On the second day without curfew, as thousands gathered in Houston, Texas to mourn the death of George Floyd, protesters once again took to the streets of New York City yesterday to call for an end to police brutality. A movement that was initially marked by clashes with the NYPD has in its second week become more multifaceted, with increasingly strident demands and the support of politicians citywide. As of Tuesday morning, the NYPD reported that there had been no arrests Monday night.
At 2pm, City Council member Inez Barron and her husband, New York State Assembly member Charles Barron, held a press conference at One Police Plaza, the headquarters of the NYPD, to call for an end to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The CCRB, the oversight agency for the NYPD, they argued, allows for the protection of officers who commit crimes and use unnecessary force, and fails to protect the communities it is meant to serve. To replace it, they introduced legislation that would create an Elected Community Review Board, comprised of 21 members from 17 different communities. Communities that are particularly affected by police brutality would comprise the extra four seats.
The legislation introduced by the Barrons would also create an independent investigative body to assess instances of police violence, and would call for an independent prosecutor to try cases of police brutality. Amidst chants of “Black Lives Matter,” the couple called for defunding the police, and a re-design of the city’s safety system.
“The only solution is revolution,” Charles Barron said, standing alongside the families of those killed by police, including Juanita Young, the mother of Malcom Fergusun, who was killed by police in 2000.
Speakers from the African People’s Socialist Party, the Freedom Socialist Party, the Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board, and the Black Lives Matter movement pledged support for the bill and encouraged protesters to stay in the streets.
Around 1 p.m., a couple thousand students of all ages gathered at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park to rally the younger generation against police brutality and systemic racism.
“I’m here to tell you this is the last generation that’s gonna have to fight for black lives,” said Taylor Peters, an 18-year-old freshman at Spelman College. “This is the last generation that is gonna have to fight to stop police brutality.”
After consulting with some police officers at the park, the organizers guided the group along a designated route toward Borough Hall. About 10 students ranging in age from 16 to 25 took their turn on the megaphone, rallying their peers to register to vote, advocate for themselves, and get involved in other forms of advocacy.
“Sign petitions, open up your wallets and donate to bail funds,” Peters said. “Start conversations at home, because posting a black square does absolutely nothing.”
The student speakers hailed from all over the five boroughs. “I’ve been forced to walk through racist metal detectors just to enter school since I was 11 years old,” said Alex, a 16-year-old at Park Slope Collegiate, the population of which is heavily Black and Latino. “We aren’t allowed scissors, we aren’t allowed our privacy, we aren’t allowed to be students without being treated like criminals.”
Alex says that not much has changed in the 20 years that have passed since her parents protested against the police shooting of Amadou Diallo. “It has become clear that it does not matter who is in office, we will continue to be murdered, put in shitty schools, be forced into prisons and die because of poverty and poor living conditions as long as capitalism exists,” she said.
Though not yet of voting age, Alex says that voting only does so much good. Voting did not free people from slavery, nor did it win the U.S. independence from Britan, she said. Other speakers, however, took a more optimistic stance on going to the polls and one organizer went through the crowd helping older students register to vote.
Students in attendance held signs and yelled in approval as the organizers recited spoken word pieces, gave speeches and led the crowd in chants. A group of contemporary dancers followed up the speakers with a performance art piece set to a series of songs including several off Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly. The students then continued on toward City Hall, chanting alongside their classmates, armed with the hope that their generation will be more successful than their parents at ending systemic racism.
At 4pm, thousands of protesters began gathering in sweltering midday heat at Washington Square Park for what has now become a daily march through Manhattan. An organizer who was a former member of the armed forces led the rally, calling for love and nonviolent protest. “The two most important things are focus and faith,” he said, “Focus on the mission, which is dismantling the system, and faith that the people around us are together.”
He called on protesters to remain hopeful, and to take care of themselves as marches enter their third week. As the Barrons called on systematic change to the city and to the NYPD, he too highlighted that change will come from organization and political momentum. “Let’s take the lessons from this week and learn to organize,” he said, “Get your asses out there and vote.”
He was followed by a range of activists who have been instrumental in organizing marches in the past two weeks, including an ex-marine, several youth activists, and organizers from NYC Action Lab, who handed out free food to the crowd.
“I don’t hate individual police,” the ex-marine said, “I hate the system that they’re working in.”
Near 5:30pm, several young activists who have been organizing daily marches from Washington Square Park rallied the crowd to begin walking uptown to Gracie Mansion, where Mayor Bill de Blasio lives. An organizer said that the group had not had a single protester arrested in eight days, even as the city was under curfew and the police cracked down.
As the demonstrators marched uptown, the mood was largely celebratory. Demonstrators and organizers turned chants into songs, and buskers and musicians joined the crowd as accompaniment. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, Fuck 12,” the protesters sang, dancing to a drum beat, calling for the abolition of the NYPD.
As the city grew dark, the group neared Gracie Mansion and halted in the street. A day of peaceful protests was ended with speeches by the organizers, and calls for Mayor de Blasio to defund the police, as the Minneapolis City Council voted to do there. The organizers stated that they would continue to march until systematic change was implemented.
Photos by Emmy Freedman (color) and Erin O’Brien (black and white).