Black, Brown and — to a greater extent even than in earlier protests in solidarity with Ferguson — white youth came out in great numbers and took the streets behind African-American leadership after the announcement that no charges would be brought against any of the cops responsible for the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y. Tens of millions of people had seen the killing on video.
The result was that on Dec. 3 and, in even larger numbers on Dec. 4, protests across the country that involved as many as 200,000 people disrupted automobile, bus and rapid-transit traffic. This happened in dozens of cities, including Boston, New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle.
Judging by reports to Workers World, as well as those available on other sites and social media, as well as in the corporate media, the massive show of solidarity in the streets, along with expressions of support even from motorists caught in big traffic jams, increased the confidence of the young demonstrators. As a result, in many places they pushed through or around police blockades to shut down highways and intersections. And they vowed to continue actions indefinitely.
Following are a few of the reports that reached WW.
Thousands on Dec. 3 raised their voices outside the seasonal tree-lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center in New York. They ran into a phalanx of violent cops who blocked them. Protesters then marched to Times Square and Columbus Circle; another group shut down the West Side Highway.
“The group I was with went to the tree-lighting ceremony, confronting the cops, and then snaked around the streets several times, winding up in Grand Central Station. People pulled down metal gates on higher floors and let people into the station. Police blocked the way to the corporate offices. Then a small group tried to shut down the IRT #6 train, that runs up and down Lexington and Park Avenues,” our reporter said.
The next night as many as 10,000 people gathered in Foley Square north of City Hall in downtown Manhattan. Led by the families of victims of the police, a few thousand demonstrators occupied and shut down the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Thousands unable to fit on the bridge marched up Broadway against traffic, turning left on Canal Street to head for the Holland Tunnel. At various times during the night of Dec. 4, the tunnel, the West Side Highway, the FDR Drive, the two bridges and numerous intersections were blocked.
That same day in Philadelphia, in response to a call from a group of young African-American women, people held a die-in at 4:15 p.m. at the 30th Street Amtrak station in Philadelphia. Several hundred participated by lying down or sitting down in the station concourse for four-and-a-half minutes, representing the four-and-a-half hours that the body of Mike Brown, the unarmed teen shot and killed by a cop, had lain in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., unattended.
Protesters then marched through Center City to challenge the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, with constant chants of “No justice, no peace” and “Shut it down for Mike Brown.” Several groups of young singers who were brought on the stage for the official event raised their hands in the familiar, “Hands up, don’t shoot” message.
The People’s Power Assembly called for the Dec. 4 demonstration in Baltimore on only one day’s notice. Nearly 2,000 people showed up, mostly very young. About the same number of youth came from the Black community as in earlier protests, but this time with more Black students and a much larger show of solidarity from white students and youth. The demonstrators shouted out their anti-racist positions at the Christmas tree-lighting festivities after marching from downtown.
The cops were much more aggressive than at earlier demonstrations. The night before police had not stopped demonstrators from shutting down the I-83 highway that bisects the city and reaches Baltimore Inner Harbor. But on Dec. 4, mounted cops used their horses in an attempt to herd and disrupt the demonstration. The PPA and the youth refused to back down, holding two separate assemblies where people could speak out.
Continuing demonstrations that went on throughout the week, on Dec. 5 in Oakland, Calif., protesters spent another night in the streets, blocking both lanes of I-880 and closing the West Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit station. This followed several nights of street actions, including closing the Fruitvale BART station on Dec. 4. There were also symbolic protests of solidarity with Brown and Garner by the Black Student Union at U.C. Berkeley.
In Atlanta, demonstrations went on all week, starting Dec. 1 when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was shouted down at a community speakout at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. There Aurielle Lucier, the 19-year-old founder of #ItsBiggerthanYou, delivered a powerful speech to multiple standing ovations, denouncing not just the police actions in Ferguson but making clear the numerous police killings in Atlanta in recent years. She consistently raised the experience of Black, Brown, undocumented, queer and trans communities at the hands of police — and called it genocide.
Many in the crowd showed by their comments that the youth had clearly analyzed the “pacification” strategy evident in the speeches made by officials at the opening of this speak-out. They chanted, “You can’t stop the revolution” and “We will not be silenced.”
Elsewhere in Georgia on Dec. 2, hundreds joined a Ferguson solidarity protest in Athens at the University of Georgia with students, faculty and community folks, who also carried out a “die-in.”
On Dec. 4, some hundreds marched for two hours in midtown Atlanta, blocking streets and holding a “die-in” in a major intersection. Police blocked their way to an Interstate ramp with squad cars, effectively stopping traffic on the highway. Protests also took place at Emory University. There were also campus “die-ins” at Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Agnes Scott in metropolitan Atlanta and at Columbus State.
At a MARTA (rapid transit) station in Atlanta, youth held the International Action Center banner reading “Black lives matter! No justice, no peace! No racist police!” Other printed signs read, “We can’t breathe.”
It was no lunch-time-as-usual in the heavily patrolled, privatized Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit on Dec. 4. Some 100 people, including observers who joined in, defied private cops and staged a die-in in honor of Eric Garner and against police terror and murder. The park and its large ice rink, all decorated for the holidays, are under the control of business mogul Dan Gilbert, representing the banks’ takeover of the city under the auspices of emergency management and federal bankruptcy.
Two die-ins and another action are set for Dec. 6. Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) has called a “March Against Capitalism to Combat Racism, Poverty and War” for 3 p.m. on Dec. 12 at Woodward and Jefferson avenues. A bus, sponsored by Detroit National Action Network, will be leaving Detroit for Washington, D.C., for the Dec. 13 national march against police brutality.
Reports from Imani Henry, Betsey Piette, Sharon Black, Dianne Mathiowetz and Jerry Goldberg, and edited by John Catalinotto.