Danni is an organizer with Black Lives Matter who has had personal experiences with excessive police force. I met her at McPherson Square Park on January 20, 2017, after a #DisruptJ20 demonstration which was attacked by DC Metro Police. She was maced and hit repeatedly while anti-riot grenades go off under her feet, and described her experience in detail:
What exactly happened? Why did the police fire on you and your group, march?
I have video 1-2 minutes before the attack showing a clear division between our line and theirs. From behind the line of cops the huge cop with the buzz cut came up with what looked like a gallon of mace with a release tube the size of a garden hose. He immediately began making gestures as if he was gonna spray us around three times. I am guessing he wanted us to become afraid and back up but we didn't and I honestly believe our lack of fear is what drove him to not only spray us all in the front line directly but to hold the trigger soaking us in the mess.
A few seconds before he began spraying us I began recording, knowing what was coming. There was no throwing of any bricks, bottles, etc. to provoke this assault. As soon as super cop began saturating us with the mace the other officers began to advance using batons, hitting anyone, anywhere as they did this. I was hit in the back over four times, while being screamed at to get out of there. I was completely incapacitated. I couldn't breathe, or see.
I managed to run some distance blinded but not far. When I was choking I began recording again trying to be conscious to record what they were doing to us. A young man came to me and we started to try and wash my eyes and face off, and that is when we were hit with the tear gas that had been released after the mace. We both then were struggling to breathe when a flash grenade went off maybe 9-10 feet from us. Then a young woman came and grabbed us both, she told me to hold on tight, that we were running away from the grenades.
After the first about 5 more were thrown into a crowd of people who were running away and already struggling to breathe with burning skin. We were far from a threat to begin with but now we were damn near incapacitated. The officers continued to pursue all/anyone of us they could. We got maybe a block away where there were at least 6-7 other people on the ground screaming in pain and all trying to be washed down with Maalox and water. We got sat down and one rinse into my eyes before more flash grenades were thrown in our direction and we were off running again until we reached the medical tent in the park.
Have you been physically targeted or attacked by the police in a similar manner before?
I was physically attacked by an officer at the age of 18 on my birthday for overhearing him refer to me as a “nigger” and I confronted him on this. We were in the entry way of a night club and once I told him to never refer to myself or any other person of color with that word he got physical. He pushed me backwards into the wall and quickly covered any distance between us with getting into my face and holding me against the wall cussing and screaming I am a nigger and I had better learn who had the power here.
We had interaction 'cause I was caught drinking underage in the bar. I am not ashamed of that. I was 18, who didn't drink? But he had another officer with him who got in between us and took me outside. He apologized and said I was getting ticket for MIP (minor in possession). When I was giving him the correct information he would repeat something completely different from what I had said while giving me that “look” of just go with it. He felt bad for what had just happen to me and I think giving me the MIP under a name I was not associated with was his apology.
Do you believe there is any relationship between Black Lives Matter (BLM) and police's willingness to attack you? I was at several protests without a BLM presence and no attacks happened.
Absolutely. Marching with and fighting for #BLM is the only reason we are targeted. The message that we are less than and by being so means we are subjected to the treatment of an animal. That thought process has always existed here but now with our movement and having a Black president the White Supremacists in this country are by force taking back any progress we have made or will make. That is the only reason Trump could get into our White House, its white-lash at it's finest...So many of us Americans want the world to know that more of us voted against the fuck than for him. We need the world to know that we do not think we are better or above any other country or its people in any way.
This nation is really, really, young especially when compared to the dynasties of many other countries. It is not impossible to watch the US fall completely apart. No country stays a super power forever and us normal Americans have no issue with that....Trump's interests are his pockets and his ego nothing more or less. He is an illegitimate president and the majority of us do not accept him. He has stated BLM should be labelled a terrorist group and I have been active for years so I would be on that list and I cannot say this isn't something his admin won't do...
I am not afraid of the possibilities for myself, I am afraid for my children's future and that of the world. We cannot stomach another Aleppo, Nazi Germany, Egypt, etc. But Trump has another thing coming if he thinks we will follow his BS narrative of “alternative news.” His ego will be the death of many Americans and maybe citizens of other countries. Why American lives? Because there is no way in hell we will just hold on for the awful ride into hell he is trying to take us on, I would proudly give my life in this fight for justice, equality, and a better future for all of us.