Following the death of Saheed Vassell, a Brooklyn man who was shot and killed Wednesday night by police who mistakenly thought he had a gun, activists have planned rallies calling for justice.
“Saheed Vassell, an unarmed Black man was murdered by NYPD Wednesday night,” the event page for the rally reads. “Join us as we demand justice for Saheed Vassell. Black Lives Matter!”
“Justice For #SaheedVassell” is set for 6 p.m. Thursday on the corner of Montgomery Street and Utica Avenue, where Vassell was fatally shot. NYC Shut It Down, an activist organization in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, organized the rally along with other community groups Equality for Flatbush, Peoples Power Assemblies, Why Accountability and Workers World Party.
Also at 6, the Brooklyn Movement Center, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, families of people killed by police and other New Yorkers will gather at the same spot and then march to the 71st Precinct at 421 Empire Boulevard.
The officers who shot Vassell were responding to three 911 calls reporting a suspect making threats with a gun around 4:45 p.m. in Crown Heights, NYPD Chief Terence A. Monahan said at a press conference.
Vassell was actually holding a metal pipe that had a knob on the end. Vassell’s father, Eric Vassell, told the New York Times that his son had bipolar disorder and multiple residents reported knowing Vassell as a figure in the neighborhood.
“If Saheed Vassell experienced emotional distress, it is deeply disturbing that he has become another New Yorker failed by the city and killed by its police department. Despite the mayor and first lady touting their mental health initiative, they continue to be silent about the repeated killings of people in emotional distress by police, which now totals at least 11 in the past four years,” Brooklyn Movement Center Deputy Director Anthonine Pierre said in a statement. “There are solutions to these problems that can prevent these killings but the de Blasio administration needs to be willing to truly listen to people in impacted communities and take action on their solutions to change the status quo.”
On a Facebook event page for Thursday night’s NYC Shut It Down rally, someone shared a link about “What to do instead of calling the police,” a guide in response to the fact that 911 calls were made concerning Vassell.
“So, you understand that the police force in the U.S. upholds a system of racialized violence and white supremacy. … But, your neighbor is setting off fireworks at 3 a.m., or there’s intimate partner violence happening outside your window,” the document begins. “What do you do? What do you do instead of calling the police? How do you keep yourself safe without seeking protection from a system that is predicated upon the surveillance and extermination of others?”
The answer, according to the resource, is to start by shifting your perspective. The guide, available via a view-only Google doc, provides links to articles, toolkits, apps and other resources on community response outside of the police system.