And from beyond the intersection, further down, hundreds more are arriving. They all abruptly turn in unison and head back down the main road at a slow jog. Suddenly they are waving flags and four-metre-long vinyl protest banners. Before I can wrap my mind around what I’m seeing, more signs are quickly being pulled from backpacks and shoulder bags and displayed. The people continue to jog surrounded by black-shirted guides moving them along and directing them forward.
Because so many things are happening so rapidly it’s difficult for me to make sense of what is actually unfolding. Then the camera catches the apartments lining each side of the road, and on the balconies above I see people clapping heartily. It’s only then, as the protesters head on down the road and filming ends that I realize I’ve been watching the beginning of an amazingly co-ordinated demonstration.
What a performance! Like a magician’s illusion: while I was focusing on one spot, the real action was happening in another, and when I turned my attention there, the action had already moved elsewhere. A few seconds ago people were standing and walking in the street as usual, and what happened evolved so quickly that my mind couldn’t quite keep up with it. People appeared out of thin air. Out of nowhere, banners and flags were unfurled and hoisted, black shirts wondrously materialized. It was breathtaking, the best magic show that I’ve ever seen.
I was told that, right after the demonstrators cleared the first road, they coursed up and down adjacent streets. Fifteen minutes later when police and soldiers arrived, hundreds of people dispersed in all directions, vanishing as quickly as they had appeared. As far as I know there was not a single arrest—a next-to-impossible feat given that police and soldiers are stationed everywhere. These days it’s almost impossible to assemble a group of five people before the soldiers are on them. Later we were able to see similar recordings of other protests that materialized in many other neighbourhoods in much the same way.
In my opinion, this film should win an Academy Award for Best Choreography. Generation Z, you’re simply the best! Thank you so much.
P.S. After finishing writing what’s above, I stepped out onto my balcony to look around and noticed someone whom I know, apparently loitering at one end of our street. I turned my attention to the other end and saw a couple of guys standing in front of a food vendor, but something about their alert postures caught my attention. I immediately had a feeling that something was going on.
Next I heard people leaving the safe house in the apartment below, but they were outside my field of vision. Farther off, at the top of the street, I saw a figure walking toward me whom I definitely recognized, someone I fondly refer to as “the Mouse.” He’s been very busy in our quarter from the first day of the coup, and is one of the few active protesters who hasn’t been arrested or fled. I love watching him because, like a mouse, he moves his eyes left and right without turning his head, and his feet are always in motion. He stopped at the safe house below me, but from my balcony I could only see his shoulder.
Then from the apartment next to mine, I saw one of the leaders of our local protesters exit and go down to join the others in front of the safe house. It became obvious what was taking place. It has now become very dangerous for them to have indoor meetings because all too often the police and soldiers somehow come to know, probably through informers, where they are. So rather than risk being trapped in an apartment or on a rooftop, they’ve obviously decided that it’s safer to meet in the street, where they have their own security posted far enough away so that if soldiers appear they’ll have sufficient warning and time to flee. After 15 minutes the meeting was over and everyone disappeared.