Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Okay. Okay. Okay Okay Okay. I have lots and lots of really exciting things to tell you all about.

First, the simple but also very important things. Stephen's older brother Mark is officially in remission and cancer-free. This is wonderful, amazing, joyous news! :) Also, in Libby family news, his sister Diane is at long last engaged to a wonderful man she has dated for years with whom she owns a house and two cats.

Second, in very simple news-- I got a haircut that I love. I gave my hair to Locks of Love, a wonderful organization. Some person who has lost their hair to chemo will now have about ten inches of my hair. It's kind of fitting that I did this on the day Mark went into remission. :) Special thanks to Becky and Heather Liskey for recommending Vanessa, the Amazing Hair Genius.

Now- for complex and exciting news. While I was in the chair getting my hair cut, my cell phone rang. It was someone from the AP in DC offering me a summer internship (they pull almost all of their new staffers out of their intern pool) and a spot in Diverse Visions, a prestigious diversity workshop that I have been excited about since I first heard about it last July when I was at the NPPA conference in Memphis. This is also very exicting because the person who was calling, (he oversees the selection committee) was unaware of Recent Events-- which are complicated, but I am getting to them-- which means I got in on my merit BEFORE Recent Events, which is kind of cool.

So here is my account of Recent Events. On Saturday, a man by the name of Matt Hale (he calls himself a Reverend) of an organization called the World Church of the Creator came to speak in York. TWCOTC is not a religious church; it is a church devoted to the worship of the white race. York has been targetted as a recruiting area for the KKK, the "World Church," the Hammerskins (super-scary skinheads), regular skinheads, and the National Alliance (the largest neo-Nazi organization in the U.S.). Approximately 250 people from these groups showed up to support Hale, and approximately 350 anti-racism activists and citizens of York showed up to protest their demonstration.

It was like a war zone. There were police helicopters circling constantly, snipers on roofs of buildings, and about 175 state troopers in riot gear. There were at least two dozen police officers oon horseback. The National Guard and SWAT teams were called in when things got out of hand. The anti-racism activists included two well-known anarchist groups who frequently protest KKK, etc. appearances. These people are average age 17, and they are not a peace-making group. They instigated the violence. It was not hard for me to be an impartial observer in this situation, because while I vehemently disagree with the racists' message, I also disagree with the anarchists' tactics.

I have never been so scared or so exhiliarated in my entire life. Basically, the groups stood across the street from each other and shouting insults and threats at one another for about four hours. I worked the scene, photographing both sides. I had never seen a real Nazi flag before, except in the Sound of Music and in Mr. Deaner's history class. I went into the group of white supremacists to photograph them in the foreground with their flags and the riot police in the background. I felt something soft brush against my shoulder, and when i turned to look at it, it was a Nazi flag, blowing in the wind. It was unbelieavably creepy. As I moved away from the crowd, I talked to my colleague from the Record, Chris, who said the same thing happened to him, and he- who is not creeped out easily- felt the same way.

I approached each young woman who was demonstrating with the Neo-Nazis about being in a picture story and none of them were interested. The men all surrounded me, partly out of curiousity and partly to protect- in their words- "their proud Aryan women." they invited me to go out drinking with them, and they asked me what I drink. I told them I drink milk. (Would you have said "Sex on the Beach" to a group of Nazis? I don't think so.) I was proud of myself for asking them to do a long-term story, though.

Things were gettin gout of hand. PEople started throwing ice and snow balls. People began to get arrested. i began running to photograph the arrests. Then the Neo-Nazis tried to leave. Large mobs began to form and chase their cars. They all drove white pickup trucks with confederate flags or bumper stickers that said, "Tattoed White Trash." I got pushed around by the police a lot, but my colleague Chris- who is a very burly white guy- really took it on the chin. He also got maced. It was bad.

THe mobs began to chase the cars of Nazis as they drove away. I ran about two and half miles with my tweny pound bag. Chunky Photojournalist Barbie wasn't counting on all that running. Eventually, I wanted to be like, "HEy guys, can we walk to the next beating, please?"

A Neo-Nazi got cornered. Some anarchists were about to pull him out of his car and beat him. He drove into a crowd of media and activists. He hit four people. I photograhped him driving at me at about 55 mph just about 6 inches before he slammed into an activist. The activist lived. The picture was sharp. You can see the Nazi's face- glaring, teeth gritted. It's a scary picture.

My friend Chris was right behind me, and when i heard the sound of a body hitting the car, I thought he was a goner. I was screaming his name. It was like an ABC AfterSchool Special. He shouted, "I am okay!" and we ran together to shoot the driver's arrest. He also hit an old man, another activist and a little girl. The thing is, I can't picture out what kind of Shitty Parent would bring their kid to this. I can understand taking them to the protest, but to get to this scene, you had to run with an angry riotous mob. I climbed over a wall to get there. Craziness.

Then, the mob jumped on another truck, pulled the flags out of the bed and broke out the windows. They threw a trash can at the truck. Then the driver pulled out a gun. I almost peed my pants. It was intense. I did not take a pciture of the gun. I screamed at a police officer, "He;s got a gun! He;s got a gun!" The poice officer casually walked toward teh truck. The truck drove into oncoming traffic- the wrong lane of a two-way street- to get a way. They did not get stoppped, a ttraffic violation, asked to see a gun permit. Nothing. Nothing.

Then, the mob ran five blocks (pant, pant, pant) and jumped another car. The people inside were from Michigan. They had no idea. An activist hit the passenger threw the window with a stick. Another activist tried to stop him. I got a picture of it- the stick in the window, the victim recoiling, the victim's dog flinching, and another activist screaming No! and trying to stop the guy with the stick. The dog jumped out of the car and was missing. Another photographer got hit the head with a piece of concrete. Then, my mom's best friend saw the picture on the news tonight with a report that someone recognized the dog from the picture in the paper and he was reuinted with his owners. I am proud of that.

I am proud of myself. My hands used to shake so badly in tense situations that I would get motion blur shooting people hugging a spot news situations. That didn't happen on Saturday. This is a big step for me. I did my best, and I am amazed to find that it was good enough.

Jatinder (Remember Jatinder, Luke and Jill?) a grad student who taught my lab in my first photo class and taught me how to put film in a camera- is now a Naitonal Editor for AP in NYC. He decides what pictures go on the global wire. He called me at home and told me how proud he was of me. I was so touched. Jatinder does not praise easily. He told me my pictures were on their way to London, Paris, Hong Kong, South America, and Tokyo. I almost cried. He said he couldn't believe the picture where the truck was bearing down on me. I can't believe it either. One of the pictures was on CNN.com, and they have been in all the local papers. I am so blown away, I can't even tell you.

I hope you don't mind my sharing all of this with you. I am recording it in my online journal as much for me as anyone.... I can't believe it. I have an internship lined up with AP. I have short hair. All of a sudden, the Imaginary Life is becoming more and more tangible.

The local news is reporting that Matt Hale, the racist speaker, decided that Saturday was a huge success, and he wants to return to York soon. In the meantime, Chunky Photojournalist Barbie has taken up running. :)

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