Invoking the names of Michael Brown, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, and others who have been killed by law enforcement, a group of protesters defied police orders and marched in to Times Square Wednesday afternoon. The protest, organized by a group known as the October 22nd Coalition, called for an end to police brutality and mass incarceration and the arrest of Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson.
Previously, the New York Police Department (NYPD) instructed the protesters not to enter Times Square because the area had too much traffic. But as NYPD officers attempted to direct the protesters away from the popular tourist destination, the group, which included hundreds holding signs, waving flags, and blowing whistles, moved forward and settled in front of the NYPD’s Times Square precinct, halting traffic on 43rd St. for around 20 minutes before making their way to Duffy Square.
“We have gathered here, right under the f*cking Jumbotron, right in front of the eyes of the law, and we’re saying, ‘No more police murder, no more treating our children like criminals,’” shouted the group, in call and response with march organizers.
And the protest was hardly a spontaneous act.
Watch part of the protest here:
Carl Dix, the co-founder of the October 22nd Coalition and an organizer of the protest, had no intention of taking the group anywhere else.
“The police department has told us that for traffic and safety concerns we cannot march in to Time Square,” Dix told NewsOne before the event began. “I say to that, what about the safety of Eric Garner? What about the safety of Ramarley Graham? What about the safety of Sean Bell? What about the safety of all the other people whose lives were stolen by the NYPD? For that reason we must march in to Time Square and deliver a message that this must stop…and we will see how the police respond to that.”
The event marked the 19th national day of protest to stop police brutality, an event that Dix has been leading each year in New York City, but one that has gained increased momentum and attention after the deaths of Brown, Garner, and Vonderrit Myers this year.
“This year [the march] is happening in the midst of both intensified police murder, mass incarceration, criminalization of young people, and it’s happening in the midst of heightened resistance,” said Dix. “Because when people in Ferguson went in to the streets and remained there…it called out to people around the country and people have responded.”
The collective met at Union Square, where numerous speakers told the audience stories of losing loved ones at the hands of police. That set the mood for the march, which was often pointedly anti-law enforcement and filled with chants like, “NYPD, KKK, how many kids have you killed today?” and “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail; the whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
Family members of Garner, who was choked to death on video by police officers on July 17th, were on hand as were family members of Shantel Davis, who was killed in 2012 by police; Gregory Chavis, who died in 2004 after his mother alleges police refused to let friends take him to the hospital; Anthony Baez, who died of asphyxiation in 1994 after a confrontation with police; Alberta Spruill, who died in 2003 after police mistakenly fired a concussion grenade in to her apartment; Scott Eriksen, who died in police custody in 2011; and numerous others.
“Right now [the police] are killing with permission,” Garner’s sister Ellisha Flagg told the group. “We have to let them know they don’t have permission, because we’re the people. What we say goes, not them. As long as we do what’s right, we have the power to make sure things like this don’t happen again…I have two smalls sons and I’ll be damned if I’m picking my sons up off the pavement.”
The march and rally were part of a coordinated action in cities around the country that also included groups in Ferguson, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and other cities in which participants stopped traffic or otherwise caused a disturbance to city infrastructure in an effort to voice opposition to police brutality and deaths at the hands of officers.
Despite the potentially volatile mix of elements, there were no arrests during the rally or march and no injuries.