Sunday, April 17, 2016
On the day of my 35th High School reunion, I met the New York City Urban Sketchers in Washington Square Park for a sketch crawl. About a dozen or so artists gathered near the iconic Washington Arch. A huge demonstration was going on, taking over the street on the north side of the park. While many sketchers focused on the arch, I elbowed my way into the protest.
“Rise Up October,” a mass demonstration in New York City, attracted an unprecedented number of protesters, according to the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, a national protest group. The activists predicted that some 100,000 people will disrupt normal business and shut down street traffic in NYC to keep police brutality in the public consciousness.
Following the police-involved deaths of unarmed African-Americans in places such as Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York, and Baltimore -- to name just a few -- the resulting civil unrest and peaceful protests did not adequately move most Americans beyond mild sympathy for the victims, one organizer said. Stopping “police terror,” a catch-all term activists use for racial profiling, police brutality, use of lethal force and mass incarceration in communities of color, merits sustained disruption and civil disobedience.
Protesters handed out flyers to passing pedestrians. When one young man refused a flyer, the female protester got in his face and shouted, "Which side are you on? Thankfully I was exempt since my hands were busy sketching. An older gentleman in a cape and red mask caught my eye. Later, one of the urban sketches told me that he is one of New York's more colorful characters. He is referred to as "The Mayor" since he is always found at events saying he plans to run for mayor. I don't think he has ever been on the ballot.
One sobering fact that I learned from the protest is that, 85% of the people killed by U.S. law enforcement officers, were shot to death. 4% died due to rough handling, 4% due to vehicles, less than 4% died from tasers and 4% died from other causes. Having traveled abroad, I can say that some Europeans views America as gun obsessed police state and a dangerous place to live.