NEW YORK—A downtown New York City rally against the recent not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial turned into an unplanned protest march through city streets on Monday night that ended in front of the New York County Courthouse.
The July 15 protest and march, loosely organized by Occupy Wall Street and attended by about 300 people, started out as a typical rally with speeches. Attended by people from a variety of races, speakers were predominately Black. Even when those of other backgrounds spoke, though, their speeches were racially charged, and there was palpable anger over the verdict.
“Racist criminals wear black robes, just like they wear white sheets and police uniforms,” yelled John Sandor, a teacher of history at Hunter College. Sandor added that “they must think we can’t remember” and called out names of racially-motivated murders, including Emmett Till and Medgar Evers.
Zimmerman was declared not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter on July 13 in the killing of an unarmed Black teen, Trayvon Martin. The verdict sparked rallies across the nation that are continuing into this week.
This rally started at 6 p.m. in Union Square at 14th Street and morphed into a protest march by about 6:45. Followed by a massive New York Police Department contingency, it first circled around the Square, and then spilled into the streets.
Though both the rally and the march were completely peaceful, several specific comments were made about talking less and acting more.
During his speech to the crowd, Sandor suggested “shutting the city down” to get the attention of New York City authorities.
One of the group leaders, Bjorn, who didn’t want to give his last name, told the crowd that he was sick of rallies and wants to see action.
“It’s 2013 and they kill a black man like it’s nothing,” Bjorn, 31, told the crowd, adding that if an NYPD officer subjects them to New York’s controversial stop and frisk practice, they should refuse to cooperate.
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“[Just say]’Officer, why are you stopping me? Yes I’ve got an ID, but I don’t feel like showing it.'”
Michael Little, 27, works near Union Square and had stopped by after work when he saw the rally. He said he understands the need for more action on the part of the African-American community from personal experience. Little said he was racially targeted by police after being pulled over for having windows tinted too darkly, and now has a legal case against them pending.
“[We need] not a rally, but actually an uprising,” said Little, who compared the post-Rodney King L.A. riots to what should happen in New York City. “It can’t keep on like this.”
During the impromptu two hour march through city streets that ended at the courthouse, the crowd was followed and closely monitored by motorcycle police, beat police, and plainclothes officers in suits and unmarked cars.
A number of people on the street who saw the march passing by joined in on the spur of the moment.
At several points on the extremely hot July evening it seemed that a physical altercation was about to break out between police and protesters, but it never did.
“That’s what they want, they want us to fight them,” one woman in the crowd said to a fellow marcher.