More than 100 New York City Legal Aid Lawyers walked out on their day jobs, Wednesday, in order to protest the horrendous state of the broken “justice” system.
The walkout was followed by a spirit-filled march and a die-in outside Brooklyn Criminal Court – all in solidarity with the late Eric Garner, and certainly with a grand and somber nod to Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and all the other African Americans killed under America’s systemic racism, dating back, as Angela Davis recently stated, “as an unbroken line of police violence in the U.S. that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery.”
Going by #ThisStopsToday on social media, the protest organized by the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (ALAA) is made up of 11 days of action – one day for each time Eric Garner said his now infamous last words, “I can’t breathe,” as he was being choked to death in broad daylight by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was using an illegal chokehold on Garner for refusing to be harassed by Staten Island police one too many times. Garner lost his life for standing up for himself that day. His crime – allegedly selling loose cigarettes for pennies on the dollar.
The movement rises in the wake of the failure of a grand jury to indict Officer Pantaleo for murdering Garner, despite the entire cold-blooded murder being caught on camera. Being so close to the failure of a grand jury to also fail indicting Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., along with a string of other young African American men murdered by police over the last year, the failure of the Garner grand jury proved to be the final straw. Now, the country has been under the soles of those marching for freedom, justice, equality, and peace for weeks upon weeks, with no end in sight.
And how do we expect an end in sight when more and more evidence comes forth illustrating a lack of justice in the system, when more and more young black lives are snuffed out by overly-zealous, scared and racist police officers? Isn’t it all a confirmation of what so many have known and been yelling at the top of their voices for so long? The problem has only been that no one wanted to listen, but guess what. People can’t help but listen now, and those who still live with beans in their ears are finding that even if they refuse to hear it, they cannot avoid feeling the vibrations, the ground shake beneath our marches all across the globe. The Pandora’s box of social media has opened us up to a world community that paves the way to solidarity like never before in the history of the world, and we know just how to use it. The times, they are certainly a-changin’.
Running from Dec. 10 to Dec. 20, attorneys marched and gathered for a die-in on the eighth day into the #ThisStopsToday movement, outside the Brooklyn Detention Center.
Over and again they chanted Garner’s last words, “We can’t breathe! We can’t breathe!” along with “Indict! Convict! Send those killer cops to jail!” as they marched back to work at the Brooklyn Criminal Court.
Take it from those working in the system every day. When they’re marching the streets telling you it’s broken, you’d be a fool not to listen.
According to BuzzFeed, Legal Aid attorney Leah Maloney says she can’t go through a single shift without new clients coming in with complaints about being assaulted by police officers, and that’s by people who weren’t even charged with offenses.
We want to seize the opportunity to highlight the broken system now that there’s public attention and engagement with these issues.
It’s a wonder why the U.S. has always been so reluctant to stand up for its fellow citizens. It must be something about the puritan roots of those European settlers who raped, pillaged and colonized the land away from its indigenous peoples – some kind of holier than thou prudery that breaks the realities between what we project to the community and how we live inside ourselves and behind closed doors.
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) December 17, 2014
Another Legal Aid attorney who works as part of the Attorneys of Color Caucus in the ALAA, Anne Oredeko, stated:
We get clients who are beaten, assaulted, and in some cases, sexually assaulted, by cops every day.
As attorneys, we are in the belly of the beast. We encounter countless people being assaulted by police officers who get off scot-free.
Legal Aid attorney Roy Wasserman stated:
We are experts on the system, and we know the system is broken.
Wasserman also said point blank:
Grand juries are rigged.
Wasserman went on to talk about how police only go to poor neighborhoods to keep their arrest records up, to meet those quotas you’ve probably heard people refer to now and then, especially regarding traffic tickets – an absurd notion to say the least. Couple that with mandatory minimum sentencing and you’ve got a real problem right off the bat.
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) December 17, 2014
The system is geared toward arrest, conviction and incarceration, which has only gotten worse with the war on drugs and for-profit prisons. The “land of the free” has turned out to simply be another facet of the American Dream. Freedom, in this country, is just another dream, and if you question that, just start standing up for community and your fellow citizens, speaking out; try protesting an issue you’re passionate about at your state’s capital with a large group of people and see how you are treated. See how free you are. I’ve watched old women — true believers in America, the system and the illusion of our freedom — openly weeping in front of police officers pushing down protestors. I’ve seen peaceful protestors knocked to the ground by mounted police for doing nothing more than refusing to move back from ground they had every right to occupy. Go see for yourself. Forget the news, go see. Just try it.
No, here, in America, it is the poor locked up for quotas, not the rich. We are the low-hanging fruit for the “justice” system, converted into cheap slave labor by the for-profit prison industrial complex. Go see. Check it out and maybe you’ll wake up, too. Maybe you’ll start marching. Maybe your breath will catch. Maybe you’ll find the bars just out of reach, just out of sight that bind us all in, that catch up our freedom at every turn. Maybe then you’ll start to grow a little claustrophobic and see how hard it is to breathe, when all you’re doing is trying to mind your own business and live your life.
This can’t go on, America. No, #ThisStopsToday.