Hundreds took to the streets in New York City on Tuesday, joining protesters across the country in #ShutDownA14, an anti-police-brutality demonstration organized by The Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Marchers walked down Broadway from Union Square to the Brooklyn Bridge, where they were stopped by the police.
After protesters closed the bridge, police arrested activists and dispersed the crowd. Hale Sheffield, a student at the NYC iSchool, said the experience was terrifying.
“We broke the barrier and pushed onto the bridge to be faced with savage cops arresting 14-year-old girls,” Sheffield said. “We had to help people climb up the bridge and hide from cops before watching children get hauled away.”
Sheffield added that she was compelled to take action due to the discrimination she has faced in her community.
“I’ve been stopped and frisked in my neighborhood when I wasn’t doing anything,” Sheffield said.
The SMIN organized the protest in an attempt to revive the activism that erupted last fall after two police officers were not indicted for killing black teenagers. Bard High School Early College student Sheryl Touré said she believes people should realize the issue of police brutality deserves ongoing attention.
“This is not just a trend,” Touré said. “This is something we’re going to have to deal with for the rest of our lives.”
Jamel Mims, a member of the New York City Revolution Club, said protesting is a form of free speech and critics of protests are trying to deny them that right.
“There’s no such thing as a ‘good protester’ and a ‘bad protester,’” Mims said. “This idea of a ‘bad protester’ is an attempt to suppress, smother and demobilize this movement.”
The protesters congregated in Union Square at 2 p.m. for a series of speeches from those affected by police brutality, including prominent activists Cornel West and Travis Morales and mothers whose sons have been killed by police.
SMIN member Travis Morales spoke about injustices committed by the police.
“We are right to be here,” Morales said. “We are right to march in these streets. They have no right to stop us today.”
The crowd grew and started marching on the streets around 3 p.m., chanting “Whose streets? Our streets,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Demonstrators also blew whistles that sounded like police whistles and staged two die-ins on Houston Street and Canal Street.
Alice Sturm Sutter, who has worked with the Granny Peace Brigade peace group since the 1990s, said now is the time to protest because people are starting to pay more attention to police injustices.
“There’s more protesting on this issue now than there was years ago, and there’s a lot more awareness now,” Sturm Sutter said. “It’s been going on forever, but we didn’t have a mass movement like we do now.”
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 15 print edition. Email Amanda Morris at [email protected]