Sunday, April 1, 2018

NYC Protest: Justice for Stephon Clark

 From Heather in NYC

I arrived at Columbus Circle 30 minutes prior to the 7 pm start time given for the Justice for Stephon Clark gathering for which I received a flier at the March for Our Lives last Saturday. Upon surfacing from underground on the back side of the mall, I immediately noticed an exceedingly heavy police presence. Dozens of NYPD vans, trucks and SUVs were lined along the side of 58th street. Every 20 yards or so stood a couple or cluster of cops in blue uniform along with independent security, apparently hired by the mall. Without even seeing the gathering this struck me as excessive and clearly an attempt to intimidate.

I followed the trail of law enforcement standing at ease but all facing the same direction with an equal distance from each other of about a dozen feet, an austere esthetic. This led me right to the protestors starting to gather, a group of about a dozen who were starting to unpack at the feet of the Christopher Columbus statue in the center of the circle. I walked up and was asked if I was joining the protest and I said yes. A few people introduced themselves, a couple of women from Shut it Down and the Peoples Power Assemblies among them.

Once others started arriving and pre-made signs were unpacked I was asked if I wanted to hold one and I agreed. It read "March For My Life, Stephon Clark" and "NYC Shut It Down" on one side. The other had a small logo for WWP, Workers World Party. Cadences were sounded and speeches were made as the crowd grew into the hundreds, a great number of youth well mixed with ethnicities truly reminiscent of the New York I've come to love. The most notable were the newest generation of the black and brown punk scene, devoid of the posturing and polished trendiness I've come to expect as the status quo of social visibility at city events. Those gathered were momentarily distracted by someone waving an enormous "Trump/Pence 2020" flag on the perimeter of the gathering, but the agitators were quickly removed without incident. The mood overall was solemn, but the energy of the young people spread like wildfire as some began masking in black bloc and all were called to march.

Immediately the youth took the lead and the crowd poured into the streets around cars, taxi cabs, tour buses and all. Photographers flocked, tripping over themselves like paparazzi in hopes of getting a shot of the action. NYPD began strategically cordoning off streets and announcing that those blocking the roadway would be under arrest. It wasn't a huge deterrent as protestors played cat-and-mouse for dozens of blocks, holding the streets regardless of traffic lights or LE's attempt to divide the crowd block after block by motorcade tricks, bike walling or cheap shots. The ranking officers came off as petulant and petty, snatching signs down and gesturing wildly over every imaginary line crossed. However this lot was not easily intimidated. "Who are we here for? Stephon Clark! Who did they kill? Stephon Clark! Say his name. Stephon Clark! 20 shots! 20 shots!" echoed loudly through crowds of working men and women who rushed to the sidewalks to take photos and videos or give encouragement as we moved deeper into midtown towards Times Square. Unlike the polite cordiality of the March for Our Lives the solidarity of this march was electric and reflected in the faces of so many watching from the side lines.
The march ended in the heart of Times Square, where we pushed through the crowds of performers out of the reach of NYPD motorcades and bicycles, to their annoyance. Beat cops tried unsuccessfully to hold metal fence barricades that were meant to moderate the flow of pedestrians walking in and out but protestors jumped the short walls and filled the Red Stairs, where throngs of tourists immediately scrambled to record what was going on and broadcast to the internet. I marveled at what a brilliant calculation it was by those who led the charge.

I've enclosed a few shots but they do it no justice. Last I read in a broadcast from the group 13 were arrested including minors. This was by no means a riot, just a bunch of working class people taking up space, and it terrified the biggest gang in New York. Children terrify the biggest gang in New York. Who would have thought?

No comments: