The Struggle Continues.

On Saturday December 13th there were protests throughout the United States concerning police brutality against the African-American community. While the march in Washington DC arguably received the most press, it was the NYC march that made the strongest impression in terms of crowd size and duration. If both the official march and non-official excursions are combined, it lasted from 2 PM ET until after midnight, with a crowd of up to 60,000 in attendance. It started in Washington Square Park and moved uptown to Herald Square, snaked back downtown to One Police Plaza, then crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and passed through the Fulton Mall to Barclays Center. A smaller contingent* moved onward through Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Brownsville and finally reached the 75th Precinct in East New York where the cop who gunned down Akai Gurley works. Sections of the march also branched out to Harlem, as well as over the Queensboro Bridge.

I didn’t march myself, mainly for physical reasons (I have a lingering ankle injury, and can’t outrun a cop). But I’m 100% in agreement with the protestors and support them fully. I live near where Eric Garner was killed, and remember often seeing him smiling and greeting people at St. George Terminal. It’s sickening to know he’ll never be seen alive again, that the only way most people will remember him is by the video of his murder. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer responsible for Garner’s death, has a history of violent & racist tendencies; while it’s unfair to tar all cops with the same brush, he’s far from the only one in the NYPD who thinks and acts like this.

It may seem surprising, then, that there’s been very little actual protest in Staten Island. We did have a 7-minute shutdown of the SI Highway, and Eric Garner’s daughter has been organizing die-ins at the spot where he died, but for the most part…folks aren’t showing up. Why?

That question has multiple answers. Start with the usual components – lack of time, money or awareness of anything outside one’s personal bubble – as well as the frank reality that Staten Island is a highly racially divided community. Add in the looming “revitalization” of the North Shore, including the shady EB-5 money pumped in for the New York Eyesore Wheel. When North Shore residents are demonized as “thugs” and “criminals”, it’s easier for other Staten Islanders to look away as they get displaced for outlet malls and tourist traps.

Mind you, the much-maligned South Shore is going through heavy changes as well. Things still aren’t 100% after Sandy, and the Ethnic White Heroin Epidemic™ rages on. Staten Island is still the most insular of the Five Boroughs, but the national attention being paid to police brutality – Eric Garner’s case in particular – shines a cold, bright light on how things are, and perhaps how things need to change.

*An interesting thing about the Brooklyn section of the march: every neighborhood they passed through either used to be communities of color that were hypergentrified and reconfigured for affluent whites, or are currently communities of color in direct danger of being displaced by that same hypergentrification.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks, as always, for your perspective. It’s great to learn more about Staten Island, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been able to keep up with NYC news in general, as much as I’d like to. I agree, much more light needs to be shone on these terrible injustices – how else to combat such lack of awareness/willful ignorance on the part of folks who deny there’s a problem of how people of color are treated by the police? I can’t remember where I read this, but I recall a writer handily boiling down to a question of perception: some believe there’s inherent racism in the system and our society, and others still believe that there’s something wrong with people of certain races not their own. I think that’s a very succinct, fairly accurate view of issues that fall along liberal and conservative lines. And, I do think it’s possible to become enlightened when you actually meet an individual who changes your perception – so keep up the posts and discuss whenever possible!

  2. As you may (or may not) have heard, things have taken a turn for the worse here in NYC:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/cops-shot-brooklyn-sources-article-1.2051941

    There are many questions (and a fair bit of shadiness) over this latest killing, but there’s no question that Mayor de Blasio is getting lots of unnecessary blame and disrespect from the policemen’s union and the NYPD. The blatant politicizing from local conservatives is backfiring, as most New Yorkers know this has NOTHING to do with the protests.

    With regards to “…some believe there’s inherent racism in the system and our society, and others still believe that there’s something wrong with people of certain races not their own”, it’s interesting how when Caucasian males kill, the media makes excuses for their aberrant behavior; when nonwhite men (or women of any color) kill, it’s often painted as a basic aspect of their nature to behave in such a manner. How much of what some believe is shaped by the media, and how much of it is the media giving people what they (believe they) want to hear?

    It’s sad, and the situation is yet unfolding.

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