Somber NYPD officers, grieving protesters at Brooklyn anti-police brutality rally
Protest just 2 days after death of NYPD Officer Randolph Holder
There were more cops than protesters at Thursday’s anti-police violence rally and march in Downtown Brooklyn, and some participants pointed to the disparity as illustrating a larger societal problem.
Hundreds of officers lined the central median on Tillary Street and the sidewalk of Cadman Plaza West. NYPD mobile command units and dozens of trucks and vans parked along Tillary and next to Cadman Plaza Park.
“This is a peaceful march. Look how many paddy wagons are set up,” said one woman wearing an Anonymous mask. “This is an army of unnecessary officers.”
Over the course of the afternoon, between 100 to 150 activists, artists, and relatives of those shot by police gathered in Korean War Veterans Plaza to hear poems and songs, fiery oration and tales of personal grief.
Organizer Juanita Young, whose son Malcolm Ferguson, 23, was shot in 2000 by Officer Louis Rivera in the Bronx, said, “We’re doing this national day of protest in memory of our loved ones to let people know that they’re not forgotten, and that the big issue is police brutality.”
She pointed to a banner listing the names of 4,000 people shot in confrontations with police since 1990. “We had to stop updating it at 4,000 to have it ready in time for today’s rally,” she said.
The event was part of the “20th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation,” which takes place every year on Oct. 22.
It was a sad coincidence that this year’s rally took place just two days after NYPD Officer Randolph Holder was gunned down in East Harlem. Behind the lines of somber officers, flags on nearby courthouses and Brooklyn Borough Hall flew at half-mast in his honor.
The funeral service for Officer Holder will be held Oct. 28 in Queens.
“Bad timing for something like this,” one passerby said.
Jaron Benjamin, who works with Housing Works, a nonprofit fighting AIDS and homelessness, said he felt sympathy for the family of the fallen officer. “But there’s so much violence at the hands of the police. That’s what the community is focused on.”
Benjamin said that he felt the fight against AIDS and against police brutality were bonded together. “They’re both driven by institutional racism.”
Nicholas Heywood Sr., father of Nicholas Heywood Jr., a 13-year-old boy who was killed in 1994 while playing with his friends in the Gowanus Houses by an officer who thought his toy gun was real, said, “We need to police our own communities. We do not need these strange faces coming into our communities and terrorizing them.”
The Rev. Jerome McCorry, national faith coordinator for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, told the crowd, “It’s fighting time. Every black, chicken-eating preacher in Brooklyn ought to be out here – and every white preacher, too. Shame on you for not being out here.”
Activist Minnie Bailey said Mayor Bill de Blasio was “spineless,” and repeatedly called him “Mayor de Blabla.”
“He betrayed the people… He put William Bratton on us,” she said.
Several protesters yelled at black police officers for what they perceived as a disloyalty to their own race.
“Stop working for white crackers!” one woman yelled to black officers. “When you take off your uniform they’ll shoot you, too!”
Attorney Gretchen Kleinman, carrying a poster reading “Stop Police Killings!” stood just inches from PBBN Community Affairs Lieutenant Marvin Luis, who is black, refusing to get out of his face as he shifted position on an eastbound lane of Tillary Street.
Lt. Luis, hands on hips, ignored her stare at first, then looked her in the eye in what appeared to be a game of visual chicken.
After several minutes, during which photographers scrambled to take photos of the confrontation, the standoff was broken when another office, Lt. Edwards, loudly read a warning saying that Kleinman was unlawfully walking on the roadway and would be arrested if she didn’t get off.
On her Twitter account Kleinman wrote, “I stood knowing why I was there: because people are being KILLED with impunity. ‘Go ahead and arrest me,’ I thought.”
Kleinman was not arrested.
The protest was followed by a march along Fulton Street through Downtown Brooklyn to Barclays Center, where another rally was held. It followed a similar event in Times Square and kicked off a three-day national protest against police violence.
On Friday, hundreds of activists blocked the gates to Rikers Island and several were arrested as of press deadline, according to independent journalist James From The Internet, who follows the protests on a regular basis.
The protesters say that the legal system criminalizes persons of color, and are moving to stop “mass incarceration.”
Updated Oct. 26 to correct thespelling of Officer Luis’ name. It is PBBN Community Affairs Lieutenant Marvin Luis, not Lewis.
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