For the third night in a row, people took to the streets of East Flatbush to voice their outrage at the NYPD's fatal shooting of Kimani "Kiki" Gray. Though the 16-year-old's death was the most obvious catalyst the night's protest, it was clear that frustration with the NYPD extended beyond this one case, as demonstrators taunted cops all night with chants of "Don't Shoot Me!"
Over the course of four hours, people from Kimani's neighborhood mixed with activists from other parts of NYC, marching through the predominantly African-American neighborhood and numbering in the hundreds at the protest's peak. The demonstrators at times walked down the middle of Church Avenue, regularly chanting “No justice, no peace." Some demonstrators threw bottles at groups of officers, pieces of rock or stone at vehicles, and there were other reports of a few bricks being thrown. One marcher threw something at a police van window that caused it to shatter near the intersection of Church and Troy, and a reporter on the scene snapped a photo of a police cruiser with a broken rear windshield.
Rear window of a police car smashed out. twitter.com/rdevro/status/…
— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) March 14, 2013
At other times, police used pepper spray on demonstrators, as well as orange nets to "kettle" one group. At least some of the people arrested in that group were on their way home and had nothing to do with the night's action.
An NYPD spokesman tells us they're "still ascertaining and tabulating" the number of people arrested last night, explaining that some were issued summons while others were "sent through the system" (meaning at least one night in the Tombs). We saw at least 13 arrests, and the total number could easily be double that if not more. (The Post hears 50.) Many of those arrests resulted in a teenager on the pavement with three or four cops crowding over them. One particularly tense stand-off between a female demonstrator and a male police officer began with the cop telling her to get on the sidewalk, and her responding, "Or what, you'll shoot me?" The officer, whose helmet had the number 7987 on it, said, "No, but I'll slap you."
The night was supposed to be calm. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who represents Kimani's district, Tweeted his anger repeatedly at people from outside the community coming in and inciting young people from the neighborhood, "Please stay the HELL out of our community if will only agitate our kids. It's dangerous and counterproductive. Be responsible or STAY away!"
Kimani Gray was killed on Saturday, March 9, at 11:30 p.m., after two police officers shot him seven times. Police say that Kimani had pointed a .38-caliber gun at them, though one witness says the teen was not holding a gun. A recent autopsy showed that three of the bullets hit him in the back, though the specific details of the shooting remain unclear.
The parents of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed teen who was fatally shot by a police officer, attended the early part of last night's vigil, offering words of support for Kimani's family. "I'm not trying to tell people not to be angry. You have a right to be angry," said Franclot Graham, standing near a memorial for Kimani. He stressed, though, that property destruction was counter-productive and played into the hands of those who wanted to dismiss all of their collective grievances. He also implored people not to lose interest in this case. "Don't disappear a week from now, after [Kimani]'s buried," he said."Don't disappear," he repeated.
"When are they going to start protecting us and stop killing our kids?" Constance Malcolm, Ramarley Graham's mother asked, referring to the NYPD.
The evening's action alternated between periods of calm and tense confrontation. Towards the end of the night, a group of teenagers standing on a curb were taunting a few cops standing several feet away in the street. After a few minutes and seemingly unprovoked, an officer reached onto the sidewalk to grab one of the teenagers, who took off running. This sparked an all out foot-chase, with officers in hot pursuit of the runner and some of the NYPD's less athletic members cheering their fellow officers on.
The runner cut down a side street, media and police giving chase. The suspect got away, but about halfway down the street police briefly detained a separate young man who was going home for the night. He was black—as was the runner—and immediately informed the police that he wasn't the person they were looking for. One cop was heard explaining that he was on orders from his sergeant to arrest him. While several white cops walked the wrong man toward a police van, they ultimately decided to let him go.
John Knefel filed this report for Gothamist. Follow him on Twitter.