What was supposed to be a peaceful vigil turned into a full-fledged riot Wednesday night along Church Av. in East
Flatbush, as protesters clashed with the police in a march to the 67th precinct. Police made about 40 arrests.
Over 400 New Yorkers had gathered at the corner between Church Av. and 55th Street in a third night of protest against the fatal shooting of teenager Kimani Gray by the NYPD over the weekend. After marching for about two miles, the furious group turned violent when protesters started throwing bottles, bricks, and garbage at them. One police officer was injured and a police vehicle sustained major damage, according to reports.
Dozens of police officers, patrol cars, and riot police with helmets and bats extended some 20 blocks along Church Avenue. A police helicopter circled overhead.
“We’ve been informed of possible trouble with the protesters,” said one officer. “It got ugly yesterday, so we’re securing the area to prevent any trouble today.”
Storeowners in the one of the city’s poorer neighborhoods also closed down shop, after reports of sustained damage and customer injuries the night before.
“I don’t want any trouble,” said bodega owner Ahmed Abdullahi. “I am closing early, I don’t know what will happen.”
The city’s medical examiner’s office announced on Wednesday that 16-year-old Gray was hit with seven bullets, including three that struck him in the back. The NYPD said that the teen pulled a revolver on the officers, which warranted the shooting. But local witnesses said that the teen was not carrying any weapon.
“He was a boy. He was only 16-years old. He had no weapon” said Margareta Losalez, a protester. “These people are murderers. How long must we bury our children? It is the time to put a stop to it. Why is it that it takes a riot for them to be charged every time? This should not be happening.”
Community members took the opportunity to vent at the organized vigil, holding posters denouncing police brutality. At the same time, a youth group gathered on the opposite side of the street, shouting obscenities directly at the police. At one point the two groups confronted each other, as the protest leaders tried to convince the youth that their actions hinder rather than serve the cause.
“Do not stoop to their level,” said activist Fatima Shakur as she crossed the street, making her way to the other group. “Don’t give [the police] a reason to shoot you. This gathering is about you. Don’t let them undermine it”
Under the weary eyes of the NYPD, both groups united and began to march down towards the 67th precinct, shouting: “No justice, no peace. F*ck the police.”
Intercepted by the riot squad at every corner, the crowd broke into cheers as they jumped from one side of the street to the other every time the NYPD tried, but failed to block their path.
“We will march against this corruption,”. said Abdulhafeez Mohamed, a protester. we will march against this injustice.”
Despite the violent confrontations, the protesters vowed to continue their demonstrations until their voices are heard.
“They will not stop us,” Said Fatima Shakur. “We will be here every night for the Kimani Gray and the victims of police brutality.”
The next scheduled vigil is due to take place tonight at the corner of Church Avenue and East 52nd Street.