Protests and soul-searching after police shootings, Dallas

Black Lives Matter protesters in Harlem last Thursday night. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

BY LAUREN VESPOLI | From City Hall to Times Square, hundreds of Black Lives Matter demonstrators took to the streets this weekend to protest recent police shootings of African-American men: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Delrawn Small in Brooklyn.

Sterling was fatally shot while officers had him pinned to the ground, while Castile was shot while he was reaching for his wallet during a traffic stop. Both Sterling and Castile had guns on them — though, according to witnesses, had not drawn them on police. Small was shot by an off-duty cop during a traffic dispute in the Cypress Hills neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The weekend of protests and marches kicked off on a rainy Friday evening — the day after a sniper killed five police officers and wounded nine other cops and two civilians during protests in Dallas.

Demonstrators in Union Square on Friday protesting recent police killings of African-American men by police officers. Photo by Lauren Vespoli

A small group began gathering at the southeast corner of Union Square around 6 p.m. for a rally for justice for Sterling and Castile, organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and the NYC Revolution Club.

A series of speakers addressed the growing crowd, calling for love and respect, in between intermittent chants of “Black Lives Matter.”

“It’s not a black and white thing, we just need equality,” said a speaker who identified herself as Kynt Pariah. “We’ve got to keep fighting.”

“You can do more to help us and support us than appropriate our culture,” another protestors said, speaking to what whites could do in the wake of the violence.

Black Lives Matters protesters marching near Union Square on Friday. Photo by Lauren Vespoli

“For me as a black woman talking to black people, we need to love and respect each other,” another woman said into the microphone as she began to cry. “To all the white people who think black people are violent, that’s not the truth.”

Speakers expressed outrage and frustration about the many police shootings of African-Americans. Yet, it seemed that the events in Dallas weighed on everyone’s mind, as some of the protesters urged the group to obey police orders to stay off the street.

The police had set up barricades surrounding the southeast corner of Union Square, and officers gathered to keep watch as the crowd swelled, reaching close to 300 at its peak.

Protesters in Harlem on Thursday night shouted “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” at police who were assigned to the demonstration. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

Daniela Brito, of Washington Heights, had marched with protesters on Thursday. After the Dallas shootings, she expressed concern about the police who had gathered to watch over the crowd.

“I’m kind of scared that there’s going to be way more police presence,” she said.

At about 7:30 p.m., the protesters began marching, with one group heading down to the Williamsburg Bridge, and the other headed for Grand Central Terminal in Midtown.

Police accompanied the Manhattan group, as protesters chanted, “Black Lives Matter,” “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” and “No Justice, No Peace.”

After walking up Second Ave. to 23rd St. and back down Third Ave., the group returned to Union Square by around 8 p.m. before heading west on 14th St. and up through Chelsea on Seventh Ave.

Police in a cruiser kept an eye on the protest in Harlem Thursday night. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

More police gathered as the group approached Times Square, but the marchers moved east. Obeying police requests to stay on the sidewalk, they arrived at Grand Central shortly before 9 p.m. Beneath the clock tower, protesters raised their fists in solidarity during a moment of silence, before heading up the escalators into the MetLife building, and moving west on 45th St. The marchers began to disperse after 9 p.m.

Police on the detail for the protest in Harlem stood in a cluster Thursday night.

While there were no arrests during Friday’s demonstrations, about 20 protestors were arrested from among the hundreds that gathered for protests on Saturday night, according to reports. Black Lives Matter NYC had posted on its Facebook page earlier in the day, calling for a march to demand justice for Delrawn Small, in partnership with NYC Shut it Down: The Grand Central Crew. While some groups marched across the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn, another started at City Hall, marching up Broadway to Union Square, with smaller groups breaking off and some stopping traffic on the F.D.R. Drive.

The struggle for justice goes on: A Black Lives Matter protester in Harlem on Thursday night. Photo by Q. Sakamaki

According to Gothamist, Delrawn Small’s nephew Zayanahla Vines led this protest.

New surveillance video of Small’s shooting was released exclusively to the New York Post on Friday, showing Small walking toward police officer Wayne Isaac’s car when Isaacs suddenly opened fire.

This footage contradicted an earlier report published in the Post, in which a witness claimed he had video footage of Small punching the police officer through the car’s window.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds more protesters marched from Times Square down Broadway to Union Square, according to news reports, where they held a sit-in in the park.

No arrests reportedly were made on Sunday.