Four years ago, on a cold moonlit night, the cycle of injustice was breathing without difficulty and roaming the streets just as it is today. The noise on the street emerged from the corner in front of my barbershop where entrepreneurs operated their business. Approaching them, hand extended, I dapped them up before heading inside.

The Barbershop’s door creaked as I pushed it open with my shoulder. “When is this nigga gonna fix this door,” I thought as I met the bright lights and crowd of conversation inside. When I nudged the door closed, my barber, Devin, said “I got two ahead of you brotha, it’ll be quick I know you gotta get out around 8“. Normally, since I come at our scheduled time, this would’ve irritated me; however, today I wasn’t in a rush so I sat down.

Inside were six regular non-customers there strictly for the conversation and a few others who sat waiting to get their haircut. Standing was a guy that left prison a week ago so he was the center of the conversation. While I was thankful to see him free, I wasn’t in the mood for talking that night so I split my attention between listening in and writing poems.

Amidst conversation, red and blue flashes pierced the window that displays the street to the right of the shop. Police drove by often so I didn’t think much of it; however, those lights weren’t moving. Every face in the barbershop read the same thought, “someone is getting pressed out”. The police came to do their job; however, their job contradicted the job of the entrepreneurs.

Like the cops, the entrepreneurs were there to feed their families. However, unlike the cops, selling drugs was all the entrepreneurs knew how to do. Their reality was birthed from their parents doing the same, attending schools riddled with adults that hate them, and the unavailability of resources made available elsewhere. Regardless of those facts, in the minds of many, what the entrepreneurs do is wrong. However, to us, it isn’t.

Then, another set of lights came beaming in. “Another police car? Man, they annoying” I thought. Both the conversation and the clippers stopped as we heard an aggressively toned conversation become a shouting match. We couldn’t understand the argument; however, the cops made it a habit to harass entrepreneurs so we knew what was happening. To confirm our assumption, we went outside.

When the door opened our eyes panned from left to right. Everyone who owned a cell phone had it out, verbal attacks were directed at the cops, and lastly, Tae stood with his back against the wall. One policeman stood in front of him while two others stood to his right. Cops were screaming at Tae and he was screaming back. They wanted to search Tae; however, unlike some, he understood that without a warrant or probable cause he had the choice of no, so he said no. Tae and the other entrepreneurs on the corner are experts so when they saw the cops coming they hid their drugs. Nonetheless, Tae’s rights made no difference to these seemingly cold-hearted cops. According to them, their ask was a demand.

After a few minutes of arguing passed, in an attempt to turn him around and cuff him, a cop grabbed Tae by his right arm. Left-arm free, Tae punched him, hitting him on his right cheekbone. Tae took his fighter’s stance and prepared for a brawl because to him, and the rest of us in the community, this wasn’t just a fight to avoid prison, it was a fight in the defense of our rights. The cop stumbled back with a bloody cheek and fell to the ground. The power of the punch froze the other two cops, but they soon reacted once Tae’s attacks targeted them.

Tae threw a right hook that one cop rolled under and countered with a punch to Tae’s ribs causing him to stumble. As he was stumbling, he grabbed the shirt of that cop and hit him with a hard uppercut to knock him down. As this was occurring, the cop on the ground began to climb the wall in an attempt to stand again. With only one cop left standing, Tae saw this as his opportunity to escape.

Although the cop left standing had now pulled his gun out, Tae still pushed past him and took off without a care to what direction he was heading. However, he didn’t get far before that cop shot two bullets into his leg. Luckily, those shots sent him to the ground before more shots made contact. All three cops jumped on him, two began to beat him while the other forced Tae’s hands behind his back to cuff him. The streets were in an uproar.

Women fell to their knees while holding their chest as they gasped for air in between their wails, men held back those wanting to strike back, and children sat with their faces covered in tears and snot. There was one baby girl that sat with here rattler in hand as she cried so hard that I thought she was going to pass out. Screams for justice erupted because, once again, they shattered our peace exposing our vulnerability.

Although we knew the cops were wrong, we couldn’t stop them. An attempt to intervene would’ve been met with either cuffs or bullets. People recorded the entire incident, and although it displayed how the cops abused their power, our belief in the system had diminished to where many of us knew it wouldn’t matter. The video went public.

Charged for the possession of a weapon and resisting arrest, the court sent Tae to prison and declared his bruises and wounds as justified.

Those policemen still drive through the area, the recently freed Tae still hangs on that same corner, and I still get my haircut at that same barbershop. It’s a continuous cycle where one day it was Tae and the next it may be me because to some cops, we’re all the same.