Christian crosses and Communist Party flags. Gil Scott-Heron and Frederic Chopin. Wizened women in floor-length coats and raw-throated university students shouting “This is what democracy looks like”. Children carrying hand-drawn posters of other kids, just like them, being gunned down by police officers. This is just a taste of what today’s “Millions March NYC” demonstration looked and sounded like.
Coming in on the tails of the Eric Garner and Michael Brown grand jury decisions as well as the Cleveland, Ohio police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, this weekend’s march started at New York’s Washington Square Park and culminated at the New York Police Department.
Thousands of people took to the streets to protest everything from police brutality to white supremacy to capitalism writ large. What they all had in common, though, was the pursuit of justice–one that does not legally permit police officers to shoot at will and leave a body lying cold on the ground.
The participants and messages present were as diverse and peaceful as they were organized and sustained. Justice for Eric Garner Assembly members distributed flyers that clearly iterated their goals, all arranged by proximate attainability.
Immediate demands included the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton; reparations made to the Garner family; the introduction of independent prosecutors in cases like Garner’s and Brown’s, and the end of lowest level priority prosecutions (ie: marijuana). Institutional changes centered upon community control of police, an end to the War on Drugs and the ceasing of funds toward militarizing the police.
It remains to be seen how New York City and the rest of the country respond to demonstrations like the one that unfolded today. Our takeaway: “I can’t breathe” is quickly evolving into “We can—and will—be heard”.