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NYPD cracks down on Ferguson-inspired Thanksgiving Day Parade protest

Demonstrators accuse police of harsh tactics without cause.


Dell Cameron


Multiple arrests were made by the New York Police Department (NYPD) on Thursday morning as protesters incensed by the lack of criminal charges brought against Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson engaged in civil disobedience at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

NYPD confronted around 100 demonstrators who attempted to enter the Manhattan parade while carrying protest signs. One such sign read: “From the first Thanksgiving to this one, fuck ur [sic] celebration of genocide.” 

As many as seven of the protesters were arrested by officers, who, according to eyewitnesses, violently pushed, pulled, and shoved the demonstrators to the ground after kettling them with metal barriers. Photos, videos, and personal accounts of the events made their way around Twitter under the hashtag #StopTheParade, which trended in New York for up to an hour. 

Brown, 18 when he died, was fatally shot by Officer Wilson in Ferguson during an August encounter. The circumstances of the police shooting have sparked outrage across the United States by communities that feel, with some justice, that minorities are being disproportionately targeted by police. In fact, young black males are as much as 21 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than their white counterparts, according to federally procured data.

Last Monday, a St. Louis grand jury comprised of nine white and three black jurors declined to indict Wilson over Brown’s death. Since then, nightly protests have taken place in numerous U.S. cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, and Oakland. Unlike the protests in New York, which have remained largely peaceful, a dozen businesses in Ferguson were burnt to the ground immediately after Wilson’s acquittal. At least one civilian death has been tied to the actions of opportunistic looters.

“There was a lot of pushing,” Katherine Brezler, 32, told the Daily Dot after attending the Thanksgiving Day protest. “We were inside the fencing used to direct pedestrian traffic. They cornered us from both sides. They just pushed the people to the ground and then took them away.”

Brezler described the intentions of the protesters as peaceful, saying that it wasn’t about targeting the NYPD.

“We need to have a conversation about racism in America,” said Brezler. “I’m a public school teacher and I work in a marginalized community. We all need to have a big conversation and keep talking about it. That’s what this is about.”

Among those at the protest was acclaimed music producer and Brooklyn resident Tommie Sunshine. His account of the events mirrored that of Brezler’s.

“All we were doing was walking,” Sunshine told the Daily Dot during a phone interview after the parade had ended. “We didn’t break any gates. We didn’t go anywhere we weren’t supposed to go. Nothing crazy. No cursing. Everyone was very, very in tune with the fact that there were kids there. There was no ‘fucking pigs.’ Everyone took it down a notch.”

“The only thing that any kid saw today that was bad,” he surmised, “was a bunch of cops that were incredibly and unreasonably aggressive.”

Sunshine posted several Instagram videos of the NYPD making arrests to his 157,000-plus Twitter followers. In one, dozens of officers seem frantic while attempting to confine what appears to be a rather small group of protesters using metal barricades, often referred to by activists jokingly as “freedom fences.”

“I cannot get over how crazy this is. It was purely antagonistic,” Sunshine said, pointed to the fact that he and his wife had brought their dog along with them to the protest. “That just goes to show you, we bring our dog, we’re not there to get in a fight.”

I feel like I’m watching the country lose its grasp on itself; I feel like it’s losing its mind.

As the two were walking down the street chanting against what many have described as an epidemic of American police brutality, they came within an earshot of a mother standing on the side of the street. Upon hearing them, she her burst into tears. “It was clear she had experienced something,” Sunshine said. “My wife stopped and gave her a big hug.”

Three minutes later, he recalled with an undertone of grief in his voice, police moved in to engaged the protesters and began the arrests.

“We’re standing on a very scary moment,” Sunshine concluded the interview. “This particular moment in time, I feel like things have gotten completely out of control. I feel like I’m watching the country lose its grasp on itself; I feel like it’s losing its mind.”

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton had pledged earlier on Thursday that his officers would act swiftly if protesters showed their faces at the event. “We will not tolerate, under any circumstances, any effort to disrupt this parade. This is a national event, a historic event,” he said. 

“Anybody who would seek to interrupt it would be callous, indeed, on this very special day.”

Update: Nov. 27, 3:30pm CT: This post originally reported that young black males are 21 percent more likely to be killed by law enforcement than their white counterparts. They are 21 times more likely to be killed by police.

Photo via @nevernotever/Twitter 

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