From the headquarters of the NYPD to midtown Manhattan, chants of “hands up don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” rang out through the streets yesterday (Dec. 13) as tens of thousands of marchers flooded the city as part of the Millions March NYC. The march was in response to the recent grand jury decisions in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases (in NYC and Ferguson respectively), which many felt were representative of structural racism and racial bias.
The march drew a diverse crowd, from babies to the elderly, activists, people new to the movement, celebrities, politicians, and more. Overall, the vibe was positive — it truly felt like the city was coming together to take a stand (rogue Santas from Santacon notwithstanding.) Marchers felt were a part of something much bigger than themselves, with one marcher, Katie Simon (a 28-year-old software engineer) noting that "being a part of this is being a part of history."
Signs listed the names of people of color who had been killed by police and vigilantes, from Akai Gurley and Islan Nettles to Tamir Rice and Aiyana Jones, called on people of all backgrounds to stand up, and shared moving personal stories.
Million Hoodies, an organization that works to empower young people of color and protect them from racial profiling, was there to support the march. Their director, Dante Barry, said that they were there to march to put pressure on a flawed system.
"It’s important for us to be mobilizing," he said. "And being able to pressure our folks in the system to say ‘No more. Enough is enough. Black lives DO matter.'"
Michael Skolnik, a Good Look Panelist and civil rights activist, said that he's marching for those who have lost someone.
“I am marching today for all the families that have lost their loved ones," he said. "We have marched in the city for a long time — we’ve been marching for Amadou Diallo, we’ve been marching for Abner Louima, we’ve been marching for Sean Bell, today we march for all of them.”
Family members of black men who have been killed by police and vigilantes were also in attendance. We spoke to Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, a black teenager was murdered by a white man who had told him and his friends to turn down loud music; he had just traveled from a protest in Las Vegas to be there. "Young people in this country have so much power," Davis said. "If you unleash the power of the young, you can only go further."
Celebrities from Nas and Russell Simmons to castmates from Orange is the New Black and celeb chef Tom Colicchio also came out for the march.
Actor and musician Penn Badgley shared his own journey in becoming an ally, and how white people can support people of color in this movement.
"I think it’s really important for white people right now to be super compassionate, and to listen and to accept when they may have overstepped their boundaries," he said. "But not to be afraid because we all need to stand together."
Liz Ziff, a PhD candidate at The New School for Social Research, hopes a conversation has been started across the country.
“I really hope that the actions of citizens in the last few weeks has genuinely opened up a national conversation about these issues and that some real change will happen.”
Want to take a stand on racial bias? Visit lookdifferent.org for ways to take action.