Yesterday evening, around 150 BLM protesters met at Barclays Center for the People’s Liberation March. They were led by a nameless group that focuses on Black Liberation through direct action and community support. The group has rolled out means of mutual aid in every borough, trying to fill in the socio-economic gaps that capitalism leaves in its wake.
Before the march set off, a few of the organizers spoke to the crowd, imploring them to involve themselves in bettering their communities. “I want to take care of my community because the government is not doing it. So we have to do it! … We are out here trying to find a new way to establish community support for our Black and Brown people,” said Jes, an organizer. “It’s not enough to just march. It’s not enough to be out here. Put action behind these marches.” Then she pivoted to the NYPD: “To all the cops — your liberation will come when we get what we want. And we want your fucking badge.”
Another organizer, Luis, then spoke to the crowd about how to defuse moments of instigation.
“If you feel harm or you feel threatened or uncomfortable by someone’s presence, please come to an organizer and communicate that,” he said. “We will lead with care and a step-by-step process that we use in order to create a harm-reducing space. If that person is pointed out, we will not lead with punitive measures. We will simply start a conversation and move forward from there. We are here to address harm and make this movement as sustainable as possible by addressing harm within our own community. ” He then indicated who the medics were and told attendees to cross their arms over their heads in the shape of an X if they needed medical help or were with someone in need.
Safety is clearly a priority to the unnamed group. Before the protest, they made sure they had enough bike-protesters to be able to block traffic and create barriers between marchers and the NYPD. The bikers had a pre-march huddle during which they were instructed how to keep cars and cops away from the marchers.
Members of the Copwatch Patrol Unit, a group that films police activity, were also present with their cameras out.
There were about 50 NYPD officers and at least 10 arrest vans visible at the protest. The officers closely followed the group, but little to no police-protester interaction occurred.
As the group took off onto Atlantic Avenue, a young man began to sing. His smooth, practiced voice reverberated throughout the crowd via a rolling PA system. “Black lives are beautiful. Black lives are worthy. Black lives are essential,” he sang.
A van loaded with a folding table, food, water and PPE followed the group, unloading “The People’s Bodega” twice during the march as well as at the take-off and landing points. One of the people working the bodega held a sign, “EVERYTHING IS FREE.”
As marchers walked through hyper-developed parts of Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn, some commented on gentrification of North Brooklyn, chanting “Black people used to live here.” “Some of you are gentrifiers,” said a leading marcher to the crowd, encouraging their gentrifying counterparts to learn about and be involved in their communities.
The march ended at Brooklyn Borough Hall, where the organizers updated the crowd about their plans to install a community fridge in Crown Heights — one of 13 they ultimately plan to install across the borough — and hold a food and coat drive in Brooklyn on November 29th.
They also spoke about the need to eliminate qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers from being held accountable in many of the cases in which they violate people’s rights during the course of doing their job. Toward that end, they urged their fellow protesters to send messages to Senator Kevin Parker demanding he take action to ban the legal practice.
Although on a smaller scale than the mass Black Lives Matter/anti-police brutality protests that roiled the city in June, protests are still taking place multiple days of every week. The general tone has broadened from “defund” to “abolish” the police as many organizers grapple with race through the lens of capitalism and class, often saying that the “whole damn system” has to go.
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