It’s 7:50am and I am on my way to the park. We are meeting up with the shoeshine guys this morning for a quick photo lesson and to take portrait shots of each one. I find Jose on my way and we walk together in silence. Soon after, Chris and Matt arrive ready to translate and teach. I wander to the other side of the park, looking for the guys when I see an all too familiar brown sweatshirt – this has to be Victor. He is peacefully asleep, basking in the warm sunshine surrounded by an otherwise cold morning air. I sit beside Victor, who awakens shortly after, proud to be the first to greet him with “Buenos dias”. He is grateful for the sunshine after sleeping on freezing cold, hard cement block all night which makes me more grateful for my warm, flannel lined jacket. I cannot begin to imagine how he was able to rest last night out in the open, in the cold.
Just then, the cops drive by and Victor notices that they have his friend Mario with them. Mario, who attended our weekly time of prayer on Tuesday, just two days ago. Chris goes running after the truck which makes a loop around the park and comes back full circle. Two policemen get out and walk towards us. They look at Victor and say, “you are not cooperating so you are coming with us”. I stand up and ask why they want Victor….”we have an order for his arrest”. “For what?” I inquire. “For sleeping on the street”, they reply as they come towards Victor, aggression in their stride and determination in their face. My fighting lion spirit arises; I stand up and tell them that I will walk with Victor but they need to leave their hands off of him. They lead us to a lady, a social worker of sorts, who is with them. She starts talking about her “order” to arrest them and I decide to give her a piece of my heart. “What good are you doing if you send these youth to a temporary home where they are abused? I know Victor and Mario. We see them every day. This week, we are doing a photo project with them. They are cooperating with us. Please let them stay with us.” Just last week Victor helped serve pancakes to shoeshine guys in the park.
Then I see the TV cameras, ready to shoot images of Victor physically fighting with the police out of frustration and fear, pleading with them, with us, to not take him away. Tears flood my eyes. I walk over to the cameramen and say, “Come on guys, not like this, don’t film them right now. If you want to film them come tomorrow morning when we serve them pancakes.” They stop in their tracks, look at each other, take in what I am saying and we start talking to them about InnerCHANGE. We befriend these guys and treat them with dignity. They are human beings, created in God’s image. All of a sudden, the scene changes and the cameramen and newsmen are interviewing InnerCHANGE staff. We later find out that the news people came so that the police could candy coat their act of “cleaning” up the streets. We pretty much ruined their plan, gut punched their plan.
Several hours later, this photo appears on Facebook, posted by a journalist who criticizes how the police treat youth like Victor.
Oh yea, what was the photo assignment yesterday? Take 7 photos of struggle…and what a struggle this morning has been.