by Tom Dillon
As Ethan watched the live feed of the protest, he wondered if the speculation on the internet had been right, if the 10 year anniversary of the war would actually be a turning point. Someone had mashed on a crowd count algorithm and it was currently hovering around 235,000. The feed was jerky, bouncing from angle to angle as the mod drones that the protesters had set to cover the event were shot down by their military counterparts, but that just served to accent just how huge the protest was.
It was several minutes before the chaos of the crowd resolved itself it into meaningful patterns. There were currents of people circulating through the area, forming eddies around the food stands and other vendors, condensing around the bathrooms and the stage. By the time he had figured out the patterns of the protesters, the feed had found a vantage that was stable, probably a camera mounted on a balcony or something. The wide overhead shot quickly became boring, and so Ethan began to surf through the other sources.
There were a couple camera phones inside the crowd, but their perspective was too limited to provide any meaning. There were a couple from documentary film crews, hoping to be part of whatever was supposed to happen on the tenth anniversary of the war. Eventually, he found a shot that looked like it was from someone who was on the front line of the protest, pushing against the line of olive drab National Guard soldiers.
The soldiers were interesting to look at. In front were the ones with the riot gear, plastic shields and batons, but behind them were soldiers in full combat gear, some with combat shotguns and others with M16s held at a 45 degree angle towards the ground. He knew that this image or one like it would make the front pages of a dozen news aggregators in the next few hours, with white-haired grandfathers and tattooed college students standing shoulder to shoulder and pushing against the wall of homogeneous soldiers. Ethan was just beginning to study the soldiers’ blank faces when he saw one of the ones in the back row reeling from a bottle that had ricocheted off his helmet before shattering.
In the next few moments, before the video source was cut off, Ethan watched in disbelief as the soldier drew his rifle up to his shoulder and took aim at someone offscreen. Ethan watched as the soldier squeezed the trigger and everything went to hell.
Note: I wrote this scene back in 2008 and really liked it. A lot of it came out of my experiences at protests as a member of the ISO, in particular working security while protesting the execution of Stan “Tookie” Williams, looking at the ranked cops in riot gear and thinking that all it would take is one yahoo with a bottle and I wouldn’t be going home that night. Eventually I followed it up with Soapbox and have been wanting to get back to it ever since.