On May 25, thousands of protesters took to the streets of New York City to commemorate the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Beginning as a rally of a few hundred across the street from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the crowd grew as the march began and continued throughout the borough.
The rally, organized by Committees United for Police Reform, Make the Road New York, Housing Works, and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, among others, included speakers from multiple families representing loved ones murdered by police who have yet to receive any justice. Many have been waiting for years for the city to respond to their demands of firing and jailing the killer cops. Protestors and speakers made it clear that New Yorkers have not forgotten these victims nor Mayor Bill De Blasio’s now-broken promise to cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget, a promise he had made on the heels of last summer’s uprising.
The system remains
While the conviction of George Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin, was a historic victory for the movement given that only seven police officers since 2005 have been convicted of murder, that victory is only a reminder of the countless killer cops who have walked free as a result of a protected system of racist police terror. Highlighting one of the many state-sanctioned murders gone unanswered, Eric Vassell spoke for his son, Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old Black man killed in 2018 by undercover plainclothes police officers with no warning.
“After shooting my son, what kind of message do you think this sends to the other officers?” asked Vassell. “It says, ‘Go ahead and kill Black and Brown children.’ Every day I fight for him, so that there will be no more Saheeds. The only way to reduce police violence is to hold abusive officers accountable and to cut the size of the budget and power of the NYPD!”
Speaker after speaker, family member after family member, condemned the bloated police budget which only finances a war on communities of color, while critical public programs that these communities rely on, such as public schools, public housing and healthcare continuously go underfunded.
Sammy Feliz spoke for his brother Allan Feliz, a 31-year-old Bronx man killed during a routine traffic stop in 2019. To cheers from the crowd, Feliz declared, “We need to fire all cops who are committing killings in our communities! They are taking valuable members of our households and of our communities from us for no reason. They are not held accountable and thus must be defunded. … We need to reinvest these funds into our community.”
Carrying on the legacy of George Floyd
As the march began and people took to the streets, residents raised fists in solidarity out of their windows, energizing the crowd. Protestors were also bolstered by powerful chant leaders. The chants that galvanized protestors and garnered the most enthusiastic shouts back were ones that unrelentingly proclaimed the peoples’ desire for justice and directly called out the police as a force opposing liberation. Accompanied by drums, protestors responded in force to chants of “Tell me what you want, what you really really want! Justice!” and “Back up, back up, we want freedom, freedom! All these racist ass cops we don’t need ‘em, need ‘em!”
The march eventually ended in Herbert Von King Park in Bed-Stuy. As the sun set on the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, an event that sparked a rebellion of millions, the crowd was determined and optimistic.
As Vassell emphasized when asked how the past year has impacted his own fight for justice, “It gives me more strength, and I can see more things coming to light. And we can talk [about it] more now because something is going on. I hope George Floyd makes a difference in the United States of America.”