CommunityFDL Main Blog

‘Millions March NYC’ Protest Against Police Brutality: Residents Explain Why They Marched

More than 50,000 people gathered at Washington Square Park on Dec. 13 for Millions March NYC, which was organized by 23-year-old Synead Nichols and 19-year-old Umaara Iynaas Elliott.

The march was organized in response to the recent lack of indictments against officers Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively. However, the organizers as well as the marchers also focused on police brutality and discrimination against people of color.

There were also protests nationwide from Oakland, Calif., to Washington D.C. for the National Day of Resistance. Citizens across the U.S. united to show solidarity.

For those in New York City, they marched from the park to West 32nd Street before turning around to 1 Police Plaza, which headquarters the New York Police Department.

Kendall Franklin, one of the people marching, decided to join the march because he wanted to see change.

“Whenever there is something wrong with the system, the only way you can change it is for everyone is to go out and stand against it. Too many times we complain about things and just give up on them, then there’s no change. That’s why I wanted to be a part of it,” Franklin said.

Even before the march headed to West 32nd Street, the demonstrators were energized and began chanting phrases such as “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” and “Whose city? Our city!” as NYPD helicopters flew overhead.

Roy Richardson works at the Brooklyn Community Center with youth. He said his work inspired him to joined the march to protest against the death of youths by police. In addition, he noted the rally filled him with spirit because of the number of people in attendance.

“I feel loved because it is amazing to see so many different races fighting for the same thing. It shows you not everyone is racist, you just have that select few. This today proves we’re changing a lot and we’re trying to let go of that racism,” Richardson said.

As the protesters marched, bystanders watched from stores or the street. Some simply stared while others expressed solidarity with the protesters. One man agreed with the message of the protesters and repeated the phrase “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” followed by “That’s right!” as he walked by the demonstrators.  Some folks raised their hands in solidarity with the protesters with a photo outside a G-Star Raw store being one example.

Officers, meanwhile, were stationed from the morning up until the late night and did not seem worried about the rally. One officer said the first part of “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go!” Another officer bobbed his head to the chants.

As the marchers approached 1 Police Plaza, officers placed barricades to prevent anyone from leaving or entering. As the night continued, 83 people were arrested including a journalist who was told her credentials were not valid because the NYPD did not approve them.

It is unknown how the New York Police Department views the scope of the protests, but it is safe to assume they are not happy with the demonstrations. In fact, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union of NYPD officers, asked its members to sign a declaration to bar New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito from attending their funerals. They cite frustration with both officials for not defending officers in the wake of the protests.

Patrick Lynch, head of the PBA, emphasized how the issue should shift away from police brutality and more about respecting police officers.

“We have to teach our children, our sons and our daughters, no matter what they look like, to respect New York City police officers, teach them to comply with New York City police officers even if they think it’s unjust,” Lynch said earlier this month.

Still, it is hard to deny the issue of police brutality as a Quinnipiac University poll found 73 percent of New York City residents viewed it as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem.

Equonna Mitchell said the protests were “a good thing” and the issue was more of the police against the community than a “black and white thing.”

“I have nephews, uncles, brothers. I don’t have any children of my own, but every child in this community is a child of my own. That’s why I’m here,” Mitchell said.

She, too, was inspired by the people demonstrating through the streets for change.

“It brings a tear to my eye to see everyone uniting together, all different kinds; I think we can make a change,” Mitchell said.

The protests did focus on the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but it was emphasized how police brutality affects all people and gender.

“I’m showing solidarity for justice for all victims, no matter their skin color,” Joshua James, another person marching, said.

There was some level of pessimism among folks protesting. James noted there were positives associated with the people marching, yet was “not optimistic things would change.”

Mami Vafaei was one person who felt more should be done to further the cause of the rally.

“I’m skeptical about a demonstration like this because people won’t quit their jobs and leave their lives. Unless we all strike in all aspects of capitalism, they will feel this for one day.” Vafaei said. “Still, it is good we show that we care.

Furthermore, Vafaei explained the feelings of comfort and discomfort in relation to joining a protest like the Millions March NYC. He stressed how important it was for police never to use their guns.

“It’s easy to not worry about the police,” Vafaei said. “But I’ve been profiled before and it’s a disgusting feeling.”

Jayleen Lopez said it was “great” people came out to the protest. The march, for her, was vital in conveying how important it was for people to come out to act.

“We are not here for pictures or it’s a trend, people are actually putting their lives on the line for the cause,” Lopez said.

The youth was one point Lopez said she was very proud of the youth and cited them as significant in pushing for action.

“I’m really proud of this generation and really proud of the kids marching with us. They can be my niece and nephew. I think that’s great they are getting influenced by this and not being influenced otherwise,” Lopez said.

The overall feeling, even among those who were cautious about change, was a sense of hope and progress.

“You got to come and support. You got to do things that are pissing you off. You got to fight for it,” Ed Larson, another protester, said.

Indeed, the organizers of the march said in a press statement that the march was not just a one-time event. Rather, it was a step in the overall movement to change the system for the better.

“Our work didn’t begin here and it won’t stop here. It will continue for as long as necessary. We are targeting policing practices and systemic problems that weren’t created overnight and won’t stop with one day of action,” Elliott said.

To view the demands of the protest, click here.

Previous post

Torture and the Destruction of the Human Being Shaker Aamer by the United States

Next post

Some notes on Eric Alterman's piece

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.