2020 – Photographing a George Floyd/BLM Rally, Hackensack, NJ
(Ignore May 1, 2017 publish date – this was published om June 9, 2020)
The last important rally I photographed was the 2018 – Hackensack NJ Rally/March for Our Lives, 3/24/18
It’s nice to get the closeup shots of the participants and their signs, but you also want to somehow step back and above to get an overview of the crowd and its size. But unless you have a drone that you can legally use or your own mini-chopper, it’s just not possible at ground level.
Two years ago, I was able to get slightly above the crowd and shoot from the courthouse steps, but, to fit everyone in, I had to take 5 side-by-side photos and hope that they would stitch well together (they did).
Two weeks ago, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and there have been huge nightly rallies shown on TV from every major US city ever since. You’ve seen a million pictures from myriad angles. Strictly from a photographic standpoint, there’s not much that hasn’t been seen dozens of times already.
I knew it was a matter of time until these George Floyd/Black Lives Matter gatherings filtered down to almost every city and town. One happened last week in Hackensack that I didn’t know was going to happen.
The photographer in me welcomes the challenge of capturing something different, but I didn’t feel all that bad about missing out on this recent event because it’s really all been done before. PLUS – you really don’t want to be in a big crowd during a pandemic where many people have lowered or removed their masks to facilitate slogan-shouting, which propels an exponentially-increased number of micro-droplets into the surrounding air.
That’s just asking for trouble…………and maybe death.
So I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I’d probably be sitting out this type of event.
……………..UNTIL a couple of days ago (June 6), when I took a break from working on another blog post to have lunch. I started hearing chanting outside. I looked out of my living room window and saw a lot of people gathered a block away in the parking lot of a closed-on-Saturday pediatric dentist (!). The chants sounded very familiar.
Binocular (and zoom lens) time:
Omigod! It looked just like what I’ve seen every night on TV for the last week-and-a-half. But why here on a side street in a small lot?
I checked online and found out that a rally/march was planned to start that day at that time (Noon) in a Sears parking lot a couple of blocks away and that they would march at 1pm down Main St to the County Courthouse, a mile away (I later found out that Sears never gave permission, so this must have been a last-minute re-arrangement).
“Shoot first and ask questions later” is NOT good advice for police, but it works very well for photographers, so that’s what I did.
People were pouring in down Ward St – the street on the side of my building – and State St, at the far end of the municipal lot outside my window. BTW – it’s possible that the event was switched to that E municipal lot, but because everyone parked there, they may have had to improvise and move it across the street to the State Street Smiles parking lot (And Ward St AND part of State St):
Even from this distance, I was able to see (and photograph) some of the little things I would have wanted to shoot up close. I found this shot of black and white children being photographed on Ward St by black and while adults particularly poignant and something I would have missed if I was up front where the action was:
I also noticed this guy walking down Ward St with a whole bunch of handwritten protest signs under his arm. I immediately thought of a vendor at Yankee Stadium yelling, “HEY! GETCHA HOT PEANUTS HEAH!”:
Rather than think of him as capitalizing on national sorrow, I think it might be more likely that he was the official sign-maker for a group of his unartistic protester friends.
Somewhere in the midst of this chanting mob,
I managed to locate the man with the mic (white shirt):
This pic seems to indicate to me that the march will be stepping off soon:
Sure enough, the march begins down State St at 1pm. You can see the mass of humanity marching from left to right – something I would not be able to show this well if I was in their midst:
If you look in the upper right, you can see that the march has made a left turn off State St and is a half-block from Main St (well, maybe you can’t see that part, but trust me):
Except for the digital camera and the masks, this might have been a young me showing my pictures to all the babes:
All along the way so far, I’d been taking little videos of some of the things you’ve seen, but haven’t heard, so I’ve stitched about a dozen or so of them together from the chanting to the marching. Notice how the crowd thickens as you go on:
Being as it was a very hot and humid day, I’m glad I stayed home to work on the other blog post. I shot an amazing amount of variety, considering I was a block away and 7 floors up, so thank you Sears for making everyone change their plans, which let me shoot this rally and part of the march from the comfort of my home. I don’t think I could have asked for a better way to shoot a big rally and march during the Coronavirus pandemic.
And I’m not done yet. All those people had to come back a few hours later for their cars or to walk past my building to get to wherever they came from and would still be carrying their signs. I would still be able to get some closeup shots of them if I could yell loud enough out the window, “SHOW ME YOUR SIGN!”.
Here’s how that went:
I’m still not done. I know how serious these events are and how incredibly rare it is that ANYONE would have a reason to smile at one of them, so I REALLY like these two photos (I didn’t know that anyone smiled until I saw the pix later that night):
I’m going to finish off with a double image that shows two different people with signs that have the exact same message on them and were coincidentally held in the same manner by two apparent students of the Trump University School of Bible-Holding:
NOW I’m done.