When Caregivers Join Black Lives Matter Protests

Issue 256

Reverend Billy Talen Jun 12, 2020

Hi Rev Billy,

I’ve been to a few protests in my time but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the protests that have broken out following the murder of George Floyd. Do you feel the same way?


Lower East Side

Dear Lena,

Of all the marches and rallies I’ve been to lately, a recent one featuring the city’s hospital caregivers felt like the protest that will be repeated in many versions over the coming years.  It was in Times Square, starting at 6 p.m.

In their blue scrubs and white doctors’ coats, they seemed to come straight from the emergency rooms, from their famous nightmare, the underfunded hospitals at the hot center of the pandemic.   

The chants began, “SAY THE NAMES!”  “George Floyd!,” “Breonna Taylor!,” “Ahmaud Arbery!” In this horror that these people shared, they shouted until they were hoarse. Their signs said, “Stop Killing My Patients”.

The police tried to surround the big group, thinking that this was just another rally to control. Then it dawned on the cops who these people were. One chant started with a question, “How Do You Spell Murder?” Others would answer with four letters: “N-Y-P-D.”

There was a pure strain of anger from losing two or three or five or 50 colleagues and patients for lack of the necessary equipment to stay alive. The police are famously over-financed, with brutality built into their budgets.

The hospital heroes were very close to shouting “DEFUND THE POLICE!”


Dear Rev Billy,

This country was founded on the looting of African bodies and indigenous lands and the billionaires are looting this country right now while tens of thousands of people are dying of COVID-19. But what about the smaller-scale looting taking place during the George Floyd protests? When I see opportunists showing up to smash and grab some bling, it makes my stomach turn because I think it’s hurting the movement and is so disrespectful of George Floyd and what we’re fighting for.


Jackson Heights

Tara, c’mon. This is a serious historical movement with its eyes clearly on the prize. Every big uprising has wing-nuts who are released from not-dramatic-enough lives so they go out and break some glass. The chattering class pixelators who say that the hotheads are the fault of black leadership are being so unrealistic that you have to wonder if they themselves are provocateurs. They have been pulled outside their comfort zone and so they try to change the subject. They keep themselves at a safe distance from the superstorm that threatens us all with basic change. They don’t have the conviction, the absolute conviction that change is gonna come.

Reverend Billy Talen is a member of the activist group The Church of Stop Shopping.

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