“The protest violence was caused by outside agitators”– municipal governments across the U.S.
“Antifa anarchists are being bussed in from other cities for the purpose of looting and destroying property”– Rightwing Talking Heads
“Peaceful protests were infiltrated by secret police and white nationalists”– Leftwing Talking Heads
“This whole fucking place is a tinderbox.” Josefina Jesús-María explains to me as we hurriedly jaywalk across city intersections. “Centuries of systemic racism have been painted-over; whitewashed and ignored. And it would have happened again, George Floyd would have been another forgotten name, but we’ve got this explosive cocktail of coronavirus fatigue and media fear-mongering and intolerance from the White House and I think all of this was needed to get everyone’s undivided attention. We needed a president like Trump in order to hit rock bottom. Hopefully, we can only go up from here.”
We’re heading south on Orange Avenue, through downtown Orlando, marching with Black Lives Matter through the financial district, empty except for the dinghy dives lining the gutters, offering a discounted happy-hour ahead of the city-wide curfew. Duly noted.
Josefina Jesús-María, with her hair henna-dyed like a Viking Valkyrie in matching red pants, is no stranger to protest. During her radical student days in Chicago, she was active with the Puerto Rican Liberation Movement and known as “José the Heart-Eater” (for her love of stewed chicken hearts (we’re told)). At one point, Josefina was given charge of a counter-intelligence operation, spying on the spies, searching for embedded FBI agents and snitches within the movement’s ranks. She explains, “Big Brother was everywhere. COINTELPRO was a J Edgar legacy. I mean, the Feds were not just spying on MLK and Malcolm X, but causing mischief within the ranks. And COINTELPRO did LSD mind-control experiments on hippies, like your mama and Charlie Manson and Sirhan Sirhan, just maybe not at the same time. But, listen man, Manson’s ‘Helter Skelter’ race war concept was probably J Edgar’s idea in the first place. And, back in Chicago, they were definitely watching our every move.”
How did a girl born in the jungles of Mexico become the counter-intelligence generalissimo for the Puerto Rican Liberation Movement in Chicago? “My family has been flushing-out agitators since Hernán Cortés came to town with his blue-eyed-donkey-fucking-güeros.”
“No ‘ombre, the Spanish Conquistadores were blue-eyed.” Josefina Jesús-María clarifies. “And then my great-uncle, Tio Jimmy, he was the greatest mole-hunter in the history of the CIA: James Jesús Angleton.”
“Ha! James Jesus Angleton was as Mexican as taco salad.” I say, incredulous. “Not to mention a paranoid who crippled the agency for decades with his communist witch-hunt.”
Josefina ignores me for a moment before muttering, “Your face is a taco salad.”
“Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the State”
James Jesus Angleton
Did she ever find COINTELPRO infiltrating her ranks of P.R. liberators?
Josefina explains she had a counter-intelligence team of five: a couple of Puerto Ricans who were specialized in lip-reading and salsa dancing, a Dominican who was an expert in disguises, and a lady from Northern Ireland who was handy with demolitions. Jo eventually came to suspect each of the other four members as being police informants. “Before I told the senior brass, I told those rat-fucks to get the fuck out of Chicago. If I ever saw them again I would pluck out their eyes and cut-off their genitals and make a mofongo I would feed their mothers. After that, man, I needed a break. I laid low in Indiana and sold corn-field real estate under the name Mary Merryweather. Those were some dark days, Victor, but I learned from my mistakes and I can sniff the stink of a fink from a mile away. And, man, this place here is dense with bad actors.”
Here: downtown Orlando city hall.
“Tio Jimmy…” Jo summons James Jesus Angleton again, “Used to say ‘a good mole doesn’t keep fucking receipts, dude. There isn’t some paper-trail. You need to use intuition as the blow-torch to smoke the snakes out of the grass.’ Look around, Vic. At any given protest, you have ten archetype characters: the wronged, the wrong-doers, the supporters of the wronged, the supporters of the wrong-doers, the Establishment (‘big brother, etc’) represented by their agents in the field, the Anti-Establishment (‘anarchists, etc’) represented by random agents of chaos, the press, casual onlookers, opportunists and voyeurs. Grab anyone here by the ears and I will tell you their story.”
Josefina pointed at a protestor standing ahead of us. “Exhibit A: take this chica with the punk-rock backpack and the artistic protest sign. Who she be?”
Well… I examine the subject, focusing on her sign, an artful portrayal of the current president blended with Hitler and Satan. “Is she Antifa?”
“She’s not Antifa!” Josefina is outraged. “My toe clippings have more Antifa than this chick. She isn’t Antifa. She’s Fa! She’s a Satanic Fascist whose MAGA hat must have blown off in the wind. But good try, Victor.”
She scans the audience and finds a solitary white man standing on the periphery. “Exhibit B: this creepo with the mustache and a mystery sack from Target. Who he be?”
“Easy.” I examined this new subject. “He and Mother wanted to support the cause. That’s Mother in the plastic bag.”
“What?” Josefina tilted her chin to get a better look at the guy. “You think he hacked his mama into pieces and carried her here? Nope. You’re wrong again. This dude is police. Look at that mustache. But he must be a rookie. He doesn’t seem comfortable, does he? Like he’s hiding a nightstick up his butt. He came here dressed like a Patagonian gaucho because it was the only ethnic looking thing he has in his wardrobe. He’s either OPD, or if he’s a Fed, he’s Bureau of Prisons. He is a provocation specialist. You know what’s in the Target bag, Victor? Batteries and dog shit. He’s going to incite violence by throwing batteries and dog shit at cop cars then disappear as the rest of us get assaulted with billy-clubs and pepper-spray, all in the name of Law & Order.”
Josefina points at another solitary man standing ahead of the gaucho, “Exhibit C. Last chance Vic, who’s the Goth in the black veil?”
The veil was part chainmail, part Covid-19 protective mask. He had protective elbow pads. The only non-black accessory he had was a green bag holstered to his hip. If anyone looked like a secret agent, it was this guy. Which is why he must not have been an agent of any sort.
“He’s a Live-Action Role-Player. His LARP name is ‘MacDye the Cold Sword’, but his enemies call him ‘Magpie the Cold Sore’. In his green satchel he carries dragon stones and potions to ward-off evil Orc spells. He’s checking his phone for a text from his step-mom when she’s done grocery shopping and needs to pick him up.”
Josefina squints at MacDye, nodding as she assesses my evaluation. “Corectomundo, Victor. Good call on the step-mom. He wouldn’t be as jumpy if he was waiting for a biological mother. You’ve advanced to the bonus round.”
We listen to the Black Lives Matter speeches. There are eloquent speakers with painful & wince-inducing stories. Unfortunately, the open-mic concept allows too many white people to stand before the megaphone and provide their “take” which is painful & wince-inducing for the wrong reasons.
“When shit goes sideways, Victor, every one of these pale-assed güeros better be between us and the police. Present company – you – included.” Josefina punches me in the chest to ensure I am paying attention. “You all have a white privilege force-field. Police will hesitate to swing a club at a white man. Mira! See these militant bicyclists flexing behind the BLM speakers? And over here, behind us… OPD squad cars blocking traffic and sealing us in. They’ve outflanked us already, Victor. You call this a peaceful protest just cos the protestors are peaceful, but look at the police militarizing their Roman phalanx. No ‘ombre, this is how it happens. Everyone wanting to make a difference is peaceful, but the police got their snipers in the palm trees, they got their mustachioed provocateurs waiting for the right moment to throw batteries, and meanwhile, there are these punk-ass fascists with backpacks full of fireworks they want to detonate and create chaos. It’s these fucking agitators who infiltrate and get shit medieval. Even the suburban white kids are on the payroll; they aren’t smashing their skateboards into the storefront glass of the tailors and haberdasheries and cheese mongers and wine cellars and mayonnaise churners cos they’re hungry or want a smart smoking jacket but cos that’s what’s going to upset the white folk watching at home, seeing their craft mayonnaise store burn down. And the police will beat back the protestors, but let the looters loot. And why? Optics. There is no better way to derail the message of peace than inciting violence. The stamping out of the revolution will be televised.”
But not tonight. Between the rain and the looming curfew, the crowd thinned and scattered before nightfall.