A third weekend of protests against police brutality in New York City saw some of the largest crowds to date, with calls for action only intensifying in the wake of the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta on Friday, and the killing of two black trans women, Riah Milton in Ohio and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells in Pennsylvania.
On Thursday evening, service industry workers gathered on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights to call for the abolition of the NYPD, and citywide reform in how communities, particularly communities of color, are policed. The march was a striking demonstration of the particular cultural moment in which these protests are occurring: The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the service industry, and has adversely affected both service workers and communities of color. As the crowd swelled on Franklin Avenue, near Eastern Parkway, organizers called for solidarity, and for widespread reform.
“When we say defund the police we mean what we say: defund the police,” one organizer said, “We are demanding full abolition.”
A former service worker turned activist, she further called for more systemic reform than what has been introduced and passed thus far, such as the repeal of 50-A.
“We want to imagine and build a future where everyone has housing, everyone has healthcare, everyone has education, there are no cops on our streets, and our people aren’t in prison because there are no prisons,” she called to a cheering crowd that then marched down Eastern Parkway and circled back to Barclays Center.
Friday night saw a wave of protests throughout the city, including a mobile bike protest that started at Grand Army Plaza and swelled to more than 1,000 cyclists, who rode through Brooklyn and blocked off roads. Bikes have become a visible symbol and tool both of protest, and police brutality.
On Saturday, swaths of activist groups took to the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, calling for sustained protest, abolishing the NYPD, and increased reform. Protesters from a variety of activist groups gathered in Union Square at 1pm, and Washington Square Park at 4.
In a show of the increasing intersectionality of the movement, groups such as Asians for Black Lives marched alongside NYC Revolutionaries and representatives from Black Lives Matter.
There was a visible police presence, particularly at the edges of Washington Square Park, but there were no visible confrontations. Protesters marched down Broadway, and over 5,000 walked onto the Brooklyn Bridge as helicopters circled overhead. Many demonstrators then joined concurrent protests in Brooklyn at Barclays Center, and gathered late into the night.
On Sunday morning, protesters in white could be seen pouring into the streets of Crown Heights, towards the Brooklyn Museum for a rally for Black Trans Lives. A steady stream of cyclists in white biked south on Franklin Avenue towards Eastern Parkway, as others gathered outside of bodegas and coffee shops, holding signs and wearing masks.
In the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to remove protections prohibiting discrimination against transgender patients on Friday, the four-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, and the violent killings of Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells, the event gained traction on social media. As transgender activists took to the steps of the Brooklyn Museum, calling attention to the systematic violence experienced by trans people, particularly trans people of color, over 12,000 people gathered on Eastern Parkway.
“I believe in our power,” one organizer said over a PA system, “I believe in Black Trans Power.”
The sea of protesters – almost entirely dressed in white – then headed up Eastern Parkway, towards Grand Army Plaza. As demonstrators waved pink, white, and blue flags and signs– the symbol of the trans rights movement– others chanted the names of trans men and women killed in recent years.
The tenor of the march was practically celebratory as the thousands of marchers continued north on Flatbush Avenue, towards Fort Greene Park. Some demonstrators played music, and others danced in the street. Once at the park, protesters gathered on the field, as organizers again called for systematic change, and increased awareness of the danger black trans women face every day.
Throughout Sunday evening, white-clad protesters could be seen throughout the streets of Brooklyn, and many stayed in Fort Greene Park through sunset. On blocks around the park, ad-hoc organizers spoke from stoops, while others played music and demonstrators danced in the streets. Those that stayed in the park gathered in small groups on the lawn, their white clothes striking against the park’s green grass. In a moment when many organizers were calling for sustained momentum and bemoaning the perceived flagging energy of both protests and media coverage of them, the visible solidarity of the all-white protest Sunday was a reminder of just how strong and widespread this movement continues to be.