My niece Rachel, and her friend Raoul, live in Queens, New York and have been participating in the NYC #BlackLivesMatter protests. It seems to get scarier every day. The NYPD continue to escalate the violence and we see video after video of police officers attacking peaceful protesters, and even non-protestors just trying to walk home after work. This is not the NYPD keeping the peace; this is about punishing those who are calling out police crimes.
Raoul and Rachel have learned (from experience) that getting home after a protest is incredibly risky. The subways are blocked off, and if cops happen to see you, you could get beat up — three or four police officers armed to the teeth, against one person trying to get home. They realized they and their fellow protesters would be a lot safer out there if there was an app showing the people and businesses in the area who are willing to offer some kindness and support when needed. They sent me this note with their idea:
Problem: Police brutally attacking and arresting peaceful protestors.
Solution: Calling those who want to support the fight against police brutality — but don’t want to, or aren’t able to protest — to action, via an app. AND Calling a company with the capability of creating an app, following the framework of an app they already own, to jump on this project as a public service for peaceful protestors, and an active way to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Possible companies or groups with resources and software to take on this project: Uber, Lyft, Citizen, Find my Friends, Anonymous, Yelp, Facebook, Seamless, Grubhub, Amazon, Google, AirBnB.
Helpful services people or storefronts/restaurants/churches could provide to protestors:
-A place to escape when cops are chasing and arresting protestors.
-Masks and hand sanitizer (although most protestors already have this and other protestors have extra to give out)
-Shelter — somewhere to wait until curfew lifts
-Walk home with a person or group
-Drive a person or group home
-Record police brutality from an apartment window (videos from the ground are often too chaotic to see clearly what happened).
-A place to congregate before going to a protest
-A place to meet and organize with like-minded people pre-protest
When I heard their idea, I loved it. I immediately thought of Rahul Dubey. Did you read about this story from a couple of days ago? Mr. Dubey is a man in DC who sheltered 70(!) protesters in his home, from police who were trying to tear gas them. Total hero! I know there are thousands of people like Rahul Dubey out there, ready and willing to step up. And if lots of people stepped up, maybe Mr. Dubey would only need to shelter 1 or 2 people instead of 70.
The number of bodies that show up to protests matters. So many people want to support these protests, and keep the energy up, in order to make change. Not everyone can show up to a protest — work schedules, mobility issues, health issues (both physical and mental), other responsibilities, can all prevent someone from being able to take part in a march or protest. But there are so many other ways to support the protests, and this app could be a way for lots of people to get involved.
I also think Rachel and Raoul are exactly right that the functionality of an app like the one they described, already exists in dozens of other apps. It seem like if a company like Uber or Yelp or Google put a small dedicated team on a project like this, they could have a beta app ready to test in 24 hours, just by putting their existing software to new use. It would be an amazing way for a company to take action.
I know protests are happening in all 50 states, and in countries around the world. What is it like where you live? Have you been able to witness or participate in a protest? Do you think people, companies and organizations in your area would be willing to offer the kind of support listed above to protestors?