16-year-old Kimani Gray was shot seven times – four times in the front of his body, and three times in the back – last Saturday. And for a third straight day demonstrators gathered in his neighborhood, East Flatbush, to protest New York Police Department brutality. After 100 people attended a candlelight vigil near Brooklyn’s 67th Precinct, as many as 50 people were arrested as a demonstration spread throughout the neighborhood. Thereafter, according to a range of bloggers and social media activists, East Flatbush became a “frozen area,” with media barred.
RT reports, “Brooklynites were heard shouting “murderers!” at the massive police presence Wednesday as officers prohibited people from even stepping onto the street in one of New York’s poorer neighborhoods while police helicopters circled overhead.” Ray Kelly himself, the Police Commissioner, did not characterize the demonstration as a riot, as some local newspapers did, but he did describe the assembly as disorderly.
Police mistrust runs deep in a neighborhood disproportionately targeted by the NYPD’s deeply unpopular Stop and Frisk policy, widely regarded as a racist practice.
Franclot Graham told AP: “I’m not going to tell people don’t be angry because we’re all angry…It’s OK to vent but you have to respect the family’s wishes and be peaceful.” Graham’s teenage son, Ramarley Graham, was shot and killed after police chased him into his Bronx home last year. A New York police officer has since been charged with manslaughter in the death.
Gray’s family maintains he wasn’t armed. According to AP, a cousin of Kiki, Ray Charles, was still having trouble accepting the NYPD’s official version of events: “My cousin was scared of guns…I honestly just want justice. They didn’t need to shoot him like that…The real issue in Brooklyn is cops have been harassing us for a long time,” he said. “It needs to stop.”
ON-THE-SCENE REPORTING FROM OCCUPY WALL STREET
One Occupy activist on the scene, Austin Guest, observed:
At the invitation of a comrade from Flatbush, I went down for the second straight night tonight to the protests surrounding Kimani Gray’s murder at 55th & Church. Out of a sea of over three hundred people, I was one of maybe a dozen white faces, most of them journalists. For the the first time in over a year spent organizing non-stop demonstrations on Wall Street, I was at a protest, but I was just along for the ride – firmly and gladly ensconced in the back seat. From that back-seat position, I witnessed one the most mind-blowing protests I have ever been to. I felt humbled and at times scared – in the presence of a deep, intense force surging up, demanding to be heard.
A few moments that stick in my head:
A crowd of protesters being pushed aggressively out of the street in front of the 67th precinct by riot cops, turning on a dime, sprinting in the opposite direction, finding and surrounding a cop car, shoving it and hitting its windows, dispersed only by a barrage of pepper spray to their faces from the terrified cop inside the car
A teenage girl staring down a line of riot cops and yelling “MURDERERS!” fearlessly at the top of her lungs into their stone cold faces
The look of panic on the driver of a police van’s face after the rear window of his van was smashed, seemingly from nowhere
A crowd being pushed down a side street by scooter cops, followed minutes later by a shower of glass bottles flying from apartment buildings onto the heads of the scooter cops
A car by Kimani’s memorial blasting Bob Marley’s “War” and a mass of quiet, somber people pulsing and bobbing their heads in slowly growing rage.”
Tensions were high, but according to Yoni Brombacher Miller, “I wasn’t worried about getting arrested myself; it was clear they (the NYPD) weren’t interested in the non-people of color, or adults. They were clearly going after the youth.”
Brombacher Miller added, “How can we best amplify and strengthen their militant struggle for justice? Some, like Councilman Jumaane Williams argued that the ‘youth should be controlled’, and while he argues that they’re right to be angry, he is also stifling their rage instead of agitating with them. The NYPD cannot and will not be part of the restorative process. The only steps that must be taken, are a demilitarized, reduced NYPD with expansion of social programs and services, which currently the NYPD is actively a part in preventing.
“I was roughly thrown over barricade by cops, but I’ll be back tomorrow, and the night after and after, because this is truly historical, and Brooklyn’s moment. The youth today were brave, and many more shall be inspired to join up.”
To show solidarity with those arrested, call 311 and demand that everyone arrested at the Kimani Gray vigil be released from the NYPD 71st + 69th precincts in Brooklyn. Or call the precinct directly: 71st precinct (718) 735-0511, 69th precinct (718) 257-6211