Thousands of people gathered in Downtown Manhattan on Thursday night, December 4th, to demonstrate against the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold killing of Eric Garner.
The crowd, comprised of many energetic young people, engaged in small circle discussions, speeches, and chants before starting the march. This was one of the largest demonstrations in recent years in New York City and signifies the widespread anger against the murder of unarmed black people, like Mike Brown in Ferguson, is crystallizing into a nationwide movement against racism, police brutality, and a criminal justice system that too often doesn’t deliver justice.
The New York branch of Socialist Alternative joined the protest carrying signs such as “End Police Brutality,” “We Stand with Ferguson,” and Malcolm X’s famous quote “You Can’t Have Capitalism without Racism.”
We marched all over downtown Manhattan, blocking traffic on main streets in Chinatown and the Financial District, voicing our solidarity with the movement in Ferguson with chants such as “Eric Garner, Mike Brown – Shut it down! Shut it down!” and “New York is Ferguson and Ferguson is New York.”
Many drivers were very supportive, often taking their hands out the windows in a “hands up, don’t shoot” pose and honking their horns in support. People did the same from their balconies and windows. This shows the widespread sympathy and support that exists among the population. Many more people support the protests than are out on the streets.
The rally ended at the south tip of Manhattan, outside the Staten Island Ferry, where the police blocked the entrance to prevent an occupation of the station by demonstrators. From there, demonstrators split into many marches. Some went on to shut down the West Side Highway, some did the same at FDR Drive. Other demonstrators marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge, then returned to Chinatown to stage a die-in and block traffic. Tens of demonstrators were arrested there, as well as in Times Square. Overall, 200 were arrested.
Betting on the goodwill of the protestors, the police sent ambulances down streets occupied by marching protestors in an attempt to force the protestors off the streets and onto the sidewalk. The police then prevented protestors from returning to the streets. It’s clear the police were unwilling, at this point, to unleash their full force on demonstrators. But, once orders came in, police used trapping tactics and started beating and arresting activists who continued to march.
Demonstrations and marches with the same character were happening all over the country, pointing to the massive anger and frustration over the lack of justice, the blatant disregard for black lives, and daily police brutality experienced by black communities. The reason that young people are protesting daily across the US, that there has been an unprecedented number of highways occupied by protesters, that malls and stores have been shut down by protests, that young people are organizing die-ins on college campuses and other public spaces is because it’s become so obvious other avenues for justice are blocked.