11,000 people lying facedown on the Burnside Bridge by Benjamin McPherson Ficklin

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black and white image look up at the Burnside Bridge which shows steel tressel beneath

Now there’s 11,000 people lying facedown on the Burnside Bridge, now we’ve halted Portland’s traffic, now we are silent except the crows, now we are still while the river flows beneath us & the clouds float overhead. Later they’ll shoot us from the bushes surrounding Pioneer Courthouse, shoot at me with rubber bullets as I run past the benches where I sat with my bike as a teenager. Later they’ll tell us to vote, the person with the megaphone too weak to reach the ears of all 11,000 will say, “Vote for me and I will change this.” Later they’ll launch gas into this crowd of young people. Later a friend who is at her first protest will pour water on the face of a crying man as he sobs, “They fucking gassed me. I was just talking to my sister and they fucking gassed me.” Later we’ll see people in medic uniforms handing out snacks. Later I’ll see a friend from high school, I’ll say, “Where you going?” & he’ll say, “They shot me with a rubber bullet. I can barely walk.” Later there will be screaming. Later there will be gardeners & skaters pouring water to douse the gas canister spewing its poison in the middle of the road. Later there will be concussive grenades detonating between an elderly couple holding a sign that reads YOU DON’T VOTE OUT POLICE BRUTALITY. Later, again & again, we chant the name of the murdered men, the murdered women, their names singular yet echoing the names of other murdered Black people, from Martin to Till to Taylor to Floyd to those forgotten or never noticed by the colonizers’ history, the slave owners’ history. Later they find a man on the ground & seven men in tax-bought armor will bludgeon his supine body with batons before dragging him away. Later a woman will kneel before a line of these armored men who will spray her face with mace. Later a young man’s brain will be damaged by a point blank rubber bullet to the temple. Later they’ll tell 11,000 people to get out & vote. Later they will say sorry but it was reasonable force. But now there’s 11,000 people lying facedown on the Burnside Bridge. Now we stand. Now we march.

Meet the Contributor

ben mcpherson ficklinBenjamin McPherson Ficklin will never surrender—Benjamin McPherson Ficklin will always love you. They are the author of the chapbook ‘A Cynical View of Dystopian America.’ Their work has been published in Lomography, wildness, Ursus Americanus Press, Cheap Pop, STORGY, Clackamas Literary Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Autre, Autonomous Press, Oregon Voice Magazine, and recognized in Best Small Fiction 2019 and Best American Essays 2020.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/A. F. Litt

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