Statement from El Grito de Sunset Park, Bronxites for NYPD Accountability, the Association for Pro Inmate Rights and New Yorkers Against Bratton
We are living and breathing history every day. Every demonstration, every march, every person that walks out into the cold winter to demand justice is in lockstep with those who have come before us. As such we continue to move forward because, quite simply, we have yet to see this ever-elusive “justice.” In fact, history should remind people why we’ve engaged in a sustained movement: our collective outrage for the lives taken from us. Calls for us to hang our heads or go away are a slap in the face to the legacy of those, like Martin Luther King Jr., who were often criticized and jailed for what many decried as illegitimate agitation. We will not go away. We are committed to changing our collective destinies.
While we are often simply described as “protesters:;, we are in fact mothers, fathers, workers, sons, daughters. The families of victims of violence, both by police and others, have always been close to our heart. That’s why we march, why we organize. We want justice first and foremost, not a continued cycle of blood. Mayor de Blasio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who both support the racist Broken Windows theory of policing, purposely fail to understand that as they call for a suspension of protests – which are within our rights. Outrage does not go on suspension as long as those who’ve murdered us walk free.
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There is perhaps no better time to protest as threats coming from police unions about a “wartime” police department only reiterate our point that we’re under attack – though this “war” has raged on long before Pat Lynch rallied his troops against us. Surveillance equipment and siege tactics that run parallel to counter-terrorism tactics honed overseas by the military have been normalized in communities of color for quite some time. Will we see even more scrutiny, more “accidents” in our communities from here on out? Will there be another unarmed New Yorker gunned down this winter? If so, will protests then be acceptable to our elected officials? Waiting for death to justify outrage ignores the long list of deaths already heavy in hearts and minds.
We as protesters owe no apology for exercising our rights.We haven’t lashed out in violence. But we must, however, be mindful of the dynamics forced upon us that say we must be apologetic, as if we caused this. It is a tribute to the historical power of racism that those who demonstrate for Black and Brown lives are seen as catalysts for violence. History also suggests that other elements within the movement will turn on us, policing our own movement, as they look for signs of a virtually non-existent violence. Groups that have already agreed to work with police will only be emboldened further by the comments of the Mayor that encourage people to report one another’s social media activity to authorities.
This is perhaps where those who move to threaten us, insist protests “must not be tolerated,” and impose restrictions on a movement generations in the making, like Lynch and Adams, echo the historical roles of those that use fear and emotion to squash dissent. Are we to see power grabs and attacks on civil liberties, like we saw after 9/11, target already marginalized communities in our city? Last week authorities managed to turn an incident at the Brooklyn bridge into a witch-hunt for political activists. Allegations of links to gangs, though eventually corrected, were put out into the media to turn public opinion against demonstrators.
America breeds violence. When she denies us justice, when she doesn’t provide us our basic human rights, she sows the seeds of violence. These are the lessons of Malcolm X. These are the reasons we organize and collectively call out for justice. Just a week ago, a plainclothes officer repeatedly punched a handcuffed Black teenager in front of numerous witnesses. Days later, dozens of counter-protesters callously made light of Eric Garner’s death by wearing “I CAN breathe” shirts at a rally at City Hall. Must the NYPD continue to be unconditionally supported? Must an NYPD still entrenched in brutality, starting at the top, continue over and over to meter out unjustified violence against us? Without a break in that untouched cycle there can only be a boomerang of violence and continued blowback. These are the reasons we firmly believe in defending our communities by copwatching, staying mobilized and being vocal.
We will stand up for our communities and we won’t ask permission to do so.