30,000 March in New York City to Demand End to Racist, Violent Policing (Photos)

Human Rights

On Saturday, about 30,000 people poured into the streets of Manhattan to protest unaccountable, racist police violence. The march was organized by a group called Millions March. Prominent figures like the rapper Nas, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, showed up to a rally organized by grassroots activists, making it the scrappy counterpart to a glossier march happening the same day in Washington, DC, which was organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

By 2pm there were already thousands of people in Washington Square Park, including college students, families from the outer boroughs, old-school peace activists, black-clad anarchists, even busloads of students from high schools and middle schools from across the Northeast. At about 2:10, members of the Justice League, a nonprofit organization with deep connections to City Hall, made their arrival known with a banner and a loud proclamation of “No justice, no peace.” As thousands prepared to march down 5th Avenue, two members of Justice League spoke through a PA system, leading the crowd with chants of “Whose streets? Our streets,” and "Black lives matter."


Middle school students from New Jersey.

There were so many people that even an hour after the first few waves began marching, hundreds were still in the park.


“The streets have not been given to us,” one Justice League member said. “We have taken it from them. Shut it down!”

The streets had in fact been given to marchers: The route through Manhattan was planned in advance with the city in order for people of various ability and ages to show up, according to the organizers. While people began to swarm the streets, which were barricaded on the sides, Nicholas Hayward Sr. stood stone-faced in sunglasses and a black baseball cap near the arches. On his shirt and cap were buttons with images of his young son, Nicholas Hayward Jr. 

Hayward said his son had been shot and killed by an NYPD officer in 1994 after the officer saw him playing with a toy gun. “I am outraged at the fact that the man who murdered Eric Garner has not been indicted,” Hayward said. "I am outraged [for] the 367 innocent people killed in NYC since my son's death in 1994. That tells me there are 367 police out here still roaming the street that killed innocent lives.”

Despite his righteous anger, Hayward said he was encouraged by Saturday's massive turnout. “I've been protesting and rallying for the last 20 years, since my son was murdered. And I have never seen an outpouring of people coming together saying, No more: enough is enough. I am honored to be here today. I really am.”

A woman named Karen Fludd had a picture of a fit young man flexing his biceps underneath the text “#EverythingforDeion,” pinned on the back of her shirt. She believed her son was also a victim of police brutality. She explained that while the city claimed a moving train had struck her son and broken his neck, the evidence didn't add up. She and her family and their attorney claim Deion's murder was a police coverup.

Fludd was also encouraged by the gathering of people. “It gives attention to brutality of the police, which is a good thing.”


Karen Fludd was there for her son, Deion.

Eventually those at the back of the park began to march down Fifth Avenue. The demonstration spanned over 11 city blocks. People wore clothing scrawled with the names of victims of police brutality, and some held posters calling attention to the 43 missing teaching students in Mexico, drawing parallels between unaccountable police violence in the two countries. Some marched with chains around their bodies or nooses around their necks, a pointed reference to the historic oppression of African Americans.


Anarchists lighting flares.

But not everybody was in solidarity with victims of the state. Groups of drunken white hecklers clad in Santa outfits mocked some protesters, pretending to choke themselves while proclaiming, “I can't breathe”—Eric Garner's last words as Officer Daniel Pantaleo choked him to death. Some of the Santas hurled insults at protesters, igniting heated exchanges. The Santas were participating in an annual event called “SantaCon,” which the New York Times called “a parasite.

The marchers traveled north from the park to 32nd Street, where they took a planned right turn back south. Some were not happy that the march had been planned with the NYPD in advance.

“There are many good-hearted people out here coming out because they're fed up with inequality of police killings of black men unarmed, but they don't understand this a police-permitted parade, not a rally for justice,” a member of Bronxites for NYPD Accountability told me. “We feel that that is wrong, and people need to know about it.”

A group of about 50 people were the first to break through the permitted route. They opened the barricade at 32nd Street and continued east instead of the permitted route south. Clothed completely in black, some placed trashcans in the road and sparked flares while walking against traffic. Somebody shattered the back passenger window of an NYPD vehicle, which drove away as others hurled trash cans at it. This caught the attention of the police, and as the sound of approaching sirens grew louder, the group dispersed throughout the narrow streets.


Credit: Twitter user @jesswarriner

Meanwhile, the planned march made it to Foley Square in front of One Police Plaza, where a spirited group of tens of thousands congregated for a few hours. This marked the end of the day's planned event, but thousands of people, mostly youth, continued their own impromptu march through Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood, eventually reaching the Brooklyn Bridge. After a tense standoff with police, thousands of protesters skirted around the wall of blue and onto the bridge.They took over both sides of the bridge, placing traffic cones and barrels in the road to further stall traffic. Many of the waiting drivers rolled down their windows to high-five protesters and honked in solidarity, while others appeared exasperated as they waited, trapped in their vehicles.


Marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge.

At some point, NYPD reports indicate, two police lieutenants tried to arrest somebody on the bridge who was throwing a garbage can at other officers below. During the arrest, protesters “de-arrested” the person by attacking officers, allowing the person to escape. The NYPD says two lieutenants were subsequently taken to the hospital and treated for injuries.

After protesters exited the bridge, hundreds marched through various Brooklyn neighborhoods while police followed. The protests grew as people from the streets, mostly young black men and women, joined the throng. By midnight, the youth led the march to the Pink Houses housing projects in East New York, where unarmed Akai Gurley was shot and killed by NYPD officer Peter Liang last month. This marked the end of the roughly 30-mile demonstration.

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