When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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Helicopters Symbol Icon

Helicopters symbolize law enforcement’s presence and power in the U.S. Patrisse first mentions helicopters when describing the many ways that police surveilled Van Nuys when she was a child, noting that they were like vultures hovering above them all night and day, looking for their next prey. When Patrisse was older and in the process of starting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement while living in a village for artists of color in Central LA, helicopters hovering above her house foretold the violent police raid to come. Helicopters appeared yet again when Patrisse was leading a massive protest in Beverly Hills, signifying that police could attack her and the other protestors at any time. Together, then, helicopters represent Patrisse’s argument that Black Americans live in constant fear of being racially profiled and unjustly targeted by police.

Helicopters Quotes in When They Call You a Terrorist

The When They Call You a Terrorist quotes below all refer to the symbol of Helicopters. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the St. Martin's Griffin edition of When They Call You a Terrorist published in 2020.
Chapter 4 Quotes

The groups of kids they first called gangs were really young people who were friends, they were my friends, and they took a defensive posture against what looked and felt like an actual advancing army that came in on foot and came in police cars for which the county had appropriated ever more dollars to patrol us with. And worse than the cars, most frightening of all, were the helicopters overhead. At all hours of day and night they hovered above us, shone lights into the midnight, circling and surveilling, vultures looking for the best next prey.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker)
Related Symbols: Helicopters
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Police, the literal progeny of slave catchers, meant harm to our community, and the race or class of any one officer, nor the good heart of an officer, could change that. No isolated acts of decency could wholly change an organization that became an institution that was created not to Protect but to catch, control and kill us.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker)
Related Symbols: Helicopters
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Immediately, the police surround the three of us, who are not armed and who are dressed like three people who were sitting in their house and planning out their day, which is what we had been doing when we first heard the helicopters.

Ten, maybe a dozen, cops force us at gunpoint […] into the courtyard in front of our cottage while the others swarm past us and enter my home like angry hornets or a sudden airborne plague.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), JT
Related Symbols: Helicopters
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
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Helicopters Symbol Timeline in When They Call You a Terrorist

The timeline below shows where the symbol Helicopters appears in When They Call You a Terrorist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: Magnitude and Bond
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...of one another against the army of police officers on foot, in cars, and in helicopters that surveil them all day and night.  (full context)
Chapter 12: Raid
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
It is summer 2013, and police helicopters are flying above Patrisse’s cottage in St. Elmo’s. Patrisse and Mark Anthony have two cottages... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...BLM activist JT, and his daughter hide in a corner of the cottage as the helicopters get louder. They aren’t sure if they are actively being monitored or just being reminded... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...rather than due to poor training and racism. JT and Patrisse discuss this as the helicopters hover, and they know that even if the police aren’t there for Patrisse, they’re there... (full context)
Chapter 13: A Call, a Response
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...having brunch on Rodeo Drive that it’s time for them to confront police violence. As helicopters hover, she asks them to remember Trayvon and all of the dead, to know that... (full context)