Braving storm clouds, dozens gathered in Harlem Saturday October 22 for a rally and march in observance of the "National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality" which has been held annually each October 22nd since 1996. More than 100 similar actions were held nationwide on a date which with the rise of Black Lives Matter has taken on increasing significance in recent years.
Attendees gathered under the awning of the Adam Clayton Powell Building where several activists spoke out. Imam Al-Hajj Talib spoke of the recent shooting of Deborah Danner and lambasted what he described as a "reckless disregard for human life" in the behavior of the responding officers. He suggested that police violated longstanding protocol in how they are obligated to deal with mental illness, protocol which was put in place following the 1984 shooting of Eleanor Bumpurs who eerily was the same age and suffered from the same condition as Danner.
Lundie gave a harrowing speech in which she spoke of the death of her grandson Kadeem, who was killed by police under mysterious circumstances on September 18 after being kept in solitary confinement for three days. She angrily decried the NYPD as "nothing but modern day slave catchers."
Protestors then marched to St. Mary's Church in Harlem for a ceremony held by the Stolen Lives Project which has documented civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement since 1990. Although a heavy police presence was felt at the event and marchers briefly stopped outside the 28th precinct the event went off without incident, in sharp contrast to events earlier this year which resulted in numerous arrests.
Connor Hicks of the NYC Shut It Down Coalition argued that recognizing the racist nature of police violence was paramount and that white people had a special responsibility in speaking out against it. "We need to do better in having solidarity and standing up against state violence" targeted at people of color, he said.
Joshua Lopez, whose uncle John Collado was killed in 2011 echoed Hicks call for cross-racial solidarity saying "unity will help." He expressed hope that these protests could bring greater accountability which he argues would have the most meaningful impact in stopping police violence in its tracks.
In Lopez's view if a police officer was arrested for killing a civilian "maybe the next cop with murder on his mind will think about how he doesn't want to go to jail."