Over 100 people gathered in the freezing rain and hail in Washington Square Park last night to protest a Cleveland grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer for fatally shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a park last November.
“March on with no fear, we do this for Tamir,” the group chanted under the close watch of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, a newly reorganized unit that has raised concerns among activists and civil liberties advocates. The SRG, which has been called a "goon squad" among some Black Lives Matters protesters, followed along with the demonstration as it proceeded downtown out of the park.
Rice was shot by a Cleveland Police officer in November of last year after a 911 call informed Cleveland police that an individual was in a west side park with a gun or possibly a toy. The 12-year-old had been holding a toy gun when he was shot by police officer Timothy Loehmann within two seconds of the officer's arrival. Yesterday's grand jury decision follows a series of similar non-indictments in the police-related deaths of people of color, including Eric Garner in Staten Island, and Michael Brown in Ferguson.
“Are we going to fight to make black lives matter?” asked one of the speakers with the group NYC Shut It Down, which helped organize the protest, along with Black Lives Matter NYC and other anti-police violence groups. “If you’re not confronting the NYPD’s racism, you are fucking around,” said another protester. Organizers then read a statement from the Rice family, demanding an impartial investigation into his death.
The protesters weaved through the sidewalks of lower Manhattan in the persistent hail and rain, eventually marching over the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian path until they briefly swarmed the Target at Atlantic Mall. Protesters said the demonstration concluded peacefully without arrests. (Reached by phone this morning, an NYPD spokesman said there was "no information available.")
Both the holiday week timing and inclement weather may have played a factor in reducing last night's turnout. Last December the non-indictment of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Garner brought out thousands of protesters to the streets for several days of marches and confrontations with the NYPD, including the shutting down of major highways.