Hundreds of New Yorkers marched from Barclays Center to Grand Army Plaza on Thursday evening, calling for the immediate removal of President Donald Trump and his Congressional supporters who instigated the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol this week, resulting in the deaths of five people.
“Let us never forget what happened,” said Nelini Stamp, an activist with the Working Families Party, shouting to the crowd of demonstrators gathered in the public plaza beneath Barclays Center, the scene of many demonstrations and NYPD crackdowns over the summer. “Let us make sure that every enabler is not able to sleep, is not able to go about business as usual because they incited violence on our people.”
“This country is divided far more than we can repair,” said 25-year-old Martyna C., who declined to give her full last name because of her employment and immigration status. “The people in Congress that are responsible for fueling this kind of fire, by supporting Trump until the very end, they need to go.”
Many of the demonstrators pointed out that throughout the summer, peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters across the country were arrested en masse, while pro-Trump rioters were allowed to storm the U.S. Capitol building while Congress was in session.
“If you saw what happened yesterday and saw what happened to people in the Black Lives Matter movement, and still do not see the disparity in this country, you are now willfully ignorant and willfully complicit in that disparity,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told the crowd. “This is madness.”
Bruce Trigg, a 69-year-old physician from the West Village, called the difference “sickening.”
“I’d been to many marches in Washington over the years and the police never opened the gates up and let us into the government buildings.”
At the same time as protesters were gathering outside Barclays Center, inside the arena, the Brooklyn Nets were gearing up to play basketball.
“It’s on everyone’s mind," Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters. “The obvious and flagrant disparity in the way these situations are treated.”
Christopher Wright, a 37-year-old pro-Trump activist from Brooklyn associated with the Proud Boys, had been among the rioters in the Capitol calling to overturn of the election results, though he said he didn’t enter the building. He was reached over the phone Wednesday evening on his way back to New York.
“They’ve done a lot of way worse things than what I saw,” he said, referring to Black Lives Matter demonstrators. “We the people are speaking up. If the establishment is going to steal the country from the American people then we’re going to fight back.”
The demonstrators left Barclays Center, and headed down Flatbush Avenue to Grand Army Plaza, then south on Prospect Park West, stopping in the street in front of soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s apartment building, blocking traffic, as several dozen police officers trailed behind.
Night after night following the police killing of George Floyd in late May, protesters convened at the Barclays Center where they were sometimes confronted by NYPD officers in riot gear, who attacked them with batons and pepper spray. The aggressive tactics have been denounced by human rights groups and the city’s own internal investigations.
In the months since, the NYPD continued to use force against demonstrators, making violent arrests and trapping them in on all sides, a maneuver known as “kettling,” a tactic the police department has denied using.
On Thursday evening, however, police did not try to stop the protesters from peacefully marching through the streets. A few dozen officers in regular uniforms, rather than the riot gear they’d donned during much of the summer, meandered around the perimeter of the plaza.
It was the second night of demonstrations in New York City. Several dozen protesters gathered in Midtown outside of Trump Hotel on Wednesday night, hours after the mob stormed the Capitol. They were met by police barricades and dozens of officers, who rushed the small crowd, making nine arrests, according to police.
Among those demonstrators was 72-year-old Carl Dix, a retired steel-worker and activist with Refuse Fascism.
“These are the descendants of the white mob that attacked Black people from Reconstruction, to stop them from being able to vote,” Dix said. “People who voted in Detroit. People who voted in Milwaukee. People who voted in Philadelphia in Atlanta, in Phoenix, on reservations across the country. Those votes are illegitimate because they weren't for Trump.”