Around 150 activists gathered in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza on Thursday to call for police reform as part of the annual National Day of Protest.
Activists for Palestinian justice, transgender rights and police reform shared stories, sang, read poems and yelled at the assembled police presence.
The officers, still wearing black bands over their badges to honor NYPD Officer Randolph Holder, who was shot dead on the job in East Harlem Tuesday, stood by with plastic cuffs at the ready.
Carl Dix, a longtime organizer and co-founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, said that people had asked him if the rally would be postponed in the wake of Holder’s killing.
“Postpone? We’ll postpone it when they postpone the killing of our children,” he said.
Meanwhile at a Times Square rally, filmmakers Gina Belafonte and Quentin Tarantino were among those who read names of those killed during interactions with police as part of the protest that’s held every year on Oct. 22.
Other activists, including family members of people killed by police, called for accountability and spoke of community self-policing as an alternative.
“I think they are beyond reform,” said Rev. Jerome McCorry of Dayton, Ohio, a spokesman for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. “When the foundation is rotten, tear out the foundation,” he added.
Percy Lujan, 24, a member of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, echoed this sentiment, arguing that “communities should maintain their own security forces.”
Some protesters directly confronted officers, with one man yelling “If you take off your uniform, one of these white cops are going to put a bullet in you the same as me!” into a black officer’s face.
Despite the high intensity, police and the activists avoided physical clashes as the group marched south toward the Barclays Center, the protesters chanting and the officers herding them onto the sidewalk.
As of last evening, there were no reports of arrests at the rally, according to the NYPD.
“After Ferguson, there’s been this response, a response that we haven’t seen in decades,” Dix said, and claimed that the recent movements have called what he described as the once-accepted “sanctioned killing of innocents” by police into question.
As the core of the group huddled in front of the Barclays Center — surrounded by stadium security, police officers, and stunned patrons of the hip-hop show that was beginning inside — they waved photographs of people killed by police and used a bullhorn to speak of resistance.
“They’re afraid of us. And how can you protect someone you’re in fear of?” asked Nicholas Heyward Sr., whose son, Nicholas Jr., was killed by a police officer in 1994 in Brooklyn. According to reports, his son, then 13, was killed by a housing officer when his toy gun was mistaken for the real thing. There were no charges brought against the officer.
He held a picture of his smiling son under the phrase “Remember me?”
The crowd mostly dispersed at around 6 p.m., but organizers promised to lead a march to “shut down Riker’s Island” Friday morning.