On the one year anniversary of Sandra Bland, a Texas woman killed in police custody, nearly 1,000 activists took to the streets of Flatbush Wednesday night to demand justice for women of color killed by police.
Activists from the People’s Power Assembly, Equality For Flatbush, and the Black Lives Matter movement, among others, spilled onto the streets at the corner of Church Avenue and East 18th Street beginning at 6:30pm on July 13, accentuating a politically charged moment for police interactions with people of color across the country.
“There were two solid blocks of people,” said activist and photographer Erik McGregor. “The community came together because we decided that we aren’t afraid anymore, and we are not going to take this abuse.”
For Terre Mitchell, organizer with the People’s Power Assembly, a spirit of community permeated the event. “During the whole event there was unity, especially among the black women toward the front of the march. The women could express their frustration and outrage, while being supported,” Mitchell said.
The Flatbush rally was organized and led by women, mostly from Flatbush, Crown Heights, with some coming from the Bronx and Harlem, according to Imani Henry of Equality for Flatbush. Protesters also marched in solidarity with Kyam Livingston, a 37-year-old Flatbush woman who died in a Brooklyn jail cell in 2013 after not receiving medical attention.
“Kyam is the Brooklyn Sandra Bland, murdered by police in custody,” said Henry.
Over the past three years, the community has organized many rallies aimed at achieving justice for Livingston’s death; including an ongoing monthly vigil on the 21st at this same location, East 18th Street and Church Avenue.
“This Black Lives Matter event was designed to bring attention to the fact that black women and girls are killed by police and state violence. We often get no recognition, and it’s happening to the black community,” Mitchell said.
After Wednesday’s march, there was a speak-out, or an open platform for black women to speak to the crowd about their experiences. Women addressed the crowds through microphones and megaphones, including Livingston’s mother, and the sister of Shantel Davis, a 23-year-old East Flatbush woman who was killed in 2013.
Mitchell recalled that Shantel Davis’ sister, Natasha, spoke about the shooting that killed Davis in 2013. “Natasha addressed the police, saying ‘Who do you protect? Who do you serve? You were supposed to help this young woman,'” and then she broke down and wasn’t able to continue.”
“Natasha said they tried to destroy the victim, and unfortunately that’s always the narrative. Demonizing the person for their own death. That was the most poignant moment for me,” Mitchell said.
Protesters also held signs listing the names of other women of color who perished in police custody, including Shereese Francis of Jamaica, Queens, and Aiyana Jones, a 7-year-old girl killed during a police raid in Michigan.
Activists marched their entire route, which started along Church Avenue, turned onto Linden, and circled back to Church on Flatbush Avenue, according to Mitchell. While one participant told us that they were cautious about the police presence, Mitchell said that the police liaison assigned to the march was “pretty hands-off.”
Mitchell was surprised by the high turn out last night, saying that she expected only 25 people to show up. This video shows protesters marching and chanting in the middle of the street on Church Avenue near Flatbush Avenue yesterday evening.
The People’s Power Assembly holds weekly meetings on Wednesday nights in Manhattan. To find out more, visit their website or call 212-633-6646