WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Harwich High School graduate was among the protesters arrested in Washington, D.C. Monday to clear the streets so President Trump could walk to a nearby church for a photo op.
Tyler Nickerson, a graduate student at American University's School of Public Affairs, said he was one of 350 to 400 protesters who were peacefully marching up 14th Street when police pushed them into a nearby residential neighborhood and began advancing. In an email Tuesday, Nickerson said police forcefully plucked protesters from the front line and used chemical irritants on the crowd. After a five-hour standoff, he volunteered to be taken into custody and was held for more than eight hours before being charged with violating curfew, “basically a slap on the wrist.”
Nickerson, the son of Harwich residents Erika and Tim Nickerson, said Monday was his third day protesting in solidarity with the Black community following the death of George Floyd. Monday was initially the least violent day of protests, he said. On the previous days protests were peaceful until nightfall, but later resembled a “war zone” due to “a few destructive protesters and extreme measures of aggression taken by the Secret Service.”
“It's not about my story as a protester, it's about the community working toward a common goal against police brutality, which is a nightmare we hear about all the time through the media's projection of it,” Nickerson said in the email. “To live and experience this protest through the stories and lives of those who have a story to tell is the greatest aspect I’ve taken away thus far. Everyone in this fight has a story and you just need to educate yourself and learn about people who have a unique story to tell. Stand up for the voiceless and advocate for human rights of all people against abuses of power.”
He said he had little prior history of political activism but was motivated to get involved now by “centuries of systematic oppression and abuse of power by the U.S. government and police officers who are protected within this institution, to show my commitment to change and reform police tactical training and militaristic strategies, and to advocate for officers receiving heightened workplace penalties to decrease instances of excessive force and unarmed murder of Black men and women, and to oppose the Trump administration who seeks to 'dominate' 'lowlifes and losers' and 'thugs' who are peacefully protesting and marching on the nation’s capital.”
In a Facebook post, his mother said she was proud that Nickerson was standing up for what he believed in.
“I do worry about his safety everyday but know he is a man with strong convictions and believes all humans should have the same rights. My hope that he is part of the change that has to happen,” she wrote.