Last night neighbors joined neighbors to protest. To stand in solidarity. To say enough is enough. It was not enough.
About 3,000 individuals gathered at Barclays Center last night, Police Commissioner Shea confirmed at a press conference this morning, where he and Mayor de Blasio condemned systemic racism and violence. Over 200 people were arrested as protests escalated into violence. Protesters were injured. Officers were injured. A police car was set on fire in Fort Greene. Central Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte was among those pepper sprayed at last night’s protest.
“We had an arrest affected for attempted murder of four police officers by an individual throwing a Molotov cocktail into an occupied marked police van. We had a firearm recovered, we had brass knuckles recovered, we had countless bricks and other items thrown at police officers,” Commissioner Shea said.
“Again, this was a volatile, as the Mayor said, dangerous situation and any and all violence we denounce,” Shea continued. “We can do better than this and we must. We fully support – and I want to thank all the police officers, all the members of the community, all the elected officials that were out either working the event last night or demonstrating peacefully. And that’s the key word here, peacefully. We fully remain committed to supporting the right to publicly assemble, to protest, to free speech, this is at the heart of everything, everything that we believe in. But at the same time, we will have zero tolerance for individuals looking to cause harm to anyone and unfortunately, we saw that repeatedly last night as well.”
The reason for the protests? The rotten to the core American system whereby the lives of black and brown neighbors are considered dispensable. Where a white woman calls the cops on a black man in Central Park just because she can. Where a police officer can murder a black man in broad daylight. Where there are few consequences for treating non-white neighbors as less than. Where the black and brown communities are suffering disproportionately from everything – poverty, poor health, pandemic, discrimination, abuse, and more poverty – and our officials just keep saying ‘we must do better’, yet not doing better, because it is not in the interests of anyone in power to change the system.
These are the same black and brown neighbors saving lives, taking care of the elderly and the sick, educating our children, driving buses and trains, bringing us food, defending our rights in courts, the military and police. Representing us in City Council, and Congress. They have been on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a disproportionate number of their mothers, fathers, friends, and neighbors. They are human. And yet, and yet, in the USA, it is not convenient that they’d be treated with the same respect and consideration as white people.
I’m white and did not grow up in the USA, but I too, can barely breathe. I can barely breathe from the anger that my friends, colleagues and neighbors are subjected to this very American experience – Racism – daily. That they will make excuses for it, change how they walk, dress, drive and associate. That just because I’m white, I’m protected, the default setting is ‘safe’ rather than ‘dangerous’. There really is nothing quite like it, the systemic American Racism, and there has to be a reckoning. There can be no peace, until there is justice.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” – from the Declaration of Independence.
Today, a number of smaller protests are taking place all over Central Brooklyn. We must do better. We must keep speaking up. We must. There will always be some that are quick to violence, on all sides, but there must be more of all of us – speaking up, loudly, clearly, and peacefully.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her office is investigating the interactions between the NYPD and civilians last night in New York City.
“Peaceful protest is a basic civil right. That right should be protected and guarded. We take the designation to investigate last night’s actions very seriously. We will act independently to seek answers, ensure that the truth is laid bare, and that there is accountability for any wrongdoing. We will be transparent in our findings as we seek accountability for those who did wrong,” James said in a statement released this afternoon.
“We are asking anyone with information about last night, including visual evidence, to please share it with our office so we can take it into account as we proceed with this investigation. Please email Complaints@ag.ny.gov.”
New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB investigates civilian complaints about NYPD) Chair Fred Davie issued the following statement regarding Friday evening’s demonstration in Brooklyn:
“What our city witnessed last night is bigger than one evening. This was a manifestation of overwhelming anger and longstanding frustration that so many in our nation have felt for so long. The American people’s right to protest is fundamental to our democracy and must be upheld. Police accountability is an essential part of safeguarding that right.
“Anyone, anywhere who has witnessed what they believe to be police misconduct can – and should – report it to the CCRB. The Agency already has begun to receive complaints related to incidents that took place last night. As always, our staff is committed to investigating all allegations of misconduct thoroughly and impartially.”