By Chris Hoenig
New York’s Fifth Avenue was shut down Saturday by more than 25,000 marchers—the largest demonstration yet—in just one of many protests nationwide against the killing of unarmed Black people in America.
The sea of protesters stretched for more than a mile on one of the Big Apple’s biggest streets during one of the busiest times of the year. Thousands flock to the city on weekends to do some holiday shopping, see shows and gawk at the iconic holiday displays in windows and parks throughout Manhattan.
On Saturday, many also picked up the important lesson: Black lives matter.
The protesters came from all walks of life: Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians—some dressed in sweats to combat the brutal cold, some wearing their Sunday best. More than 90 minutes after they began marching out of Washington Square Park, demonstrators still remained, waiting for their chance to march.
“I stand here as a Black man who is afraid of the police,” said marcher Ahmad Greene-Hayes, “who is afraid of never knowing when my life might end, never knowing when I might be … gunned down by a vigilante or a security guard or a police officer.”
Under the watchful eye of the NYPD—officers lined every intersection, dressed only in their standard uniforms, without the heavy armament seen in Ferguson or even in the city’s high-profile, terror-prone transport hubs—protesters packed Fifth Avenue, alternating chants of “Black lives matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
— Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) December 13, 2014
You can view a time-lapse video of the march here:
The massive demonstration was almost entirely peaceful, though one man was arrested after some protesters broke off at the end of the scheduled route and attacked NYPD officers on the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Those who reject peaceful protest and provoke violence can expect immediate arrest and prosecution,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday night, calling the attack an “ugly and unacceptable departure from the demonstrations thus far.”
“Such acts are beneath the dignity of New York City,” he added. “They undermine the very values these protests are working to advance, and they simply will not be tolerated.”
Eric Linsker, a 29-year-old college English professor who is white, was arrested in connection with the attack and charged with assault in the second degree, rioting in the first degree, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and drug offenses.
‘Sea of People’ March on Washington
Led by the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, tens of thousands filled the National Mall in Washington, D.C., marching to the U.S. Capitol in support of their kids and other unarmed Black men killed at the hands of police officers.
“This is a history-making moment,” Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said. “It’s just so overwhelming to see all who have come to stand with us. Look at the masses—Black, white, all races, all religions. … We need to stand like this at all times.”
Carr was joined by Esaw Snipes-Garner, Eric Garner’s widow; Samaria Rice, mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice; and Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, in asking for better monitoring of racial profiling and police brutality, and for equal justice for those killed by cops.
— Natl Urban League (@NatUrbanLeague) December 13, 2014
“What a sea of people,” McSpadden said. “If they don’t see this and make a change, then I don’t know what we got to do.” The universal use of body cameras by police officers are amongst the demands of many leading the rallies. “We come in peace but we come strong,” said Ashley Sharpton, daughter of the Reverend Al Sharpton, an organizer of the Washington march. “We come with demands. We want the government to get involved.” Thousands also gathered in Boston, marching from the Massachusetts State Capitol, and in San Francisco.