Councilman pleads with ‘outsiders’ to keep protest peaceful
Following a third night of unrest during what was meant to be a vigil for 16-year-old Kimani Gray, shot by cops last weekend after reportedly pointing a .38 caliber gun at them, local City Councilman Jumaane Williams held another press conference Thursday afternoon with other community leaders, asking the public to respect the wishes of Gray’s family and maintain peaceful protests and marches, but abstain from further violence.
After repeated calls via Twitter at the height of last night’s violence for outsiders to leave the community alone, Councilman Jumaane Williams again requested that “outsiders” abstain from rallying youth to action without proper training and strategy, but said that he believes those outsiders are well-intentioned, and welcomed them.
“I think they’re concerned and want to help,” Williams said. “I just want to make sure that our young people’s anger is channeled productively.”
“We want you, but be constructive; don’t endanger our kids,” he added.
Williams refused to identify who he sees as “outsiders,” asserting that doing so would be counterproductive. He also asked that the community withhold comment on either side until a thorough investigation has been completed.
The sisters of Shantal Davis, an unarmed woman killed by police last June, spoke as well, urging the community to attend meetings they hold on Monday at 39th Street and Church Avenue.
Other speakers mentioned Williams’ efforts to find a location in the neighborhood to establish a community center.
Gray’s father stood by Councilman Williams, but chose not to speak. Speaking on his behalf, Williams told the crowd the elder Gray was “not happy with the violence occurring,” but wanted peaceful, organized marches and protests.
A man who identified himself as a former member of the Bloods gang said he came from “the same thing Kimani came from.”
He called the police murderers, noting that Gray was shot three times in the back.
According to the autopsy report, Gray was shot a total of seven times. Three shots were to his back.
The repeated theme, from clergy, community members, and elected representatives, was that action was needed, but it must be organized. Williams lamented the handful of youth who “unknowingly violated parole last night,” using this as an example of the negative consequences of inciting youth to action without properly informing them of consequences.
As the crowd disbanded, a young man began to shout at nearby police, calling them “occupiers.”
“This is Palestine!” the young man cried. “And last night was Syria!”
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat