And so it starts

“They may own the skies but we rats down here know the streets, our alleys,” says the black man in a gas mask next to me and my son. We’re out in the street a half-block away from home, facing police in riot gear. My shirt’s still wet with milk that cleaned my eyes of the tear gas fired from a tactical unit a half-hour earlier.

The father of a friend of my son Milo got hit in the leg by a rubber bullet. I watched as our neighbor, a city councilmember, was pushed away by angry police. “I don’t care if you live down there. Blame the protesters,” said the man in blue.

The mayor of Albany called a curfew. We let Milo go out with his friends, all from the community and a bit older. All wore masks, as did the thousands marching earlier that day. And all got home in a timely fashion, ready to report all they’d seen.


The crowd of anti-lockdown protesters with long guns and American flags out front of the Capitol, surrounded by friendly state troopers, wore no masks and made fun of me wearing one. I chose to simply record their chants, just as I did at the later protests and riot.

In between everything we took the dog for a walk in a hemlock forest that surrounded a waterfall and sylvan pool. Others had the same idea. We heard gunfire in the distance; the rapid-fire sound signaled it was target practice. We wondered what the shooters were practicing shooting at.

The black man in a gas mask came down the street, stopped, and lifted his mask. “And so it starts,” he said. “I’m glad to see you’re all safe here.”

He pulled down the mask and headed back off into the cooling, star-watched night.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.