NEW YORK — Brooklyn teen Johanan McDowell ran ahead of the crowd that marched up Broadway last night, holding both hands in the air as he shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” He stopped chanting for a second to look back at the crowd.
“Wow, this is amazing,” McDowell, 18, said. “I might cry. I never thought I’d be a part of something like this.”
Then he realized something:
“My parents don’t even know I’m here,” he said. “My father would be so happy.”
McDowell was one of the thousands who protested here in Union Square Park Thursday night in what was meant to be a national moment of silence for victims of police brutality. It quickly turned into an impromptu march up Broadway, shutting down Times Square and ending in a handful of arrests, with an activist group leading the way who called themselves the Revolution Club.
The shooting death on Saturday of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer sparked protests in the streets of Ferguson, Mo. Police in riot gear used tear gas and fired rubber bullets at protesters, sparking outrage on social media. The activist group Anonymous urged cities across the nation to stage protests in solidarity with the citizens of Ferguson and to protest against police brutality, an issue with particular salience recently in New York City following the death of Eric Garner from a chokehold during an arrest in Staten Island last month.
“Today, we’re having a moment of silence, but we don’t have to be silent,” Diaz, 26, said. “We’re here today to show the people in Ferguson that they are not alone.”
Diaz asked protesters to shout out their personal stories about their interactions with the NYPD in their communities and a girl in the crowd called out the NYPD.
“I’m scared of the people who are here to protect and serve me,” she said. “When I leave the house, my parents worry if I’ll come home.”
“Is this 2014 or 1964,” another protester shouted.
Picking up the banner, Diaz mobilized the crowd so they could address the police officers that were watching over the protests. Hoarse voices yelled out “No More!” and chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police.” The Revolution Club led the crowd up Broadway.
When the protesters reached 42nd Street, their chants changed to “I can’t breathe,” Eric Garner’s last words.
Protesters continued marching, going around various police barricades.
The restless crowd marched across 44th Street. In recognition, the Shake Shack on 44th and 8th flashed its neon sign. McDowell was still in front of the crowd.
“Holy shit, this is amazing!” he said as pedestrians clapped and watched him walk by.
The protesters were stopped at the corner of 42nd and 9th, where they were met by a stronger barricade of NYPD vans. Officers with batons and flex cuffs kettled the crowd onto the sidewalk, and five arrests were made as the officers tried to peacefully disperse the crowd.
A group of protesters hid inside the glass TD Bank storefront on 9th and 42nd. Cops surrounded the entrance and took three protesters away, one by one, including a young man in a plaid button down shirt and backwards fitted hat.
Last one out, he was led through the door by two officers with his hands cuffed behind his back. He looked around at the crowd of strangers that gathered on the corner. Then, shouting out a phone number with a 718 area code, he screamed out, “Someone call my mother!"
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