Former City Council member Charles Barron has a message for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton: “Ferguson today, New York Tomorrow.”
Speaking at a rally against police violence held in front of NYPD headquarters yesterday, Barron said the popular resistance on display in Ferguson, Missouri is coming to New York soon.
“We will not be the ones to blame when there’s an explosion in New York City,” Barron said. “We’re not even going to be able to stop it, because the people are fed up, and the only thing you listen to is when there’s no more peace for you.”
The death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last month gives the lie to de Blasio’s campaign promise to rein in the NYPD, Barron argued. “You knew Bratton was no damn good from the beginning,” he said. “Bratton was in this city in 1994 to 1996. Bratton brought in stop and frisk. Bratton brought in 'Broken Windows,' arrest everybody for everything—loose cigarettes, barbecuing.”
Barron credited the young people of Ferguson for focusing attention on the problem of violent and unaccountable policing. “The President of the United States would not be addressing this issue if we were just peacefully marching and having a press conference,” Barron said. “These young people will not get the credit they deserve. They’re going to call them thugs, they’re going to call them out of control, they’re going to call them every name. But I say I thank God for those young people who had the courage and the heart to say ‘I’ve had enough.’”
Barron, too, has evidently had enough. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life,” he said. “You’re looking at some of the last peaceful demonstrations. We’re not going to keep coming out here while you kill us and you can tolerate our peaceful resistance.”
Along with Barron, family members of several young people killed by the New York Police Department also addressed the crowd. Sandy Michelin, an aunt of Kimani Gray, the 16-year-old shot to death by police in East Flatbush last spring, said the Gray family has been devastated all over again by the recent announcement that the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office would not bring charges against the officers who shot Gray.
“Kimani Gray’s life was lost, and nothing came out of it," Michelin said. "Literally nothing. The new D.A., that we literally put in power because we vote for this man because he came to our neighborhood and said that he would make changes, apparently he didn’t make any fucking changes.”
Gray’s mother, Carrol Gray, hasn’t eaten anything since learning there would be no legal consequences for the death of her son.
“The mayor’s not doing anything, the governor is not doing anything, so at the end of the day, who do we turn to?” Michelin asked. “I don’t think I even believe in politicians. I don’t think I even want to vote again, to be honest with you. Because our voice in 11203 ZIP code has not been heard. They literally turn their back on us, and the 67th precinct continues to do the same thing.”
Frank Graham, whose son Ramarley Graham was shot to death by police in his own bathroom in 2012, said the problem of police violence is so widespread it requires federal intervention. “The Justice Department needs to take all these cases of police killing,” Graham said, adding that his family this week will petition the Justice Department to take up his son’s case. In the meantime, he said, people need to become more angry. “We must take our fight to the street. We must demand justice. Because nothing will be given to us. We must demand justice. Our sons our being slaughtered in the streets for no reason.”
And Jason Woody, a protester from Bed-Stuy, told us, "I'm a black man in America and I'm concerned that I could be next. They've killed, what, 4, 5 unarmed black men in the last month? For what? Because they allegedly did something? No one got charged with anything, there's been no trials, no convictions, but there's been executions by the persons in charge of protecting us."
Nick Pinto is a freelance writer living in New York. He recently wrote about the travails of the CCRB and a massive natural gas pipeline being built under the Rockaways. Additional reporting by Gothamist contributor Scott Heins.