BLM Protest Sound Recordings

While in San Francisco for a conference I was glad to have participated in a Black Lives Matter rally. It started right next to the hotel where I was staying. I hesitated for a few weeks after the rally about whether or not to put this material on my blog, because it might be seen as controversial. You will hear me chanting and cheering at several points in the recordings, so it’s pointless for me to try to present myself as a neutral observer. Yes, I agreed with many of the things that were said, but not with everything. I am not really trying to advocate a certain position by doing this. What I would really like is to make what I quickly realized was a beautiful event from an acoustic and aesthetic point of view available in some form for people who are interested in sound. I also think it is important to give the many powerful speakers in the second recording platforms like this humble one to share their messages. Even if you don’t generally agree with the BLM movement, I encourage you to go through the table summarizing the speeches and just pick a few short moments to listen to that strike you as interesting for whatever reason.

If any of the speakers do not want their speeches to be put online in this manner, please send me an email and I will remove them.

I started recording the protest because I wanted to perhaps preserve something of the incredible vibrancy of the air around me. Sometimes I was holding my iPhone over my head but at other points I had it near my waist or in my purse. It’s not amazing in quality but it seems good enough to me to share with other people. I’m not sure how many people can hear it, but there’s a constant, low rumbling sound throughout the recording, like an approaching wave of water. I really was hearing that sound as I walked, and it seemed to me like a huge cloud of sound. I think this sensation may have been occurring because 1) We were always walking between pretty tall buildings, which seemed to confine the sound and cause it to kind of pile up on itself; and 2) The crowd was large but not really large, so that I could discern many of the more delicate sounds that huge numbers of people chanting might have covered up.

The first and shorter recording contains around the first half of the march. the second and longer recording contains approximately the second half of the march and then most of the speeches that were given in front of City Hall. I will give some basic information about the two recordings below.

During the first recording (27:32) you can heard sounds such as metal clanging (12:56), drums, bells, the ticking of bike wheels, police walkie talkie chatter (3:00, 6:00), people having mundane discussions. Some of my favorite moments were when multiple chants coming from different parts of the crowd were weaving together (20:30, 24:10).

We were walking down Market St., from Embarcadero Center/Justin Herman Plaza until City Hall. I started recording somewhere near the plaza. I don’t remember where I stopped the first recording, but it was only around half way through. Reliable estimates of the size of the crowd seem to converge around 1,000 people. Throughout the march there were lines of police in uniform; some standing and some walking along with us. They were shutting down all cross traffic for us and allowing us complete freedom to walk down the entire street, in all the lanes of traffic, as far as I observed. The police were also moderately dressed—no tactical gear, no riot shields, no showing of weapons. There may well have been those kinds of police stationed further away from the protest route, but I didn’t see them. All of the protesters that I saw and heard were behaving completely peacefully; indeed news reports of the protest also do not mention any violence on the part of protesters or police.

First Recording

The second recording features over 30 speakers who represent a really wide spectrum of viewpoints. Some protesters used a lot of profanity; some didn’t use any. Some people listed statistics; others read poems. Some expressed strong anger while others took a concilatory tone, but I think everyone was united by a sense of hope despite what they and their loved ones have personally suffered. I can say that it was simply an honor to listen to these people speak–they were far more eloquent than I could ever dream of being, and I learned so much from them. Most of them were quite young and seemed to be speaking with little preparation. And I think their stories, ideas, and verbalized feelings need to be heard by people around the world. For people who are intrigued but can’t listen to the entire 2-hour recording, I have made a table that will tell you where each speech began and what the main content was. Be warned: many of the speeches do contain profanity. Parents and educators might first listen to deem which portions seem appropriate for younger listeners.

Second Recording

Basic Information about the Speakers in the Second Recording

1 24:00 Male, Latino Police Chief Ed Lee and SF mayor Greg Suhr regarding the killing of Jessica Williams (see “us walking is a form of resistance” and “amor!”
2 28:30 Male, Black Speaks to Black officer present; call to further action; critique of current economic system (neo-liberalism). blocking City Hall doors. Not critical of all white people but of those who use white privilege.
3 34:00 Female, Black Speaks directly to police officers around us
35:00 Police killing of her friend Bernard Peters
4 35:40 Female, Black Police killing of her friend Gus Rugby
5 36:15 Male, Black Personal experiences of racist treatment by civilians and police; international, economic and social scope of racist problem
6 43:00 Female, Black Social, historical, economic basis of racial oppression; Dallas shooting of police officers
7 45:50 Male, Black Current presidential election
Need for increased Black involvement, esp. political
8 47:40 Female, Black Addresses Asian woman with “All lives matter” sign; need to support Black Trans community
9 50:00 Female, Black Impassioned and at times angry speech aimed at people along the marching route saying that “there is not an issue here today.”
54:00 Police accountable to Black taxpayers like her
59:50 Similarities among all humans
10 1:02:00 Female, Latina Need for Black and esp. Brown people to remember their history
11 1:03:00 Male, Black Native Americans; addresses police present; “All lives matter,” Philando Castille shooting
12 1:05:30 Male, Black Reads an original poem
13 1:07:50 Female, Black Need for healing practices and community bonds in protest movement; “All lives matter” sign holder
14 1:09:00 Female, Black Buy Black, against consumerism
15 1:12:00 Female, Black To white people who are tired of hearing about these shootings, she is tired of living them. Reads original poem.
16 1:17:40 Male, Black Thanks those who have attended, esp. Black sisters. Directly addresses police about the problems he sees in terms of statistics.
17 1:22:00 Male, Black Media bias; normalization of racist speech
18 1:26:45 Female, Latina Experience as a teacher in Mission District
19 1:29:50 Female, Black Encouraging message about maintaining hope, non-violence
20 1:31:30 Female, Black Police fear of civilians; call to further community involvement; white allies need to educate other white people
21 1:33:40 Male, Black History of European oppression of Africa
A Black woman interrupts the speaker, calls angrily for patriotic behavior. Starts to scream, pours water on her head, and takes off some of her clothes. Some people are angry, calls of “please respect the speaker.” “Black lives matter” chant taken up to break the tension.
1:37:40 Speaker addresses what has just happened; calls for unity, peace; call to further involvement
22 1:39:00 Male, Black “Black-on-Black” violence, accountability in the Black community, don’t antagonize the police needlessly
23 1:44:00 Female, Black Possibility of disruptive woman at 1:33:40 as planted distraction
24 1:46:00 Female, Black Police accountability and policing of themselves
25 1:47:50 Female, Asian Greater Asian support of Blacks. Shares about 2 Puerto-Rican men killed recently in Minneapolis by white men who heard them speaking Spanish. Gun control measures against racists.
26 1:51:00 Female, Black Antagonizes the police present
27 1:51:50 Female, Black “All lives matter” as disruptive and form of violence
28 1:52:50 Male, Black Need to remain hopeful, peaceful, openhearted. Asks police officers present what they can change.
29 1:57:00 Female, Black Personal story of SF police brutality; direct address to police officers present
30 2:01:00 Female, Black Thanks participants of all races. Addresses an officer who she feels has been smirking at the protesters. Compares the police to a gang.
31 2:03:00 Female, Black Current system designed to oppress Black people. Addresses Black officer. Calls for people to run for political office, support Black community businesses. Views police as agitators and not helpers; gives the example of the disruptive man at 1:50:30 whom the crowd calmed down.
32 2:11:40 Male, Black Teacher who speaks about school segregation, neo-paternalism in Black and Brown schools; personal story of police brutality
33 2:14:40 Female, Black Recent Bay Area police scandals: drug planting in West Oakland, sex trafficking of 15-yr-old girl among police officers. More police accountability.
34 2:18:00 Female, Black Asks rhetorical questions about anti-bias and de-escalation training of police officers in the Bay Area.
2:20:30 Sounds around me as I walk away from the rally back towards Market St.