It's been over two years since 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot to death by a police officer in his own bathroom. The officer who shot Graham was never charged with manslaughter, and today, Graham's mother—along with the mothers of several other young men who were killed by NYPD officers—gathered in Foley Square to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen Graham's case.
Constance Malcolm, Graham's mother, was joined by the mothers of Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Kimani Gray, Anthony Ramon Baez and Mohamed Bah—all of whom lost their lives at the hands of the NYPD. Graham, who would have turned 21 in April, was unarmed when he was shot in the chest by Officer Richard Haste after reportedly flushing a small amount of marijuana down the toilet of his own bathroom. An indictment against the officer was tossed last year on a technicality. "We as mothers stand here together because we don't have our sons," Malcolm said. "Ramarley was not running and he is dead. They treat us worse than animals. A dog is running in the street and the NYPD tries to avoid it, but they'll hit a person."
Though the mothers acknowledged that a DOJ investigation would not bring their sons back, they made it clear they were determined to ensure no more innocent men—particularly young men of color—were taken from their own mothers at the hands of the NYPD. Kadiatou Diallo, whose unarmed 22-year-old son Amadou was shot at 41 times by NYPD officers in 1999, said she'd hoped her son's death would have sparked change. "But 15 years later, we have many, many victims at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve," she said. "Enough is enough. We don't need bandages anymore. We need justice, and we want to move forward. We want to help contribute to society, to bring positive change. Not to combat the NYPD, but to condemn the cops that do wrong."
Malcolm also called on the new Inspector General—Philip K. Eure, named by City Council in March—to investigate the DOJ's failure to adequately prosecute NYPD officers who fatally shot young men. "The majority of mothers standing here today, including myself, have not seen the officers responsible for killing our children held accountable in any way." The press conference was punctuated by chants calling for a rise to action until justice is restored:
Post-conference, Malcolm, whose birthday is next week, told us she has had no contact with the officer responsible for her son's death, and is unsure what she would say to him if she had the chance. "It's so painful because of how my son was murdered—I don't say killed, I say murdered," she said. "I don't want to wish anything bad for him, but on Mother's Day he will go home and tell his mother, 'Happy Mother's Day.' I won't have my son to tell me 'Happy Mother's Day' or 'Happy Birthday,' because he took that from me."
But though the mother of three will be celebrating on Sunday without a child, she says she's found comfort among the other mothers who have lost sons to the NYPD. "This is my newfound family. We're all family now, this is all we could do. This is a fight we didn't ask for, but we're in it together."