Last night, between 100 and 200 people gathered to protest the NYPD's fatal shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray. What began as a peaceful vigil devolved into a riot when some protesters threw bottles at the 67th Precinct and damaged stores and injured employees, including workers at a Rite-Aid. The store's manager told the Post, "They poured in here, like 40 or 50 of them. They pulled the registers off the counter. They flipped over everything. They punched me in the face, several of them did, not just one. It was insane."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was seen at the store surveying the mess. The Post adds, "The gang also destroyed a bodega, ripped up trash bags, threw fruit and bottles at police officers and even pummeled residents. They destroyed a CD-DVD store on Church Street." Hallmark African Movies owner Mamadou Bah said, "They knocked on my door, broke the glass, and ran in. They were throwing the DVDs around.” The Daily News reports:
...The procession, peaceful at first, turned into a wild confrontation between furious marchers and cops after a faction broke off from the group and began to smash car and store windows with rocks and jump on the tops of vehicles, police sources and witnesses said.
“I was sitting in my living room,” said Mary John, 43, who witnessed destruction near E. 31st St. and Church Ave. “People were standing up on vehicles. I saw them take garbage from the sidewalk and throw it onto the street. I saw someone take a TV and smash it into my neighbor’s car. They were throwing rocks at the cars.
“I said, ‘Oh my god! What’s going on here?’” she continued. “They were calling out, ‘Rest in peace, Kiki.’ I was shocked.”
Police in riot gear later barricaded the 67th Precinct. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Investigators say that on Saturday night at 11:30 p.m., plainclothes police officers in their patrol car saw Kimani Gray adjust his waistband and act in a "suspicious manner" outside 473 East 52nd Street. The NYPD said in a statement, "The officers exited their unmarked auto and attempted to engage the suspect, who turned on them, and pointed a .38 caliber revolver at the officers. Both officers fired at the suspect, striking him about the body."
But Gray's relatives have questioned that he owned a gun—his sister said she was told he was just fixing his belt— and said that if he did, he wouldn't have pointed it at police. Kimani had other arrests, including one for grand larceny, and it's believed he was a member of the Bloods.
This morning, at a hearing, Commissioner Kelly said that a "splinter group caused disturbances" during the "peaceful" vigil, adding, "I wouldn't describe it as a riot, it was a disorderly group." Asked to recount what happened during the shooting from the officers' point of view, Kelly said that the department was not currently speaking to the officers, per an agreement with the Brooklyn DA's office to prevent influencing their statements.
Kelly said, "We don't have direct information...but we have three [civilian] witnesses, two of which said that one of the officers shouted 'Don't move' and 'Freeze.' Two witnesses also said they heard officers say, 'What do you have in your hands?'"
However, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who tried to calm down simmering tensions last night, issued a statement blasting the city for ignoring the issues his community's youth are facing:
"Tonight, we saw an explosion of anger from the youth in my community. We have talked about this anger for years, but still the resources have not come to address it. We have talked about the corrosive relationship between our community and the NYPD, but still the Mayor and the Commissioner have failed to address the root causes of this tension. Tonight, we saw that tension turn in a destructive manner. I cannot and will not condone the damage caused to property or to person.
"I also cannot condone the continued refusal to hear the voices of this community. This action, which some are calling an uprising, was not about the details of one shooting; it spoke to the overwhelming frustration that people are living through day after day. I am calling on Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly to join me tomorrow in walking through this community, to see the situation first-hand and address my constituents who demand real reform. I am calling on them to address the lack of positive outlets for our young people, including the community center which we are fighting to get built. I am calling on them to commit to fully funding efforts like the Anti-Gun Violence Initiative that will bring resources to besieged communities. All of these things are needed in tandem. All of these things are overdue.
"We cannot turn our anger against our neighbors. We must channel it constructively and send a clear message to City Hall and One Police Plaza that change must come. Without it, I fear this will be a long and bloody summer ahead. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 'a riot is the language of the unheard.'"
Williams also clashed with Kelly at a City Council hearing today. Check back in a few for video of that.