Across these shores, folks gathered on Thursday to attend protest vigils as part of a National Moment of Silence in honor of victims of police brutality such as Ferguson, Missouri’s Michael Brown and New York City’s Eric Garner, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.
The vigils, which were observed in over 90 cities, were organized in response to the police brutality that has recently taken place. Many people are up-in-arms over the senseless killings of Garner on July 17 and Brown on August 9. Both men were unarmed and died at the hands of officers who used brute force without provocation.
The Brown incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back as folks around the country have grown tired of the brutalization and victimization of black men by law enforcement.
Garner, a 43-year-old, 350-pound, asthmatic man, who had previously been arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes, was first approached by New York police officer, Justin Damico, then by officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner, who was unarmed, was allegedly menacingly questioned by the officers on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes.
The dad of six was then forcefully placed on the ground and in a chokehold by Pantaleo. On August 1, 2014 medical examiners concluded chokehold and chest compression as the primary causes of Garner’s death. Chokehold tactic is prohibited by NYPD’s protocol.
Brown was a Ferguson, Missouri teen who passed away after being shot several times by Officer Darren Wilson in the town. Brown was unarmed, had no criminal record and had just graduated from high school and looking forward to going to college. Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking to his grandmother’s house. A Ferguson police officer pulled up to the youths and ordered them to move off the street and onto the sidewalk. An altercation ensued and a gunshot was fired from the cruiser. Brown and Johnson took off and the officer fired a few shots while in pursuit of the two youths, fatally shooting Brown. Johnson escaped the bullets unscathed.
Witness accounts state that Brown raised his arms in compliance at one point during the altercation, stating he was weaponless. The officer shot him anyway.
The incident caused massive protests, unrest and vandalism across Ferguson and neighboring city St. Louis. The National Moment of Silence rallies brought protesters out in droves, as people chanted, held up their hands, shed tears and carried signs to protest against those individuals—whom are paid to protect us—that we now unfortunately have to fear.
In Lansing, Mo. over 200 folks gathered around the city’s capitol building, many sporting red arm bands and holding signs with the names of the people who died at the hands of trigger-happy police.
In New York City’s Union Square about 1,000 people peacefully marched while chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe.” The protesters were just echoing the eerie words of Garner, who can be heard on a tape shouting, “I can’t breathe!” as officers had the asthmatic man in an illegal chokehold.
In Orlando, Florida which is 15 miles outside of the Sanford suburb where the unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin was brutally gunned down back in 2012 by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, a crowd of about 100 stood around the city’s park amphitheater.
In Nevada, about 40 or so protestors stood around the federal courthouse in Reno holding up their hands in a motion of surrender like Brown allegedly did before he was gunned down.
In St. Louis, 1,000 people gathered near the landmark Gateway Arch in support of Brown’s family. The slained youth’s mother, Lesley McSpadden also appeared at the rally, along with family members. but did not address the crowd.
In Baltimore, rallies came together and marched to city police headquarters to voice their anguish.
In Houston, MacGregor Park had over 100 folks who wanted their voices heard in honor of Brown and others like him.
In Seattle there were vigils at two locations. Over 100 protesters stood for democracy as they carried signs, wore red sashes and there was even a moment of silence for about an hour.
In Chicago, a city where strained tensions between citizens and police are commonplace, nearly a thousand people crowded Daley Plaza as they held up their hands as a gesture of submission. The crowd stood silent for four minutes in memory of the four hours Brown’s body was reportedly left on the street.