Following a Missouri grand jury’s decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, protesters in cities across the country — including Ferguson, St. Louis, New York City and Los Angeles — rallied in the streets.
In New York City, protesters, including students from New York City universities, began to gather in Union Square at 5 p.m. in anticipation of the grand jury’s decision. An activist group called the People’s Power Assembly created a Facebook event calling for demonstrators to assemble in the park. By approximately 9:30 p.m., the crowd had grown to about 300 people, who began to march following the decision. Over the course of the night, the crowd grew to thousands and marched along a circuitous route through the West Village, Midtown, Times Square, Harlem and the FDR Drive.
Wilson shot and killed Brown on Aug. 9 after an altercation during a traffic stop. After weeks of protests, a federal investigation of the Ferguson Police Department and grand jury proceedings, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced in a press conference at 9:15 p.m. on Nov. 24 that, according to the grand jury, there was not sufficient evidence to charge Wilson.
“They determined that no probable cause existed to file any charges against officer Wilson,” McCulloch said. “As tragic as this is, it was a not a crime. It doesn’t lessen this tragedy. There is still a loss of life here. The family is going to have that loss forever.”
During a press conference at 10:15 p.m. on Nov. 24, President Barack Obama urged protesters to remain peaceful.
“We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” Obama said. “That won’t be done by throwing bottles. That won’t be done by smashing car windows. That won’t be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property. It certainly won’t be done by hurting anybody.”
Police in Ferguson and St. Louis fired tear gas and bean bags into crowds gathered in the streets. According to the Ferguson Police Department, there was at least one shooting victim during the protests, whose condition is unknown. As of press time, 29 people have been arrested, multiple police cruisers have been set on fire and several storefronts have been damaged and looted.
In New York, protesters gathered on a ramp to the FDR Drive and the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Triborough bridges were temporarily shut down. Protests remained generally peaceful with only a handful of arrests. In Times Square, a protester threw fake blood on NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton and was later detained.
Video by Tony Chau
CAS junior Arielle Andrews, president of the NYU Black Student Union, said she believed the protesters would be more effective through nonviolent protest.
“Mike Brown is already gone, Trayvon, all of them are gone, so acting violently won’t solve anything,” Andrews said. “It’s a shame. The fact that there’s no indictment here shows that there is no justice. It proves that we have a long way to go.”
Former NYU student Lucy Parks, who attended the protest, said she understands the anger that the people of New York are feeling.
“We had Eric Gardner a few months ago and Akai Gurley just got shot on Thursday, so I think people in New York are really, really torn up about police violence toward people of color and then this is all about coming out as one,” Parks said.
Video by Daniel Cole
CAS freshman Skylar Mealing, who attended the protest, said she is fighting for the voices of all people to be heard. She said she experienced racism growing up in the South.
“Where we’re from, black lives don’t matter as much as white lives do,” Mealing said. “That’s really frustrating for us because it’s the idea that I have brothers and cousins, that if they get killed it wouldn’t matter.”
Columbia University sophomore Fainan Lakha said over 30 students from his school demonstrated in solidarity with protesters in Ferguson and all over the country.
“Columbia students stand alongside the people of Ferguson and in solidarity against the effects of police brutality and mass incarceration,” Lakha said. “We hope to continue the struggle against the effects of systematic racism for as long as it takes for things to change.”
SPS freshman Jason Ju* said he came out to the protest not just because of the lack of indictment, but also the larger social problem the Michael Brown case points to.
“This is something that affects us as culture. It affects everybody — black, white, yellow, brown. It’s about more than just police brutality or one kid,” Ju said. “It’s the effects of police brutality on everyone.”
The NYPD did not respond to inquiries.
A version of this article appeared in Tuesday, Nov. 25 print edition. Additional reporting by Alanna Bayarin. Email the news team at [email protected].
*Correction: WSN misspelled Jason Ju’s name in a previous version of this article. WSN regrets this error.