Hundreds of people marched through the streets of New York City last night, halting traffic and chanting throughout midtown Manhattan to protest the police shootings that killed three black men in Minnesota, Louisiana and Brooklyn. Over a dozen arrests were made, according to police.
Starting at 5 p.m. Thursday evening, about 500 people gathered in Union Square for a rally organized by Stop Mass Incarceration. The crowd then marched down 14th Street and up 5th Avenue at around 5:45 p.m.
Protests continued throughout the city for several hours, moving up toward Penn Station and eventually Times Square. Many participants live-streamed the march online, echoing the stream that Diamond Reynolds started after a police officer shot and killed her boyfriend, Philando Castile, 32, during a traffic stop outside of Minneapolis on Wednesday evening.
Reynolds’s video showed her boyfriend just after he’d been shot, dying in the front seat of their car as Reynolds calmly narrated what happened before she started recording. A second recording taken during the live-stream shows that Castile was shot in front of Reynold’s daughter, who is later heard comforting her mom in the backseat of a police cruiser.
The shooting from the day before, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was also filmed. In that video, Alton Sterling, 37, is arrested for selling CDs near a convenience store and, while being subdued by police, is shot in the chest by an officer. Both videos went viral, inciting a huge social media outcry. In a third shooting
, in Brooklyn on Monday, an off-duty police officer killed Delrawn Small, 37.
Mia Cooper, a 25-year-old waitress from New Jersey, said she was moved by the videos she saw and decided to take action action and join the protests when they neared Penn Station after she got off work.
“I wanted to do something because I feel like a lot of times we just talk about it on social media and nobody really does anything and we just forget,” Cooper said. After adding that a friend of hers had been shot and killed by the police a couple years ago, she asked, “How many times does something need to happen before something does change?”
As Cooper pointed out, last night’s protest was simply the latest in a long series of actions taken against police brutality as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Demonstrations held, for example, after the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Eric Garner followed similar routes, beginning at Union Square and then moving up 5th Avenue before hitting heavy police activity.
Darren Mack, 41, of Brooklyn said while he has “lost faith in the system” and its ability to serve justice to Castile and Sterling, he believes these types of demonstrations are still important.
“[We should] continue to make noise—keep the names of the slain in the media,” Mack said. “But we also have to look on a local level at public officials, make them take a stand on issues like gun control.”
Dozens of local NYC officials made statements about the shootings, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said he was “reeling” after hearing the news.
“No parent of color, or parent of a child of color in this country, can watch that and not be afraid,” de Blasio said. “You fear for the life of a child when you see a situation like this, because it’s inexplicable. That’s the problem here.”
While a protest in Dallas was marred by a shooting that ended in the death of police officers, an NYPD spokesperson told Bedford + Bowery last night that “most are protesting peacefully here in New York.” Although he did not yet have arrest statistics available at 10:45 p.m. Thursday evening, he confirmed that “over a dozen protesters have been arrested.”
Twitter users reported that there were several arrests in Times Square after protesters brought things in the area to a standstill by staging an hours-long sit-in. From around 8 p.m. on, demonstrators stared down police armed with zip-ties and riot gear in the square while a pre-taped message played over a loudspeaker ordered protesters to disperse under threat of arrest.