Atlantic Yards

‘Die-in,’ arrests at Barclays Center as Prince William and Kate attend Nets game

December 9, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hundreds of protesters hold "die-in" at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Photo by Mary Frost

Eric Garner ‘Royal Shut Down’ ties up traffic, mall

Inside Barclays Center on Monday night, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, rapper Jay Z and Beyonce enjoyed a game of basketball between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Outside the arena, hundreds of protesters chanted “I can’t breathe” and “Shut it down!” as they disrupted traffic and collapsed onto the cold plaza for a giant die-in.

As a phalanx of police officers gazed ahead impassively, some of the protesters called them “murderers” and “KKK.” Others made a distinction between “good cops” and “bad cops.”

The crowd was demonstrating against last week’s grand jury decision not to indict a police officer for the chokehold death of Staten Islander Eric Garner, and against other deaths of black people after confrontations with police.

These most recently include Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer after a confrontation in Ferguson; 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by a cop who thought his toy gun was real; and Akai Gurley, shot in a dark Brooklyn stairwell by rookie police officer Peter Liang. Liang said his gun went off accidentally.

Inside the arena after the game, Prince William and Kate entered center court to greet the crowd and shake hands with Nets officials.

Outside, police sergeants radioed for bullhorns and flex cuffs as reports came in that a large crowd of protesters had invaded the second floor of Target, at the nearby Atlantic Center mall.

“We shut down the mall!” demonstrators tweeted.

Some protesters called for the royal couple to join the protests. They apparently had other plans, however, deigning to stay inside while cops cleaned up the plaza near the transit hub. An NYPD spokesperson said on Tuesday that three demonstrators and been arrested.

“My motivation in being here is to question the whole police department, because I don’t believe a word they said about somebody called them up and they came because he was selling cigarettes; I don’t believe a word of it,” said Brooklyn resident Marvin Knight, who displayed a large sign calling Officer Daniel Pantaleo a “hit man.”

Another demonstrator, who gave his name as LB, said he came to Barclays to protest “because of the injustice of what’s going on.

“Of course it’s racial, but it’s bigger than that,” he said. “We have to do this every single day until there’s legislation on the books, they bring it to the house, they pass it on the floor – then we’ll stop. We want zero tolerance for police brutality – I mean zero tolerance. If an unarmed man gets shot, we want some type of credibility.”

“It’s hard to tell if this will lead to a positive end result,” activist Joan Pleune said. “I don’t think it will change the culture of the police department, but we can hope.”

Pleune said she is a member of the Granny Peace Brigade, made up of seniors who fight against violence and racism for the world’s children and grandchildren.

“I’ve been active in civil rights stuff for 52 years – I was a 1961 Freedom Rider – and I don’t feel like I’ve seen a lot of progress,” she said.

Cops spent the rest of the night attempting to corral groups who took off down Atlantic Avenue, along Adams Street and to the Manhattan Bridge, as helicopters whomped overhead.

“Have your personnel out and arrest teams ready,” police administrators instructed their troops.

As Christmas shopping begins in earnest, organizers are calling this week’s disruptions a “holiday intervention.” A “Millions March NYC” is planned for Saturday, starting at Washington Square Park. On Monday afternoon, more than 30,000 Facebook members had responded to an invitation to join.

Updated Tuesday with the number of arrests.