Tens of thousands of protesters streamed out of New York City’s Washington Square Park on Saturday to protest the killings of unarmed black people by police officers, as part of the “Millions March NYC.”
The crowd began to wind its way through Manhattan. A large labor union contingent was present, including members of the Communications Workers of America wearing red shirts and AFL-CIO supporters waving blue signs.
In contrast to other marches over the past weeks, this large, orderly demonstration took place during the day. A number of families with children took part, and demonstrators followed a pre-planned route. The march made its way uptown to Herald Square, then looped back downtown, with thunderous chants of “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “Justice! Now!” echoing down Broadway. The demonstration culminated at One Police Plaza, the New York City Police Department’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.
Organizers estimated that 30,000 demonstrators participated in the march. The NYPD told The Huffington Post that, as of the official end of the march, no arrests had been made.
Protesters held up 8 panels depicting Eric Garner’s eyes, created by an artist known as JR. “The eyes were chosen as the most important part of the face,” said Tony Herbas of Bushwick, an assistant to the artist.
Ron Davis, whose son Jordan was shot dead by a man in Florida after an argument over loud music, was at the head of the march.
“We have to make everybody accountable,” Davis told HuffPost. “You can’t continue to see videos of chokeholds, videos of kids getting shot in the back, and say it’s all right. We have to make sure we have an independent investigator investigate these crimes that police carry out.”
Michael Dunn, the man who killed Jordan, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole in October. Davis said Saturday that Dunn’s conviction proves it’s possible that justice can be served in racially charged cases.
“We ended up getting a historic movement in Jacksonville,” Davis said. “We had an almost all-white jury, with seven white men, convict a white man for shooting down an unarmed boy of color.”
Also at the front of the march were New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and New York state Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron.
Matthew Brown, a 19-year-old who is African-American and Hispanic, marched down Broadway with his mother, aunt and other family members.
“I’m trying to support a movement that really needs young people like myself,” said Brown. “I’m here to speak for Mike Brown.”
The teenager said part of his motivation for making the trek from West Orange, New Jersey, with his family was his own personal experience. He’s encountered racist verbal abuse from police in Jersey City, he said, who have called him “spic” and monkey.”
Citing the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, Brown said part of the reason he wanted to speak out was because of the way police represent encounters with African-Americans. “I just see so many lies after lies.”
He also attended the People’s Climate March in September. But this march felt more intense to him. “This is one that’s really affecting people on a deep, emotional level,” Brown said.