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The Protest
by Martin Green


Jack answered his cell phone. He listened a few minutes, then turned to the rest of us and said, “It’s Clare. She’s been arrested.” Up until that moment, it had been a pleasant afternoon. It was a warm spring day. We were sitting around the pool, having cold drinks. I’d recently retired from the State and my wife Sally and I were on a motor trip through California, starting from our home in Sacramento. We’d stopped at San Francisco, then Monterey and Carmel and now we were at the home of Sally’s younger brother Jack and his wife Alice in Santa Barbara. Alice was the first to react. “What? Are you joking?”

“No. She got into some protest at school.” Clare was their daughter, a junior at the local college. “The cops swooped down and put a lot of the kids in the county jail.” Jack spoke into the phone. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’m leaving right now. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He hung up and said, “Guess I’m going to have to bail her out. I wonder if they take credit cards.”

“I’m going with you,” said Alice. “I’ll get our checkbook.”

“Do you want us to go with you?” asked Sally.

“No,” said Alice. “Why don’t you stay here. Rita will be back from school pretty soon.” Rita was their other daughter, a high school senior.

“All right. Call us if there’s any trouble.”

Jack and Alice hurried out and in a few minutes we heard their car speeding away. Sally and I were left by the pool with our drinks, the sky a clear blue overhead, the sun reflecting off the pool, green mountains in the distance. And our niece in jail. Clare lived in a college dorm but she’d come to dinner the previous night. She was a pretty blonde, soft-voiced with good manners. She even made us feel she was happy to see us, the elderly relatives from the north.

“She didn’t look the type to be protesting anything,” said Sally.

“That’s just what I was thinking. I wonder what it was all about?”

“I think there was something that happened at the college last week, about students occupying a bank or something and the police used mace.”

“Police brutality,” I said.

“Well, I hope they can get her out.”

We heard noise from inside the house and our niece Rita came out. She was about 17 and a redhead, not as pretty as her sister but very likeable. “Where’s Mom and Pop?” she asked.

I looked at Sally. “There’s been some mix-up,” she said. “Clare called, something about a protest at the college and some students were arrested.”

“Clare’s in jail!”

“I’m sure your folks will get her out.”

But Rita wasn’t shocked; she was amused. “What a hoot,” she said.

“Your parents didn’t think so,” observed Sally.

“I’m sorry. I bet I know what happened. It’s that boy Eddy.”


“Yes, he’s a senior. He’s a black, uh, an African-American guy. Very good-looking and into all of these great causes. Clare likes him.”

“Well, let’s hope your parents bring her home soon,” I said.

Later on we were all, including Clare, inside in the dining room. Jack and Alice had stopped to get Chinese take-out after bailing her out. “Did they put Eddy in jail, too?” asked Rita.

“Yes, it’s so unfair. All we were doing was having a sit-in at the bank.”

“What’s a bank doing on a college campus?” I asked.

“They were supposed to make things convenient for students.”

“So what’s wrong with that?”

“They’re a part of the establishment that discriminates against blacks, uh, African-Americans and poor people. That’s the reason we had the great Recession and now the rich have gotten richer and the poor are poorer.”

“I bet you got that from Eddy,” said Rita.

I thought Clare blushed slightly. “Eddy knows all about discrimination,” she said. “Then yesterday when we had a protest the cops used mace against some of us, including Eddy.”

“That’s because they told the protestors to stop blocking the entrance to the bank. Some students were trying to get in,” said Jack. “I talked to one of the cops.”

“That’s still no reason to use mace. It’s violating our civil rights.”

“What about the civil rights of the students who were trying to get in?” said Jack.

At this point, the doorbell rang. Clare sprang up and went to the door, returning with an African-American boy who I assumed was the famous Eddy. He had some bruises on his face and a black eye. “Are you okay?” asked Clare.

“I’m fine. My parents bailed me out soon after you were released. I came over here as soon as I could.”

“What about your face?” askedClare, with some concern.

“It’s nothing. The cops like to rough me up a little, because of the color of my skin.”

“Oh,” said Clare to Eddy, “This if my uncle Paul and my Aunt Sally from Sacramento.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Eddy. I stood up and we shook hands. He had a nice firm grip. As Rita had told us, he was a good-looking young man. “Sorry you had to come when we were having all this commotion on campus.”

“Do I understand it correctly?” asked Sally. “The first protest was against the bank, then the police maced the protestors, then you were protesting the macing?”

“That’s about it,” said Eddy, “except this is only one battle in the larger war against the establishment.”

I didn’t want to get into a discussion about this so I said, “Well, are you and Clare okay? They won’t press charges on you?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’re okay. The president of the college is going to make a speech tomorrow and she’s going to say the macing was an over-reaction and a violation of our civil rights.”

“Have you eaten anything?” Clare asked Eddy. “We have plenty of Chinese.”

“No,” said Eddy. “Now you mention it I’m pretty hungry.”

So we all sat back down to our meal. Eddy asked Sally and I about Sacramento and about our trip to Southern California. He was polite and really seemed interested. After a while, he and Clare decided to return to the campus and their dorms.

“You’re not going to have another protest tomorrow?” asked Alice.

“We’ll see what the college prez has to say,” said Eddy. “She’s supposed to make a statement first thing in the morning. Then we’ll have a meeting and decide what to do.”

We were up early the next morning and on our way. Our next stop was Palm Springs. It was another nice day. “Well, that was interesting,” said Sally.

“Yes. Our niece Clare in jail. How about that? And her boy friend Eddy. That’s even harder to believe.”

“Do you think we’ll have a black person in the family?”

“African-American,” I corrected. “Watch out or the PC police will get you. I don’t know. He seemed like a nice kid.”

“And a leader of protests.”

“Yes. Anyway, we should be out of town before any new protest if they decide to block the roads. On to Palm Springs.”



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