On the evening of Nov. 25th, the day before Thanksgiving, while most Americans were preparing their holiday meals, a diverse yet committed crowd of hundreds gathered in Washington Square Park in New York City to stand in solidarity with the five anti-police brutality protesters who were shot in Minneapolis by white supremacists.
The full moon lit up the cold night that was ripe with the themes of community, economic empowerment, and liberation for all in the struggle for Black lives against police brutality.
The protest, planned by two local activists groups, NYC Shut It Down and Millions March NYC, began with a powerful speak out in Washington Square Park, followed by a march that went through the busy downtown street of St. Marks Avenue as urbanite onlookers from New York’s famous and luxurious shops and bars peered at the march as it turned to head uptown on 2nd Avenue.
26-year-old Afro-Colombian Anthony Robledo was an independent organizer working with the local groups to spread awareness and bring people into the movement.
“I’m an independent human who believes that the rights of everyone needs to be taken care of. I found out about the shooting that happened in Minneapolis at the 4th precinct at around 1 a.m. in the morning and I spoke with people from Shut It Down NYC so we could get this ball rolling,” he told teleSUR English.
For Robledo, like for many Afro-Latinos, police brutality isn’t just an issue heard on the news, it’s also very personal.
“I could be next” he said.
The sentiment is growing among many in the United States who are outraged at what they say is a police impunity against people of color, especially Black people, that encourages white supremacists.
Just days earlier on Nov. 23rd, hundreds of protesters were demonstrating outside the 4th precinct in Minneapolis, Minnesota during an protest action that bears the hashtag #4thPrecinctShutdown.
The sit-in action, which had been occurring for several days, had all the bearings of previous protests against police brutality in Black communities, which have now become so unfortunately common in the States.
The Minneapolis protesters had been condemning the killing of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed Black man shot by a local police officer, and calling for state accountability.
But there was a violent turn of events when at least three white supremacists shot at five protesters, leading some of them to be hospitalized.
Though none of the injuries were fatal, the violent events underscored just how easily ignored and neglected Black Lives Matter activists are. The group had previously posted a video of the terrorists on their way to their protests, warning the public and officials that they were being targeted.
VIDEO: Last night 2 white supremacists, one carrying a pistol, showed up to our peaceful protest at the 4th precinct.After community members on livestream started questioning them they left without incident, then we later found a video of them en route to the protest brandishing a pistol and making comments including “stay white” and justifying the killing of Jamar Clark.It has come to our attention that members of this group plan on returning tonight to our candlelight vigil at 4:30, some may come armed. [See: http://pastebin.com/FkA1B2rq]They say they will be wearing the "4 of clubs" to identify one another, so watch for this badge or patch on their clothing.In the era of white supremacist terrorism against people of color across the U.S., we refuse to be intimidated by hate groups. We call on our supporters to join us tonight to continue to demand #Justice4Jamar and an end to violence against our community, whether by white supremacist citizens, or white supremacist Police like MPD union president Bob Kroll.Posted by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis on Friday, November 20, 2015
The November 20th Facebook post by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis warning armed white supremacists targeted their vigils in memory of Jamar Clark.
These threats were not enough to stop the organizers of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis who are continuing to plan protests and to seek Justice for Jamar Clark. And though other groups planning the protest in New York City, as well as others across the country, also have reported receiving death threats it’s not stopping them either. In a press release, they stated:
“We refuse to be intimidated and will hold our demonstration regardless [of threats made.] This is part of an ongoing attack against the movement by white supremacists who want to stifle our right to assemble and protest by creating a climate of fear.”
Nonetheless, NYC Shut It Down organizers encouraged solidarity protests with caution and care. “We are safest when we are united and watching out for each other,” the group said.
Indeed, white supremacy and backlash was present in New York. Before the speak-out began, a bearded white onlooker started yelling at protesters, accusing them of being “divisive.”
“All Lives Matter!,” the man who appeared in his late forties shouted, echoing a phrase that has been created as a backlash for #BlackLivesMatter movement and often used to divert discussions of racism.
The crowd without missing a beat responded with the chant “All Lives Will Matter When Black Lives Matter!”
A Call For Solidarity With LGBTQ Struggles and Black Women
For demonstrators in New York, inclusion within the Black Lives Matter movement was central. During the public speak-out, the themes of diversity, inclusion of different voices (not just cis-heterosexual males), and economic empowerment were highlighted.
“Being young, being black, being poor, being queer, being trans, being gender non-conforming sits at the intersections of the violence that everyone is talking about today. And there’s nothing being done,” a member from the organization FIERCE, whose mission is building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City said during the speakout.
“Why aren’t there this many people when a transwoman of color is murdered? Why aren’t there this many people when a gender-nonconforming person gets murdered?”
Demonstrators responded to the speaker with support, promising to speak up for and condemn the deaths of LGBT people.
Diversity is something that hasn’t lacked in the Black Lives Matter movement, which was famously started by three Black women, two of whom identify as queer. Still many see the need for the #SayHerName movement and hashtag, that centers the lives of Black women (cis, trans, and queer), as essential to bring about as much anger and outrage over their deaths as the deaths of cis-men within the Black community.
Terrea Mitchell, 48, is an organizer with People’s Power Assembly and also spoke during New York’s speak-out.
She told teleSUR English that people need to stand in solidarity with Black women, citing the case of Officer Daniel Holtzclaw as an example of the brutality and sexual violence Black women face at the hands of police.
“He raped 13 black women and he did it because he knew that he could get away with it and that’s basically what the women had been testifying about,” she said.
“They didn’t feel that they would be believed because they were Black women and that needs to stop, we need to stop having that double standard, that we’re less than or that our lives don’t have the same value as white lives.”
Black Latinxs Continue to Hold Leading Roles
Robledo, who helped organize the protests, recently was forced to drop out of school because of inability to pay due to his immigrant status, but this hasn’t stopped him for organizing for the Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality movement.
He shared that as an Afro-Latino he believes he has had an important role in organizing the actions in New York City.
“I feel that last winter I had ‘quote on quote’ a key role as an Afro-Latino during the protests and the demonstrations that were taking place in the city.”
He added that he was involved in the organizing of the two times when activists protested at the Brooklyn Bridge, saying he believes that if one wants to get involved, they will be given a platform in New York City.
“I can’t attest to the whole movement in the United States, but here in New York City, if people want to take the leading role, if people want to take a stand, if people want to make change, they are given the space to be heard.”
But Afro-Latina Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate for the Green Party, and a leading activist within the Black Lives Matter movement has been very outspoken about the need for greater inclusion of Black Latinos in the organizing for Black Lives Matter and the anti-police brutality movement.
The Puerto-Rican activist recently posted the following public Facebook status about an experience that many Afro-Latino students share (published here with consent):
However, despite issues of increased visibility for women, LGBT folk, and Afro-Latinxs the march on November 25th was truly intergenerational in a movement that is being led by newer generations.
“I just wanted to stop the violence against young people especially, due to their color,” says Ezequiel Mejia, a 16-year old student whose parents are of Mexican descent, who was also present at the march.
Mejia, a high school student from the Lower East Side said he was there with the youth support organization, Brotherhood/Sister Sol that focuses on political education and social justice.
“I’m here because of them...They always talk about topics like these, like the killing in Ferguson with Mike Brown,” Mejia added.
Dolores, 60, was especially pleased to see so many young people protesting.
“I’ve been living in New York my whole life and I think there’s so much harm done to Black people in this city, in this country, all over!” she stated. “I’ve been doing this for a long long time and I’m so glad to see so many young people here today.”
Dolores shared that she has been personally affected by white supremacist terror, “This is terrible. I’ve had relatives killed, not by police but by white supremacists.”
Her family is from Panama and she stated that people in other countries have a different perception of what racism is like in the United States.
“When we’re in another country, you know you hear about the racism here but they don’t really know what it’s like until they experience it...nothing prepares you for it” she said.
Amanda Alcantara is a writer, a journalist, and an activist. She is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of La Galería Magazine, a magazine for Dominicans in the Diaspora, and author of the blog Radical Latina. Amanda writes about the intersections of gender and race from a political and personal perspective. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies and Political Science from Rutgers University, with a minor in French Literary Studies. She is currently pursuing an MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. You can follow her on Twitter at @radicallatina. For more information visit: www.amandaalcantara.com & www.radicallatina.com