Tens of thousands of New Yorkers, from activists to families with small children, marched from Union Square up Fifth Avenue to Midtown Saturday and back to Police Plaza, to call for an end to police brutality and demand justice for Eric Garner and other victims of encounters with police.
“We’re here to stand up for humanity,” Nini Hayes, a 34-year-old black woman said as she marched uptown.
The march, organized by a musician named Cid Nichols, and joined by groups inlcuding #BlackLivesMatter, a coalition of young multi-racial activists, began about 2 p.m. under clear crisp skies at Washington Square Park. After reaching Herald Square the march turned back downtown to Police Plaza.
“Black lives matter and the police use unequal methods against black children, against black men. They don’t deserve to be shot. Even if they did something wrong. And that there was no trial – it’s a shame,” said Pauline Osborne, 50, a white woman standing in the midst of protesters at Washington Square this afternoon.
The march came off peacefully. Demonstrators had a list of concrete goals including the immediate firing of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who allegedly put Eric Garner in a chokehold that led to the unarmed black man’s death.
Other demands include creating an independent prosecutors office to handle cases of police misconduct and use of excessive force, as well as the release of the names of cops who involved in fatal shootings within 48 hours of the incident, and the creation of a statewide policy barring the hiring of cops who’ve been fired from previous police jobs.
Marchers carried signs that read “Black lives matter,” “That’s what a real grand jury looks like” (a reference to the multicultural crowd), “Stop the killer cops” or “We can’t take it anymore.”
Despite the evident anger of the crowd, there were no confrontations with police who lined the march route.
“I’m tired of living in a country where violence is a response. I don’t want to live in a country like this anymore,” said a young white man who wanted to be anonymous.
“I’m here. I’m alive. And I have a voice that I have to use against the injustice. We are all from the same race – we are all humans. We were bit born with hate in our hearts. This has to end and it’s gonna end,” said 19-year old protester Rebekah Vineyard.
Monique, an 39-year old African-American watching the march, said she felt a duty to attend and show her support for the marchers. “I feel obligated to be here today, not only as an African-American but as an American. We want to live in peace and it’s about justice. They need to acknowledge that our lives matter.”