Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of lower Manhattan on Thursday in response to the police killing of George Floyd. The group gathered at Union Square Park at 3 p.m. calling for an end to police brutality. Among the now familiar chants rang, “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “black lives matter.”
Protesters yelled “I am,” followed by the names of Floyd, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Philando Castile, Emmett Till and others who have been killed by police or vigilantes.
Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody on Monday and whose final moments were captured on bystander video, echoed the last words of Eric Garner a while a white cop pressed his knee into his kneck: “I can’t breathe.” The phrase became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement in New York and nationally and once again echoed by chanting demonstrators Thursday afternoon.
“I’ve been going to these protests since I was 14 years old,” one young woman told reporters. “And I ain’t seen no fucking change. My heart hurts. My soul hearts, because I’ve been seeing my people die on video.”
“We’re not out here for no reason,” said another demonstrator. “We’re not out here because of five minutes of a short video. We’re out here because of 400 years of pain, hatred and a genuine disgust for this country.”
Protesters departed from the park after police attempted to break up the demonstration using their bicycles as battering rams. Activists circled Union Square and headed downtown toward City Hall, flanked by NYPD on bicycles and motorcycles and in cars. Most demonstrators remained on the sidewalk but during a few instances the group took over the street.
‘We’re out here because of 400 years of pain, hatred and a genuine disgust for this country.’
Once at City Hall, demonstrators held a moment of silence for Floyd with fists raised in solidarity. Demonstrating the position Floyd was in when he died, two people laid face-down on the ground at the foot of the steps leading up to the City Hall.
Protesters and police clashed on multiple occasions. Approximately 40 to 70 arrests were made. Although tensions between the demonstrators and law enforcement ran high, protesters were mostly nonviolent with the exception of few, including a man who threw a trash can at the officers. Most arrests were made because people did not follow orders to stay out of the streets. Two minors were arrested for writing “BLACK LIVES MATTER” in chalk on the marble facade of City Hall.
The demonstrators were diverse and consisted predominantly of young people. Almost all wore PPE, but social distancing was not observed by either party. Protesters linked arms when confronted by the police in Union Square and crowded in together to reach City Hall’s steps.
Justice for George Floyd protests are also occurring in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix, Denver, Louisville, Columbus, Los Angeles, Memphis, and other cities across the country. There will be a vigil and march beginning at Foley Square today at 4 p.m. and a protest at Barclays Center at 6 p.m.
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