Daniel Arnold Photographs New York’s Largest March Against Police Violence

Street photographer Daniel Arnold walked backwards through New York’s massive Millions March. This is what he saw.

Photographer Daniel Arnold
December 15, 2014
millionsmarchnyc

I ran into the march head-on around 28th and 6th, at mid-afternoon. I walked through the middle, and the crowd didn't even slightly disperse until 5th ave and 8th street. Wall-to-wall people, barely room to lift my arms. I would guess it took me about an hour and a half, maybe a little longer. I've been in Times Square on New Years Eve, shot several Halloweens, and a handful of the wild summer parades, but I've never seen such a dense crowd stretch so far. I really could barely move. And to go unnoticed walking backwards through 50,000 people, jammed to the seams and shouting in a narrow passageway, was a supernatural experience.

My head went into an altered focus where I separated from my intellectual awareness of things, lost context and the whole plot, and saw it from a thousand years away. The movements of people. The consequences of mass dissatisfaction. Times when we snap out of our (necessary) trances of self-importance and say "Uhhhh, wait, what the fuck is going on here? The rules are made up BY US and they don't make any sense, soooo, what are we doing? Why is it like this? Let's just stop and change it. Right?" That sentiment usually falls apart a million times before/if it gets anywhere, but in the moment that it's being expressed, freedom is actualized. I mean that in a very practical way. Usually, the idea of freedom is a trick to get you through the day without losing your mind over fear and choices and so on. In reality it is governed by forces you can't touch and will likely never bother to understand, and it can be taken away arbitrarily over nothing. If you don't have money, forget it. But when you go in the street and walk where the cars are supposed to go and scream, when you break that basic mundane rule of our lives, the world lights up in new ways. For a second you can put your hands on what your life actually is and realize that it's totally made up. Then you think things like, "Whoa, it's so crazy that people starve to death when there's a giant room full of 9,000 different kinds of food, every eight blocks." Or even simpler, "Whoa, I can bite a stranger's sandwich out of their hand or throw all the clothes off a rack at The Gap and leave."

"To go unnoticed walking backwards through 50,000 people, jammed to the seams and shouting in a narrow passageway, was a supernatural experience."
"There was energy drummed up Saturday that you can't see in movies or get in pills."

Anyway, I think that flash of recognition of freedom and agency—boiled up by heart-wrench, and frustrated rage, and incredulity—drove the general sentiment in the street on Saturday. Being in the middle of it with loud music in headphones gave me a momentary understanding that the whole Earth and everything that's ever been on it is one single, continuously disastrous organism, and you can see the whole story of everything in one face. To put it less insanely, there was energy drummed up Saturday that you can't see in movies or get in pills, because it's impossible to properly describe or recreate anything that true. It's an in-brain exclusive. Pictures can only hint.

It was awesome. I hope to hell it accomplishes something.

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Daniel Arnold Photographs New York’s Largest March Against Police Violence