New York, along with the entire country, has been electrified into discussion and action over the grand-jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Since the afternoon of the Ferguson announcement, locals have been on the streets en masse protesting, shutting down thoroughfares, staging die-ins and making their voices heard. Here’s what just a few of them had to say.
Kilolo Strobert, 36; wine sales and education; Crown Heights, Brooklyn
"As a black woman and native New Yorker, my perspective on the Eric Garner tragedy is not salt to the wound but acid. NYC is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and yet when a black man dies at the hands of a white man, while videotaped, the result is still unfair and unbalanced. How many more men do we have to add to possibly the longest list in history, men of color that died for an unjust reason because of a racist, prejudiced or ignorant human being? The answer should be zero."
Celeste Sloman, 23; photographer; Tribeca
"I believe the protests show that young people are capable of and willing to leave their computers and Twitter accounts for a cause that is meaningful to them. I am constantly concerned that nowadays, in the digital age, major movements like the March on Washington, would never happen. But the recent protests show that maybe it's possible for people to come together and fight when they see that basic human rights for themselves and others are in jeopardy."
Toya A. Lillard, 41; executive theater director; Crown Heights, Brooklyn
"One of the most beautiful things about living in New York City is the diversity that exists. There were thousands of people of every color, age, background and ability out there demanding an end to the reckless killing of their fellow Americans by those who have sworn to protect and serve all. It was powerful to see the city in all its brilliant colors, with its people taking over the streets, calling for change."
Reuben Kopel, 38; attorney; Upper East Side
"Unfortunately, I was not surprised by the recent grand-jury decisions. However, recent events have actually made me proud to be a New Yorker. The public reaction and peaceful nature of the protests is a testament to this city, its residents and the police force, as well. I hope it leads to real change in the way future cases will be handled."
Yazmany Arboleda, 33; artist; Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
"I march because I am conscious, now more than ever before, that we belong to each other. The verdicts in the Garner and Brown killings make clear that we have systemic social changes that we are all responsible for resolving together. To see all of those individuals showing up night after night across the country—people connecting to one another through a shared humanity beyond language, politics, religion and ethnicity—gives me a great deal of hope."
Nawal Maalouf, 27; law student; Morningside Heights
"It’s an unfortunate reality that our men and women in blue face so much pressure not to speak out against what they may perceive as wrongs within their own department. Perhaps part of making change will be eliminating the very real backlash that officers face for standing up for their values and speaking their minds."
Michael McDavid, 50, self-employed; Long Island City, Queens
"When our justice system says loud and clear, despite the general consensus of its people, that it's acceptable to choke the very life out of someone begging for mercy and that there are no consequences to such heinous crimes, the very legitimacy of our so-called democratic process is put to question. This is a sad day for America, a very sad day."
J.G. Gilbert, 28; digital marketing; Harlem
"The world pays attention to what goes on here. As a center for cultural movements of all types, if it's happening here, people will perk up and listen. They will in other places, as well, but somehow, we seem to be among the strongest voices. The fact that we shut down bridges and the West Side Highway should be an example of the level of amplification New Yorkers of all kinds are capable of."
Danny Stephens, 34; pediatrician; Long Island City, Queens
"I'm glad to see folks protest! This is about police brutality and justice, and for me, it's about recognition of black humanity. Deadly force has been a part of American discourse for so long. It's about time protest to deadly force also becomes a part of the conversation."
William Booher, 38; chief strategy officer; West Village
"As a 38-year-old man who is black, gay, Southern and often the only brown or black voice in meetings as the chief strategy officer of too many places to cop to, I am scared for the human race. I’m scared because I have proudly and boldly said "I am American" too many times to back down based on what I see in Miami, Ferguson and now my beloved home of New York. I wish politicians would stop grandstanding and that the CNNs of the world would stop ratings hunting and we had a real discussion of people’s perspectives with concrete action steps."
Maggie Rauch, 35; research analyst; Sunset Park, Brooklyn
"I have been really discouraged by the grand-jury decisions, but I am encouraged by the people taking to the streets to say we are not okay with this and we need to hold police and our government accountable. This injustice harms us all, not just the people who are singled out for mistreatment."
James V. Celentano, 30; financier; Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn
"NYC is a wonderful world stage for protests of all kinds. The diversity of races, backgrounds and socioeconomic groups coming together for a common good is a beautiful and inspiring thing. We are lucky to be privy to this kind of expression."
Rebecca Krasney Stropoli, 41; editor/writer; Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
"I am moved by the largely peaceful demonstrations that have occurred following the grand-jury decision in the Eric Garner case. Nothing will be accomplished if we come from a place of disorderly rage and violence. What an amazing time in history this is. Let's take advantage of this moment to make a real, lasting difference."