Department in Arizona, is known for violating the constitutional rights of mostly immigrant detainees, who, under our judicial system, are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Among numerous other, even more controversial, issues surrounding Arpaio, ultimately, he significantly violated a select group of people's basic human rights. Did I know anything about Sheriff Arpaio before choosing to participate in this adventure? No. Did I view this protest as a huge photographic opportunity? Yes. So that's why I went. On February 28, the day of the protest, milling about a crowd of at least 500 people, which had gathered before the start of the five mile march through downtown Phoenix, I realized the only protection I needed was sunscreen: SPF 55, if you please. My worries melted down the sides of my face like the sweat that was already there. I felt safe and secure surrounded by my fellow students and began to feel more confident about my place in this protest. Earlier I'd felt useless, as if I'd jumped on a train, simply out of a boredom, without knowing its destination. But I quickly came to understand that my hands, holding this expensive borrowed camera, were actually serving a great purpose. I held the power of publicizing this momentous occasion within my direct community. I didn't expect to inspire many people with my words or arouse an enthralled group of listeners to the cause, but I did expect my friends, my roommate, to ask about my photos, to inquire as to where I was that Saturday night they tried to reach me. Hopefully I can inspire them to want to get involved with something greater, something larger than themselves, something that really needs attention, something other than their wardrobes or their vanity. I realized that what I was feeling happened to be pride. Not that vain, lackluster pride associated with arrogance, but the kind of pride associated with self-confidence in a newfound ability to spark change. To those reading this article, I would love to shout, PLEASE get involved with something other than your direct future. Help someone, love someone, join the fight against paving over the BFS ... I could go on and on ...