Friday, December 5, 2014

Finding Our Way Forward on the Streets, March for Justice for #EricGarner, December 4, 2014, #shutitdown,

34th street and 6th ave
Keegan Stephan,

Most of us woke up Thursday morning feeling sad or discouraged.  After marching for hours through  glorious protests, I  watched the video Eric Garner’s death over and over.  To see this large, but seemingly gentle man beg for room to breathe before taking his last breath, this was hard to watch, hard to fathom or handle, sickening to watch.But what was the system that created this?
Many pointed to the system of aggressive policing, of fighting small infractions, to take on larger ones.  My students gave a presentation on the limits of Broken Windows policing the day we get the verdict.  When you see, the police pounce and kill this man for a minor violation of the law, you wonder what’s really going on.

As my friend, Stan Williams, points out, De Blasio needs to fire Bill Bratton. That should be a demand. This was a murder via Broken Windows Policing.

And so, we’d take to the streets again, for the forth time in ten days to fight back against the system which killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown, taking black lives, without impunity.  Watching the video of Garner’s death and the failure of the ems to deliver cpr, its hard not to see this  case as another kind of lynching, a modern barbarity, of the state monopoly of force to discipline black bodies, deviant bodies, those seeking to ask questions or survive, of push back against a machine like system which grinds the lives of the poor, the black, immigrants, queers, pushing them to cope with soul crushing poverty, disciplining them for their thoughts.  And if they push back or assert themselves, they are shot or assaulted, forced to the ground, and out of this life, as Eric was.

So we would march again.  As Monica explained.

See you all tonight in the streets. My heart is heavy but my eyes are clear. They leave us no other choice. They think we are a subservient, docile, quiet nation of consumers that will not rise up against injustice. Let us prove them wrong. ‪#‎shutitdown‬

Many were despairing, but pushing into the street, the last few weeks, we found a new connection among those screaming out for something better, rejecting the notion that we are separate, that history is static or predeterminged.  We pushed back to find the arch of justice mlk described.  We’d find care for each other, among the bodies marching to take their place in this struggle. We’d listen to the frustration of some who felt this was all too much, that gestures of resistance futile.  We had to try to be more mindful that our movement included more and more voices, more and more points of view.

Some of us were meeting at Foley Square, others a little further north.

Sarah D Roosevelt Park, NY


Thursday, Dec 4th
Sarah D. Roosevelt Park (on Houston btw Forsyth and Chrystie)

Eric Garner should be alive.
But he is not.
This the world we live in.
We are not here to reform a system that is meant to destroy us.
That system is capitalism and the job of the police is to defend capitalism; not us.
We are here to fight back.
To get turnt.
And to not return back to "normal".
We want to fight back for the Eric Garners, Trayvons, Reineshas, Kimanis and for each other.
We are not just fighting for the streets and our lives, but we are playing for keeps.
We are playing for keeps.
We are going to stay turnt and fight until we win.


Helicopters zoomed over the city.

Police lined up Tillary when I rode to the Brooklyn bridge.
What are you doing? I asked.
Waiting for the protest, one responded.

Waves of bodies filled the the bridge.  We were claiming space we'd rarely held even during Occupy. 

One policeman explained to a woman standing by me that as long as the protestors were not breaking anything or dangerous, they had no problem with it.  It’s a good thing he explained.

De Blasio gives a lot of rope, noted an ACT UP veteran, who’d seen Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations through their increasingly aggressive approaches to policing dissent. By the end of the evening, many had turned to pepper spray those same protesters. 

In Manhattan, there were bodies of protestors as far as the eye could see.
One, we are the people
Two, a little bit louder
Three, we want justice for Eric Garner.

We made our way through the streets, people talking, screaming, finding solidarity with among the other drivers, door men, and workers out cheering everyone along.

Ran into so many friends out there.  My buddy Stacy told me the two marches, from Foley Square and Sarah D Roosevelt Park had just converged. She took a small picture of me as well as so many of the other scenes from the night.   

Justice for Eric Garner, December 4, 2014
©Stacy Lanyon
 — with Benjamin Heim Shepard.

We marched  North, West on Canal, South down Broadway past Zuccotti where so many of this generation of activists met in our generational call to challenge the ravages of income inequality.  We strolled down to the Staten island Ferry, West, and up the highway, where more and more activists clogged the streets, striking a chord for a different kind of a city.  We changed the conversation wth Occupy and we were changing it again.  The city has to change.  It just has to.  There were marches all over the city, from Hells Kitchen to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Kids, groups of friends, people across races, all speaking out against the idea that police can kill with impunity.  Next time, it could be anyone.  Unfortunately, we all had to acknowledge, most of the time, black and brown skinned people are targeted.  And this tragedy has to stop. 

I photographed Monica with one of the “I can’t breathe” signs and we rode catching up with the different waves of sit-inns, street demos, and protests.  

One activist carried a sign declaring “White Silence=White Consent” as she and others blocked the streets. “silence =death” declared aids activists for years.   Unless we speak out, we support this system.

Yet, few of us really know how.  Donald Grove, one of our heroes, noted:
"My big problem is that I think I am supposed to know the right answer already, that I am supposed to respond to systemic racism with fully formed opinions that can't be wrong. Learning to listen and hear is different than knowing the answer. Challenging divisive power requires recognizing who is systemically excluded from having any voice -- not attempting to speak for them but to recognize that they have been speaking all along and we have been choosing not to hear." -  Donald Grove

Throughout the streets, people were speaking out and learning to listen. 

Amanda Saint-Nick
 later wrote:

Tonight was beautiful but we must do something about the violence against protesters. Innocent people were grabbed, mased, and arrested on 14th and 8th ave. We as a group are too afraid to intervene. There is always more of us than them, we must do better. Again, tonight we shut it down. The fight must never end.

"It was a wild and wonderful night, but the police got very brutal toward the end. Here is a photo I was able to get of the pepper-spray incident. I'll post the rest of my photos tomorrow." ‪#‎shutitdown‬ ‪#‎ericgarner‬ ‪#‎ohhellno‬ ‪#‎mikebrown‬ ‪#‎ferguson‬ ‪#‎mynypd‬
©Stacy Lanyon
Stacy Lanyon photos

Keegan noted
That got people mad. Myself and others got pepper-sprayed, sound canon being used on weapon mode.


The cannon could be heard all over the city. There s something terribly wrong.  And we all seemed to hear it. 

Somehow, the city is changing, but it may just be that more people are talking to each other, getting to know each other, out in the streets.  Change begins with these kinds of conversations, from the bottom, from the people in the streets, ready to challenge what is possible, one step forward in the cavalcade of history. 

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