“After a winter of murder after murder, video upon video, passivity has been cracked,” declared protest organizer Carl Dix in New York City on April 14, 2015. (Photo: Stop Mass Incarceration Network/ Twitter)
As highly publicized killings of unarmed Americans continue to make headlines, activists once again took to the streets nationwide to demand a halt to police murders and oppression. Tuesday’s day of action, centered around the hashtag #ShutDownA14, saw protests in 30 U.S. cities in 18 states.
The protest was organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network in response to the recent killing of Walter Scott — a tragedy in which an eyewitness recorded not just the slaying, but also police attempting to plant evidence near his body.
— Stop The Wars (@leftjew) April 14, 2015
Renowned activist and scholar Dr. Cornel West spoke in New York City, reminding listeners that despite a black president and black leadership in government, “We haven’t had one federal prosecution of a policeman for killing all of those folks.”
New York protests saw several arrests; police say two officers were injured while many activists tweeted reports of violent police behavior as marchers blockaded the Brooklyn Bridge and performed a die-in on Broadway.
— RT America (@RT_America) April 14, 2015
Although protesters had gathered to oppose police violence, both families with children and the media found themselves running from police.
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) April 14, 2015
And significant injuries were reported by at least one activist on the scene:
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) April 15, 2015
In Chicago, arrests also occurred when about 200 activists blocked traffic on State Street.
19-year old Chicago #BlackLivesMatter activist Sequoia Wilson — who tweets as Lakshmi Coya — declared, “I’ll never forget this day.”
In an email interview, Wilson told MintPress News, “I attended #ShutDownA14 because it was a chance for me to make history and be a part of it. I did it for my family, ancestors, and many black people whose family have been murdered by white police officers.”
She said the day of action felt especially powerful for those who “got a chance to let their emotions out towards the police and say what they have been holding onto for so long.”
As in other cities, Wilson reported that police treated protesters with disrespect and even violence.
“Some officers laughed in our faces, some were smirking, some just didn’t say anything. Not one condolence was said,” she said.
She also witnessed a police officer shove a young girl with her bicycle. “He yelled at her saying, ‘Back up! Shut up and back up!’”
Hundreds of police in riot gear were deployed in California in response to Bay Area #ShutdownA14 protests. In addition to blocking traffic, San Francisco activists filled City Hall with banners and chanting:
— David DeBolt (@daviddebolt) April 14, 2015
Activists in nearby Oakland reportedly entered police stations and City Hall.
All-day protests occurred in Madison, Wisconsin, where police used horses to try to prevent civil disobedience, and 14 arrests or citations were made for blocking traffic. Marchers blocked traffic in Cleveland, though no arrests were made.
— Scott Morris (@OakMorr) April 14, 2015
Although the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has been a fixture at police brutality protests for years, it has also faced criticism from inside the movement for its ties to the controversial Revolutionary Communist Party and its leader Bob Avakian.
Though Wilson called the day a resounding success, she stressed it was far from the end for this movement.
“It seems like every time there’s a protest against police brutality, another black person is either harmed or killed. The whole system is guilty,” she told MintPress. “I pray and hope that the police actually serve and protect us like they’re supposed to instead of acting like they secretly belong in the KKK.”