Groups protesting police brutality staged a rally at the vigil site for Kimani Gray on Sunday afternoon, followed by a march that wound through East Flatbush and eventually to the 67th Precinct. Throughout the march, the 200 or so demonstrators were accompanied by an astounding number of police, one of whom brandished a megaphone designed as a non-lethal deterrent. At times police appeared to outnumber protesters by three or four to one. One protester was detained after stepping off of the sidewalk, but an NYPD spokesman could not confirm that any arrests were made.
An officer from the NYPD’s Disorder Control Unit carried the suitcase-sized “LRAD X,” a super megaphone of sorts that the company’s website describes as capable of issuing a “warning tone [that] provides a non-lethal deterrent, [and] shapes behavior.” The LRAD X was not used in any kind of weaponized way. “Just knowing it’s here makes me nervous,” protester Libor Von Schonau said. The company is primarily known for its larger LRAD product, a powerful sound cannon that can cause severe injuries not only to those targeted for its use, but also to bystanders.
This reporter has covered countless marches and demonstrations accompanied by a heavy police presence and has never seen that device. The officer carrying the “LRAD X” refused to respond to questions.
Residents of East Flatbush seemed to run the gamut in terms of their reactions to the march. Some danced along from just outside their doorways or raised their fists in solidarity. Many filmed the action with phones, and some seemed annoyed at times. Eyewitness News reported that Kimani Gray’s family had asked the protesters to leave the vigil, though Jose LaSalle, one of the organizers, had said earlier that he had been in touch with the family and they had contemplated attending.
Police watch the protest from the roof of the 67th Precinct (John Knefel)
Gray was shot and killed by two plainclothes NYPD officers on Saturday, March 9th. His wake was on Friday,and his funeral on Saturday. Since Kimani’s death, people from East Flatbush and the wider New York City activist community have held marches in the neighborhood, some of which have turned chaotic. On the Monday following Kimani’s death, a RiteAid was ransacked, and two nights later a raucous march resulted in the windows of several police vehicles being broken and pepper spray being used on demonstrators. Activists, however, have highlighted the NYPD’s record of racist and discriminatory stop and frisks, and other cases of young people of color recently shot by NYPD officers, including Ramarley Graham and Shantel Davis.
Jamel Mims, an organizer with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, put Kimani’s death in a context of decades of violence against people of color. “Sixty years ago there was Emmitt Till, last year there was Trayvon Martin, two weeks ago there was Kimani Gray,” he said, addressing the rally.
Yesterday’s marching route included stopping at the spot where Kimani was killed for a moment of silence, as well the the intersection mere blocks away where Shantel Davis was shot by a plainclothes police officer last summer, before concluding at the 67th Precinct.
The police presence during the march included cops stationed on at least four different rooftops. When protesters arrived at the 67th Precinct, the line of police vehicles in tow stretched at least three blocks,essentially as far as the eye could see. Some officers were equipped with zip cuffs and helmets with face-shields, and there were at least five mounted police officers in the area, indicating that perhaps the NYPD was anticipating more arrests.
John Knefel filed this report for Gothamist. Follow him on Twitter.