by MHI correspondents
MHI received the following reports from five cities engulfed in mass protests against the killing of George Floyd and police brutality everywhere. These reports cover only protests through May 30 or 31.
In-person report from Brooklyn, New York, May 30
In Brooklyn, a thousand or more people gathered on the southeast corner of Prospect Park to hear from speakers before marching throughout the Flatbush neighborhood. The protest here was organized by community groups, including Peoples Power Assemblies NYC, Equality for Flatbush, Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network, and Mi Casa No Es Su Casa.
Police were on site during the rally but did not make their real presence felt until the march was under way. Throughout the day, a litany of abuses by the police were caught on cell phone or other video, uploaded to social media, and available for the world to see. Offenses ranging from covering up badge numbers, to shoving many protestors down on the ground, to multiple police SUVs driving through a crowd, were recorded, but many incidents were not.
All along the route, many people who were not on the march showed signs of solidarity and support. Contrast this with the incredibly low buzzing NYPD helicopters that can still be heard a day later. The violence by police officers increased as the day wore on into evening. By the end of the night, random rushes made by cops into the crowd put many in jeopardy of being trampled by the retreating crowd or the charging cops, who threw numerous protestors to the ground.
It recalled the photographs and accounts of the Tompkins Square Park (police) riot of the summer of 1988. Surveying the internet for the now hundreds (or thousands) of clips of state-sanctioned brutality, it seems obvious why an entire generation is being radicalized within a week. Despite the seemingly unending resources that the city threw at this protest, the spirit of youth who demanded that their lives not be ground up in this racist system was irrepressible and obviously exhausting to the police.
The graffiti will eventually be washed and painted, and the cops will get plenty of overtime and new gadgets to replace what was broken, but the outpouring of righteous anger will echo for a long time throughout this city and beyond.
— Mike D.
Los Angeles, California, May 30
Los Angeles has witnessed several days of protest. Things escalated dramatically on Friday night when police and demonstrators clashed in the city’s downtown, after protestors had shut down a section of the 110 Freeway earlier in the day. Smoke filled the air and trashcan fires illuminated the dark, as shops were looted and tagged, including a Starbucks on Spring Street that was spray-painted with “End Racism” and “Brown Power Unite.” The LAPD issued an unlawful assembly order for the downtown area, demanding that residents stay in their homes and businesses shutter. Local news reports that more than 500 people were arrested. The Mayor, Eric Garcetti, has just placed, late Saturday afternoon, a curfew over the Downtown area for the evening.
The protests began on Wednesday, when hundreds of demonstrators, holding up signs and chanting “I can’t breathe,” “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Black Lives Matter,” gathered downtown, and on the city’s Westside a smaller group marched in Santa Monica and Venice. In the early evening, protestors blocked traffic on the 101 Freeway near downtown and at one point surrounded a California Highway Patrol cruiser. There were also protests on Thursday, including a demonstration at LAPD headquarters on First Street.
Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles has organized a demonstration today, Saturday, at Pan Pacific Park on Beverly Boulevard. As I am writing, late Saturday afternoon, local TV news is reporting on police vehicles set ablaze and several intersections blocked in the Fairfax district, as police and protestors face off at the rally. (This is a very wealthy white neighborhood in the mid-section of the city, historically Jewish but now largely displaced.) CNN’s live TV reporting is describing a “cross current” of people at the rally, and (for what it’s worth) judging from the TV images the crowd looks very multi-racial (but young).
Black Lives Matter-LA is also supporting a second protest organized for today by Centro Community Service Organization, a Chicano group, at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights (East LA), as part of the May 30th National Day of Protest. And another demonstration has been organized for today by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, which is scheduled to meet at the LAPD’s Southeast Station and march to the LA County Sheriff’s office.
Black Lives Matter-LA has been organizing at its rallies around a campaign for a “Peoples Budget” aimed at a reallocation of city funds from the police force to education, healthcare, public transit, low income housing, and other social services.
There have been protests across the state. In Oakland, some 5000 took to the streets on Friday night, with fires set, windows smashed, and traffic stopped on I-180; and outside of City Hall, “We have nothing to lose but our chains” was spray painted. In San Francisco, demonstrators marched from U.N. Plaza to City Hall for a rally today. In the state’s capital, Sacramento, hundreds marched on Friday night in a protest organized by Black Lives Matter-Sacramento.
— Seth W.
Columbus, Ohio, May 30
Today, Saturday, Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin got their own taste of racist life in Trump’s Amerika. All three were pepper sprayed by Columbus police at a demonstration of several thousand people in downtown Columbus protesting the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. When Beatty, Boyce and Hardin tried to “de-escalate” a confrontation between some demonstrators and police over some protesters blocking an intersection in downtown Columbus, they and many others were pepper sprayed.
In response to today’s demonstration, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (D) has just ordered a curfew for 10 p.m. tonight until Sunday morning in an attempt to keep people away from the downtown area. In addition, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) has ordered the Ohio National Guard to stand ready to intervene in “hot spots” around Ohio to aid local police, if and when and where needed.
Today is the third day in a row in Columbus for protests of men and women of all ages and nationalities against George Floyd’s murder, growing from several hundred two days ago to several thousand today. Although there have been some arrests and some windows at the Ohio Statehouse, along with nearby local businesses, have been broken, the “violence” has mostly come from the police.
Enough said about the lip service paid by Ohio politicians to the importance of “peaceful protests” for change! Enough said that “we are all in this together,” as they have been telling us constantly during the current coronavirus pandemic! According to one chant at today’s protest: “No justice, no peace. No racist police!”
— Vann S.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 31
A brief check-in from Philly, where we are under both a Covid-lockdown and a curfew. Despite the lockdown 3000+ people attended a protest downtown Saturday, which was reportedly “peaceful” early-on, turning more dramatic later in the evening, with significant property damage and clashes with police. Reportedly, 13 police officers were injured. As I write, Sunday evening, there are clashes between cops and protesters in West Philly. The National Guard is reportedly being deployed here this evening. 215 protestors have been arrested so far this weekend.
The governor had been planning to move the city to the “yellow phase” of the quarantine later this week, easing some restrictions on business, movement and gatherings. But he is now suggesting that the mass protest may be a reason to push back this timeline. I think it is reasonable to assume that Covid infections will rise in the coming weeks as a result of these protests.
There is a fair amount of speculation on social media about agent provocateurs from the cops or even white nationalist organizations contributing to some of the more extreme property destruction, but at this point it is all speculation as far as I can tell. In my opinion, there is a real danger of white nationalist groups (egged on by the president) to use these protests as a pretense for violence in their fantasy of starting a race war.
In Philly, as everywhere, the massive disruption to lives and livelihoods caused by the pandemic, and the racial disparities in infection rates and economic impact have obviously led to a sense of frustration, desperation and anger. Philly is a city with a long history of movements against police violence and against racist policing. This current wave of protest has come to Philly in the midst of all sorts of complex local issues: the rise of Larry Krasner a few years ago, the reform-minded DA who captured the hearts of many black-lives-matters activists with his promises of major reforms to correct the problems in the criminal justice system; ongoing tensions between Krasner and the Philly FOP; the resignation of the police commissioner earlier this year on sexual harassment charges and the hiring of Daniel Outlaw, the first black female police commissioner in Philly history, who just started her job in February; an ongoing campaign by activists to fire police officers who were implicated in a report that came out last year that exposed the racist and violent social media posts of hundreds of Philly police officers (a handful have been fired, others placed on desk-duty, etc.).
And, to add to the mix, primaries were pushed back a month and are now supposed to happen this Tuesday, allowing vote-by-mail for the first time ever. How all of these dynamics will be affected by and affect this movement I cannot predict. Everything is moving so fast. There have been so many protests over police violence over the past few years, yet nothing ever changes with policing in America. I think people are fed up with being told to protest peacefully and work within the system.
— Brendan C.
Raleigh, North Carolina, May 31
It’s insanity in Raleigh. I’ve been out there and with very little sleep. The cops are just having a field day shooting tear gas and rubber bullets. On Sunday, the protest was completely peaceful until the cops attacked. They threw tear gas into the crowd while the protesters were sitting down. The cops clearly came to escalate and cause violence.
I have a friend who is demonstrating in Pittsburgh. She says, “It was incredibly encouraging seeing so many white folk with BLM [Black Lives Matter] signs. 2 years ago it would have been much different.” She went on to say that the protest appeared to be about 1/3 black folk and 2/3 pretty much every ethnicity.
Similarly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen people of all different stripes willing to put themselves in front of police. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blatant militarism and outright violence against peaceful protesters.
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