BY DEAN MOSES
Saturday’s protest in Harlem over the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis featured a collected yet angry crowd that peacefully demanded an end to such violence in America.
Before the protest started, a bystander named Tatiana Jones, implored that protesters not to destroy the businesses or storefronts in Harlem like what is happening in Minneapolis. She exclaimed that these stores are owned by people of color.
“Please respect the black community. We are trying to be productive, and it is counterproductive to burn down our neighborhood. So when the economy opens back up, we are just going to set ourselves back again, giving the oppressors a head start because there neighborhoods are still flourishing,” Jones said.
A small table was set up by event organizers and offered free masks, gloves, voter registration information, and absentee ballots. There were also individuals disseminating cards and bracelets with the arrest support hotline.
As people gathered around the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. statue, the anger and tensions could be felt as they shouted “No Justice, No Peace!” Protesters shared their pain, forming a small circle as hundreds gathered around.
Some protesters sought to tie into the racial injustice issue housing rights, especially since those living in NYCHA have had the most confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19, and that their needs to be a rent freeze since so many lost their jobs.
Karla Reyes, a teacher and member of the Justice Center in El Barrio said: “Unless the police stop murdering black and brown folks, there is no liberation! That is what the uprisings are about!”
Reyes said that cops in “every single city” get to do “whatever they want” to Black Americans.
“They are about that day after day black people are murdered with impunity,” she added. “And if there are charges, it’s manslaughter, which means they can serve a few months like what happened to Oscar Grant in Oakland. It could be a grand jury that exonerates them of any justice. We are not here for that. We want ever single killer cop in this country to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
Craig Schlegel, Democratic Candidate for the NYS Assembly seat 70, helped organized the event. At first he had the reins on the event, but as he attempted to introduce the speakers the crowd’s anger began to spill over. People started to clamor for a chance to speak to the crowd using the microphone, but Schlegel and his event organizers worked hard to intervene.
“We came out here for a purpose! This is a new day, a new government, and we are going to deal with this problem. We are going to be calm cool and collected as we set up,” Schlegel said.
“There is one good thing about Trump: He snatched the hoods off the racists and since we are in Harlem I’m going to keep it real, he turned the lights on all of the roaches. You see all of the infestations and all of the problems that you have been ignoring for years. The light is turned on,” Schlegel added.
Among the speakers was Sharon Salaam, mother of Yusuf Salaam who was one of the young men in the Central Park Five.
“We need justice. We need to stand together. We still got to fight,” Salaam said. “My son was one of the boys from the Central Park Five. He went to jail for seven years for a crime he did not commit. He was on parol for three more years. I know that people are trying to silence my message for justice but I yelled from the rooftops for my son’s freedom. I’m proud of this movement. We are tired of hatred because with us, you don’t have to commit a crime all you have to do is look black or look like you have a color to your skin. And you can be next.”