Organizers and rights groups throughout the U.S. are staging demonstrations on Wednesday against police brutality, racial profiling, and mass incarceration, practices they say disproportionately affect communities of color.
The protests mark the 19th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
As actions continue in Ferguson, Missouri, where residents and activists have demanded justice since August for 18-year-old Michael Brown’s shooting death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, the spotlight on the small St. Louis suburb has spread to include more than 70 cities around the country. Wednesday’s protests in cities from Oakland, California to Washington, D.C. come shortly after activists designated October an entire month of action around the issue of police brutality.
Activist and writer Carl Dix, who founded the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), one of the main organizing groups behind the day of action, called on protesters in Ferguson on Tuesday to come together for the movement, stating: “October 22 is a day when those who have suffered the devastation of police murder have a platform to speak about this. And when others throughout society are rallied to stand with them in the fight to stop police murder… Are we going to stand aside while police wantonly murder black youth, or are we going to act now to put up a big stop sign to the horrors the criminal injustice system enforces on tens of millions of people?”
In Ferguson, protesters will converge on Canfield Avenue, the street where Brown was killed, and march to the city’s police department.
“The police murder of Michael Brown was outrageous, but not unusual,” Lou Downey, an organizer with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), said to Common Dreams in an email. “What was different was that youth and others in Ferguson said No More! They defiantly rebelled, night after night, standing up against tear gas, rubber bullets, dogs, armored personnel carriers and refused to back down. And this defiance has continued in face of every effort to suppress this movement.”
Chicago-based human rights group We Charge Genocide also released a report on Wednesday detailing police violence in the city against marginalized communities and youth of color. Among other findings, the report discovered that 75 percent of police shooting victims were black, despite only making up 32 percent of Chicago’s overall population. Protesters will march to the United Nations building to present the report and stage a silent demonstration outside a police station on Chicago’s west side.
Some of the most high-profile cases of institutional racism and brutality have come from the New York Police Department, whose legalized racial profiling tactics such as Stop and Frisk and “broken windows” policies have resulted in massive lawsuits against the city. Protests against the NYPD also broke out earlier this summer after the death of Long Island resident Eric Garner, who was killed when Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in an illegal chokehold for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Protesters on Wednesday are marching through Manhattan to Times Square armed with banners that read simply, “No More” and “This Must Stop.”
Among the organizers is Families United 4 Justice, a group of individuals who have all lost a relative or loved one to police violence.
“They’ve come together to change the dialogue,” Kate McNeely, an activist in New York, told Common Dreams. “They’re speaking for justice themselves.”
SMIN said protesters “can and must rip aside the cloak of ‘post-racial America’ and reveal the ugly reality that lies beneath.”
“2.4 million-plus people are locked up in prisons across the U.S.,” SMIN notes. “One in every eight Black men in their twenties is in prison or jail on any given day. These numbers should shock the conscience of the nation.”
Downey added that “through the month it needs to become clear that there are thousands, reaching out to millions, committing themselves to stop this program of a New Jim Crow which is stealing the lives of so many people and their families through mass incarceration and the criminalizing of huge numbers of people, especially Black and Latino youth. This must stop and we must stop it.”
The waves of creative protests are not only taking place on the ground. A recently launched Twitter account, Killed By Cops, releases one name every hour of a person of color who died at the hands of police officers.
“Everyone who cares about justice must be challenged take a stand,” Downey said. “We must stand with [defiant] youth, like in Ferguson, who grow up with a target on their backs. We are determined to build that kind of massive resistance and it needs to make big steps right now.”
Solidarity actions are also taking place in Canada and New Zealand. Follow the day of action on Twitter: