In the weeks leading up to a typical Fourth of July weekend, the streets of densely populated cities like San Francisico, L.A. and New York are usually filled with celebratory signs of the season: grilling food, waving flags and the most “patriotic” thing of all — fireworks. These colorful, bold and explosive bouts of fun can be heard well into the night, causing joy for those setting them off and an extremely rough night for those who want to go to bed early.
But in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, it seems like people’s patience has finally worn thin. In New York City alone, total firework complaints went up by nearly 4,000 percent in just the first half of June. The Bay Area also saw a reported uptick in the fiery celebrations, with citizens comparing the nightly displays to “bombs going off.”
So, should you call the cops on your neighbors?
“But why not?” you might ask. “I know who’s setting off the fireworks.”
But do you?
This year’s skyrocketing firework data has led citizens to some very different conclusions. The first: Bored kids, empty streets, crowded houses and cheap fireworks due to cancelled events have led to the motherlode of all equations for sleepless nights in every one of the NYC boroughs. School is cancelled; why not blow shit up? The second conclusion, as equally mysterious as it is seemingly untenable, is the prevailing Twitter conspiracy theory that the government is instructing cops and other service officials to set off nightly fireworks as a way to enact COINTELPRO sleep warfare against the citizens who participated in the massive Black Lives Matter protests.
What started as a viral thread quickly mutated on Twitter and other social media platforms into an active, very real fear from Black and Brown residents. Why? Because for every completely fabricated conspiracy theory about government involvement in white neighborhoods, there is a documented and extremely illegal project enacted by the FBI to destabilize Black, Muslim and Indigineous liberation movements. In the wake of a world destabilized by a half-hearted government response to a virus that disproportionately ravaged Black and Brown communities, citizens are rightly afraid. And with the Black Lives Matter protests ending in rubber bullets, beatings, arrests and more, it makes sense that the next line of political revolutionaries are worried about the same tactics that almost took down the activists that came before them.
But conspiracy theory or not, what can you do about getting your beauty sleep?
Here’s the deal: I get it. I, too, live in a heavily populated area. I, too, generally dislike being woken up by what sounds like an explosive second coming of Christ. But you know what your neighbors dislike? Potentially being shot by an overeager police force responding to your 911 call.
I never, and I mean truly never, thought that I’d be writing this so soon after every white person in Brooklyn finally decided to care about Black people, but nonetheless, here we are. Do not call the cops on your neighbors.
“But I’m tired. How am I going to get a great night of sleep with either ragamuffins on the street or police trying to punish me for my blackout Instagram post?”
I have the perfect response: Shut the fuck up. If anything has been brought into the mainstream this year, it’s the fact that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by police brutality and violence. We’ve filmed it. We’ve proved it. We’ve marched for it. So if your first response to a week of interrupted sleep is to turn around and call the very same cops you marched to defund last week, we have much bigger problems.
What to do instead?
Here are some options to try every time you’re tempted to be an asshole and call the police on your neighbors. First, maybe just say hi to your neighbors and move on. At most, fireworks happen during one season every year. For every night you can’t sleep, I’m almost certain there’s a veteran who’s having a much worse time than you. Secondly, research COINTELPRO. There are hundreds of thousands of public records proving just how deep corruption and racism runs into the heart and soul of America’s policing, including actual policies hiding behind a facade of “conspiracies.” Dismissing some conspiracies without acknowledging the fear behind them is the worst way to support the movement.
I mean, come on guys, we just had Juneteenth.
Thirdly, donate to a freedom fund or black trans organization. Protests are still going on around the country, and plenty of activists need your financial support. Fourth, contact Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and call on him to fire the police officers that killed Breonna Taylor. It’s been over 100 days since she was shot to death in her home, and only one officer has been fired from his post.
Finally, follow the lead of every other responsible millennial in the city: Take one to ten incredibly shaky Instagram stories of the fireworks and then mind your fucking business.
I promise you, this will lead to a happier and safe Fourth of July for all.