With each police killing of an unarmed black man, the ranks of a popular uprising have swelled across the nation. The crowds are diverse —racially, ethnically, age-wise, gender-wise.
The movement calls on the crowds to ‘Shut It Down’ in city after city. It has correctly been called a civil rights movement, a protest against oppression.
One of the most hopeful signs of the movement is that, though the victims of excessive police force have been black, the protesters have been such a diverse lot. During a peaceful die-in in Buffalo, NY on Thursday, Morgan Dunbar of Ignite the Youth said:
This is about systemic oppression and it’s finally going to be addressed in the form of civil disobedience.
‘Shut It Down’ Means Highways, Bridges, Monuments and more.
The latest symbol of this oppression, of course, was the refusal of a grand jury to indict white NYPD officer Daniel Pantale, who killed Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold. For two nights, thousands of protesters filled the streets of New York City, blocking traffic and ‘shutting down’ the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, as well as the Holland Tunnel and West Side Highway.
But the protests were repeated all across America in the last two days — just as solidarity protests have been held for Ferguson, Missouri after a grand jury failed to indict former officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.
In Washington, D.C., hundreds held a die-in at one of our most prominent symbols of freedom, the Washington Monument. In Boston, parts of the Massachusetts Turnpike, Interstate 93, and the city’s subway system were shut down. In Chicago, it was the iconic Lake Shore Drive, bordering Lake Michigan. In San Francisco, it was the famed home of the city’s streetcars, Market Street.
The list of protests, each with hundreds of marchers, goes on and on: Oakland, Seattle, Atlanta, Huntsville, Miami, Minneapolis. In Phoenix, the protest also focused on the police shooting death of another unarmed black man, resident Rumain Brisbon. Phoenix’s march overtook downtown’s First Friday venue.
Black lives matter, all lives matter.
The theme of ‘black lives matter’ echoed through the events as well as the sentiment to ‘shut it down’. New York City protesters chanted:
No justice, no peace! No racist police! Black lives matter! This is what democracy looks like! Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like! If we don’t get it, shut it down! If we don’t get it, shut it down! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!
In announcing a major retraining of 22,000 police officers and supervisors on Thursday, New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio said:
People need to know black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives. It’s what we still have to aspire to. I said it yesterday. I believe it. This is not just a problem in New York City; it is an American problem, an American challenge. It’s an issue that goes back to the founding of this republic that we still haven’t solved.
After all the hate that has boiled out of the country’s underbelly since the election of our first black President, it’s encouraging to see so many Americans eager to embrace the challenge. Protester Anthony Heary of Buffalo sounded an optimistic note of his own this week:
In the public eye, it’s becoming more and more known that sometimes we’re not being treated fairly.
There’s no such thing as one segment of the population being treated unfairly — and systematically so — in a country that is just. We have no right to call ourselves a just country until all of our citizens are treated the same. If that takes shutting down highways, bridges, monuments, and more to put the spotlight on what is a very American problem, then let’s continue to Shut It Down!
H/T: Photo: Nic Oza / The Arizona Republic