“Hog-spitting – not just spitting,” Tonja Bulley emphatically clarifies.
“He just hog-spit at my baby. He hog-spit. He took everything out of him and spit in my daughter’s face. She is a minor. That’s the absolute worst thing you can do, when you spit on another human being. She was just saying 'No justice, no peace' and he hog-spit (at) and then smacked my baby. At that time — there was no more being peaceful.”
Bulley and her daughter, Brandy were released from jail last night after being arrested by police outside the St. Louis Rams game the previous day after a violent clash with football fans.
As the Rams were completing an impressive 28-26 victory over the Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks, Tonja and Brandy were outside the stadium participating in a non-violent protest calling for justice for Mike Brown, and the immediate arrest of his killer, Darren Wilson.
Tonja, known affectionately to her friends as “Tiny," continued:
“We were peacefully protesting. We were saying something that this big, tall White man did not like. He should’ve been locked up, and they did not lock him up. One slapped my daughter and another hit her with his fist. Another woman threw her drink on me – and I retaliated. I’m not coming out to fight, but I have the right to protect myself.”
Tiny would eventually get punched and knocked to the ground. “I got hit by a couple people. I have a mark behind my ear.” She was initially charged with two felonies for throwing punches after the initial altercation. No violent Rams fans were arrested.
She says the racial double-standards were apparent: “We had a right to protest without anybody interfering. When the White people protest, there are no problems. Nobody is spitting on them. When we try to do it, the media goes around and acts like we started (the fighting.) We did not start it. I peacefully protest every day in Ferguson, and it’s never a problem.”
In Ferguson, Tiny and Brandy have been protesting since Brown was killed in August, and have become unofficial members of the Lost Voices–a spirited and well-known group of young leaders who led Sunday’s protest.
On almost any given night, Lost Voices can be found marching up and down West Florissant Avenue or outside the Ferguson police station. A recent protest at a St. Louis Cardinals playoff game remained peaceful and without incident—despite of onslaught of “Dar-ren Wil-son” chants by Cardinals fans.
Protests were held both inside and outside of the Rams game on Monday, September 13th without any physical altercations.
Neither experience fully prepared protesters for Sunday. Said Tiny:
“When the fans were walking around and saying ‘I am Darren Wilson,' okay, yes, you have that right to say you are Darren Wilson. I don’t like it, but you have that right. But you can’t spit in our face. You can’t hit us. That’s when you cross the line. That’s when I know that we are right about what we’re doing. When you start acting ugly, the truth is being revealed.”
Sunday’s protest was predominantly led by women of color. Besides the arrests of Tiny and Brandy, protest leadership roles were assumed by Cheyenne Green and Dasha Jones, two young Black women who are members of Lost Voices.
Thought there were also White protesters involved, the Rams game clash was widely reported by mainstream media with images that both blamed the protestors for the violence and failed to provide any analysis of the gender dynamics at hand. As @BlackManUSA tweeted, “Where are all the White people who were mad at Ray Rice?”
It’s an important question, considering that at a time when the NFL has had its most heightened awareness of domestic violence against women, large White men can spit on and punch Black women in the face outside of a football game without consequence or retribution, and the only ones arrested are women of color. When the only times sports media seems interested in violence against women is when it comes at the hands of Black men, women lives become reduced to props in favor of an all too familiar narrative aimed at criminalizing men of color. Does the NFL or ESPN really love Janay Palmer? Or do they just love hating Ray Rice more?
The lack of police will to arrest any violent White male fans mirrors the recent muted coverage of Oscar Pistorius’s murder conviction, ESPN’s famous two-day omission of Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault charge, and a still barely-known story of baseball player Brian Giles, who smacked his fiancée on video years before Ray Rice.
Less symbolically, the selective arrests of Tiny and Brandy mirror the same kind of racial profiling that led to Mike Brown’s death in the first place.
At both Rams games protests, giant banners with the words “Black Lives Matter” were visible for all to see – including stadium police. Perhaps another banner is needed specifying Black women’s lives.
As Tiny closed our late-night interview, “We shouldn’t have to feel this way. We shouldn’t have to come to violence. That shows how much hate you have in your life.”
Right after the protest, 19-year old Dasha from Lost Voices added with misty eyes: “I saw the true colors of our country today. There’s still so much racism. And it’s going to take a minute, but me, I know I’m going to get it done.
"My daughter is not going to grow up in this world at all whatsoever. I’m giving my all, my life for it.”