Occupy Wall Street activists and their supporters decried violent tactics used during a police crackdown on Saturday’s re-occupation of Zuccotti Park, renamed Liberty Square, that led to 73 arrests. During a press conference outside police headquarters, they called for New York Police Dept. Commissioner Ray Kelly to resign. Speakers drew connections with other recent police scandals, including brutality, racial profiling, and NYPD’s surveillance of the Muslim community and Occupy activists.
MICHAEL PRIMO: We peacefully exercised our constitutional right of peaceful assembly. Let me remind King Mike and General Kelly what the First Amendment of the Constitution says. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people [peaceably to] assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The Wall Street movement began here in this city. It is our city. And it instantly spread around the globe. As New Yorkers, we’re proud of that. We know that we had to challenge the heart of the empire here in the belly of the beast. We know that we’ve changed the dialogue, we’ve changed the debate. The President knows it. Aunt Sally in Kansas knows it. We have occupied to change the dialogue, to spotlight our national conversation back to where it belongs: on the racist, sexist, classist inequality and abuses of the 1 percent at the expense and the suffering of the 99 percent. That is why we occupy. The Occupy movement is a shot across the bow of corporate greed, economic inequality, disparity, the structural loss of opportunity, as well as the Wall Street oligarchy that controls our government, bringing us nothing but misery for millions, while they get fatter and fatter.
Last week, Bloomberg visited Goldman Sachs to give them a little moral support. Now, who does he care about? He makes it so easy for us. He makes it clear who he cares about. On Saturday night, 82 folks were arrested, many beaten. One of our comrades suffered seizures and broken ribs. But does Ray Kelly or Mayor Bloomberg comfort this decent person exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble? Do they comfort the family of Jateik Reed, who the police brutally beat? No, they comfort Wall Street, because that’s who they care about. That is why we occupy. That is why Ray Kelly must be go—must go.
We have here today leaders from across New York City who will speak to you and show you how their human rights have been violated time and time again, so Wall Street can continue to profit. Let me introduce first Ms. Jennifer Gonzalez. My name is Michael Primo. I’m a participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Jennifer Gonzalez?
JENNIFER GONZALEZ: Hi. My name is Jennifer Gonzalez. I come here from Suffolk County, Long Island. I stand here today because my son’s father was brutally beaten by five Suffolk County officers.
Is this better? Can you hear? No mic? Oh, OK.
My son’s father—I come from Suffolk County. My son’s father was brutally beaten by five Suffolk County officers in 2008. He was beaten with flashlights. To this day, we have no reason—we have not been given a reason to why he was murdered. We don’t have any answers. The case was considered a homicide, yet all the officers are still patrolling the streets of Suffolk County. They were not held accountable for anything. He suffered massive lacerations, brain damage. His tongue was cut in half, missing teeth. And they feel that that was justifiable.
We’re also trying to build in Long Island, as well, because, as New York City, this goes on all over the country, all over the world. And in Long Island, it’s very hard for us to build, because people don’t come united. Everybody stays secluded in their own families. A lot of people are immigrants out there. I come from a community of Hispanic and black, and a lot of people are scared to stand out and take a stand.
We are holding the fourth annual vigil-slash-protest march for Kenny Lazo on April 14th in Suffolk County from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, you can email justiceforkennylazo(at)yahoo.com.
ALFREDO CARRASQUILLO: So, my name’s Alfredo. I’m a community organizer with Vocal New York. We organize around issues—excuse me, we organize around issues impacted by people of color who are poor, who are affected by HIV and AIDS, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration. The way that we build power in these communities is that we politically educate people on the policies and laws. We give leadership training to empower people to advocate for their rights. And we do mass mobilizing and direct action to win on issues that we need to win on to improve in our communities. The reason why I organize around these issues is because these are the ugliest issues which the 1 percent want to ignore and which politicians don’t want to acknowledge. But the people who have been affected by it know what the—what their rights are, because they’ve been denied it for so long. I’m really proud to be here today with the 99 percent to address these racist practices and policies that have been carried out by NYPD that destroy communities of color.
Me, myself, I grew up in the South Bronx. I pretty much have witnessed juvenile facilities being built around my community. And at the age of 15, I found myself in one. I was illegally arrested by NYPD doing a search in public housing, and because I wasn’t a resident of the building, I was told to empty my pockets and was arrested illegally for a small amount of marijuana. First time I’ve ever been arrested in my life, and I spent a month in juvenile detention. Since that moment forward, I’ve been in and out of juvenile detention because I violated probation. You may wonder, “Well, I guess you deserve—you violated probation, right?” Well, that’s not the case. The reason why is because all of the after-school programs in my community, all of the basketball leagues in my community, all of the programs that us young kids used to attend to stay out of trouble, began getting taken away from us. And on top of that, we was in a police state, because every corner you turned, you saw a police officer. These police officers do not do anything to improve our communities, all right? All they do is destroy communities. These laws are not only unconstitutional and wasteful, but they destroy communities of color specifically.
And that’s why where here today, to call attention to it. And if Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg can’t see that we’re here to fight for our rights, obviously they don’t understand what me, everyone else out here and people from these communities are going through. And it’s time for them to acknowledge what the truth is and start having some justice done. Thank you.
CHINO HARDIN: My name is Chino Hardin. I’m from an organization called the Center for New Leadership, which is the first organization run by and for formerly incarcerated people working on criminal justice issues and juvenile justice issues.
I have a few things to say. One, like my colleague Alfredo, at the age of 13, I’ve been in and out of prison and in and out of central bookings most of my life. I have two felonies on my record and a slew of misdemeanors. But what I carry most is not my dispositions and my criminal record; it’s the scar left on my humanity from being brutalized and criminalized every time I choose to walk down the block. I want more than Ray Kelly to resign. I want a government for the people, by the people. I want to talk about real community safety. Real community safety does not begin with NYPD. It begins with the community. You want to know how to keep us safe? Ask us! We’re the only ones that can answer our problems. We’re the only ones that can protect our neighborhoods.
So I will say one last thing before I leave. Yeah, I’m angry. I’m angry because every time I look around, there’s a black and Latino boy or girl being illegally searched. Every time I turn on the news, you portray us to be animals. Every time I look around again, somebody’s being arrested just for being brown and black in our communities of color. So I’ll say this. We must stand together. We must unite across racial, across sexual, across sexuality, because this beast, this beast cares nothing about color. Yeah, it’s racist, but it’ll lock up white people, too. This beast will lock you up if you are poor. This beast will lock you up if you are queer. This beast will lock you up because—you want to know why? Because you are a dollar sign. So let’s take our money, let’s take our power, and build real community. Thank you.
JEN WALLER: Occupy Wall Street is working for a world without racism, colonialism, inequality and oppression. And we’ve come up against a system and a police department that enforces that system on the orders of the 1 percent, which relies on all these forms of oppression for its ability to function and keep the rich rich, the poor poor, and the people silent and compliant. The Occupy movement has called this out for what it is and has suffered violent police repression as a result of speaking truth to power, expressing solidarity with the people of the world, and demanding a space in which we can have these conversations and organize to change this system. It is when we speak out against the 1 percent and defy them by fighting for public space that we are brutalized.
On Saturday night as I simply sat in a park, I was violently arrested with my friends and watched as bloodthirsty cops stomped on their faces, knelt on their necks, pulled them by their hair, and slammed them into windows. I watched as one friend was treated as a battering ram as they carried him into an MTA bus, slamming his head on every step and seat as they went along. I watched as a young woman’s rib was broken, as she hyperventilated, convulsed and seizured in the middle of the street. And I sat in a six-by-10 cell with her and 20 other women for six traumatizing and painful hours as she writhed in pain. Later, when it was just me and one other woman in that cell, the sergeant burst in wielding a taser and threatened to take me to Bellevue pysch ward because I was singing.
Yes, on Saturday, the police were brutal. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of their misconduct. In Harlem, they beat and arrest people for walking down the street. In the Bronx, they shoot people point-blank in their own bathrooms. In East New York, they shoot people outside their homes in their pajamas. The NYPD hunts black and brown men, stop-and-frisking, locking them up, killing them without a second thought—and never pay a price. The NYPD surveils, targets and entraps Muslim people, creating convoluted schemes to legitimize the war on terror through racist policing, and they never, ever pay a price. The NYPD assaults and rapes women and transgender people, and they never, ever pay a price. No more! We’re not going to take this anymore! They only do this because they can, because they get away with it, because we don’t stop it.
Today and in the coming days and weeks, we’re going to stop this abuse, this systemic abuse of people of color and poor people, and in turn, the abuse of those who fight back against this abuse and this racist, corporate, imperialist system that demands it. Today we’re calling for Ray Kelly’s resignation, and this will be a small victory. But it is not enough. Ray Kelly’s resignation will not stop this violence or this repression. The only thing that will stop it is true power to the people, self-determination for all communities and solidarity with the 99 percent of the world. Today, and from now on, we stand together. Thank you.
CHRISTINA GONZALEZ: I’ve been with Occupy Wall Street since day two. I’ve been working tirelessly with the campaign to stop stop-and-frisks since October. I’ve been arrested five times since I’ve—since September 24th. I’m here because I’m a concerned citizen, and that’s all you have to be to make this thing stop. You don’t have to be part of an organization. You just have to care enough about it that you’ll do something about it, not at a rally, not at a protest, but in your every day. So when you see someone being stopped, you have to film it. And if you can, you have to tell someone about it. And you have to talk about it every day. And you have to make sure that people hear you. And you have to wear it on your shirt. And you have to make it your life, because that’s how it’s going to stop.
Ramarley Graham didn’t get justice. Trayvon Martin didn’t get justice. Jateik Reed didn’t get justice. OK, my friend is in these buildings right now, after being released from prison just three weeks ago, and he was stopped and told that he fit the description, and $3,500 bail was set on him, and he’s in here again. He’s 28 years old, and he’s spent 14 years of his life in prison. What type of life is that for a human being? It’s ridiculous.
It’s not just about stopping the policy; it’s about changing the culture of this entire nation, of this entire globe. Right now, Bloomberg, the billionaire, is content with the NYPD beating the crap out of everybody—black people, brown people, white people who stand up for black and brown people, OK?
Columbia University has just decided to control the whole upper Manhattan. And now there’s a building on 135th Street and Broadway, where people have lived their whole lives—are being told, “You’ve got to go. And you’ve got a month to do it.” I’m asking right now, can we support those people? Can we support the people of Harlem? Can we support the people in the Bronx? Because the cops are here beating the [blank] out of Occupy Wall Street protesters now, but that’s been going on in communities like ours since before this country was called the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave.
What does the 13th Amendment say? Abolition of slavery: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” So what did they do? Turn black people into criminals. They’re not slaves anymore; they’re criminals. We have to stop this. People don’t know about this. We have to keep talking about it.
Thank you for being here. Let’s get together, please. I would love to see everybody here on 135th Street and Broadway to help those people keep their homes. Thank you.
- LINDA SARSOUR:* Good afternoon, Occupy. My name is Linda Sarsour. I’m with the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition. And we’ve been demanding the resignation of Commissioner Kelly and his deputies since November. And not only were we demanding his resignation for the illegal spying on the Muslim-American community and Muslims just for the sake of being Muslim in our everyday aspects of our lives, but also for the brutalization on Occupy Wall Street protesters as well as the stop-and-frisk-and-murder of young, innocent black and Latino youth.
And this is not just about Commissioner Kelly and about his deputies; it’s about a structural racism within our institution that we must end. It will not end with Commissioner Kelly. We must demand accountability. We must ensure that there is oversight on NYPD. As they are watching and brutalizing our communities, who is watching the NYPD?
I also look for inspiration from people across the world, where my family is from, people who are standing for liberty, freedom, of justice, in the faces of snipers and tanks and oppression and drones. That’s what we need to do here and find that inspiration here.
I, as a Muslim-American New Yorker born and raised in Brooklyn, will stand up for people like Ramarley Graham and Jateik Reed, but I expect my fellow New Yorkers and my fellow Occupy Wall Street people to stand up and say, “No! Stop spying and harassing and intimidating the Muslim community for being Muslim.” So, today I want to say that the people, united, will never be defeated. So they must see our unity. And when Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg see the unity across New York City, and when our fellow New Yorkers and those pollers show that not 70 percent of New Yorkers think that it is OK to spy on the Muslim community, when we can then as New York say that it is not OK to intimidate communities based on color, religion, sexual orientation, or by the communities we live in, then, only then, will we be a real Occupy Wall Street and will we be a real community demanding change and accountability. So I commit myself and our community to the Occupy Wall Street movement and look for your solidarity with our community. Thank you.
MICHAEL PRIMO: Thank you. I want to thank all the brothers and sisters who have come here to share their stories today. We know that this is not a new fight. We know that we’ve been fighting for hundreds of years against racism and imperialism. We know this is not a black problem or just a white problem, just a Muslim problem or a Christian problem or a Jewish problem. This is all our problem. That’s why we occupy Wall Street. That’s why we’re here today. We stand here in the names of the 200 people murdered since Amadou Diallo and all the people before them. That’s why we occupy Wall Street. Bloomberg calls this his own personal army, and he polices this city like the U.S. Army polices the world. And we stand with our brothers and sisters in Southeast Asia, the colonized people of Puerto Rico, and people all over the world who stand and know that this won’t stop with the end and the resigning of Ray Kelly. It won’t stop with the end of Mayor Bloomberg. But that’s where we start. That’s where we start. Because this must end. It must end now. That’s why we occupy at Wall Street, the South Bronx, Brooklyn, Park Hill, Southeast Queens, around the world. That’s why we’re here.
They don’t want to hear us talk. That’s why they silence us. That’s what they did in the 1960s. That’s what they did in the 1970s. That’s what they did in the 1980s. That’s what Ray Kelly did when the Republican National Convention came, and they locked up 2,000 people without cause. They’re doing it now, and they’re going to do it again. That’s why we need all of you, people here today, people watching at home, to come occupy these streets with us, occupy every inch of this city, occupy every inch of this country. Bloomberg said, “We can’t hear with all the pushing and shoving.” There was no pushing and shoving until General Ray Kelly stepped in. It’s ironic that the first window broken in the Occupy movement was because the New York Police Department threw a peaceful demonstrator into a window. That was Ray Kelly. That was the NYPD. This is why we occupy Wall Street.
You cannot evict an idea whose time has come. We are here standing furiously to let freedom spring. Join us at 12 noon at Liberty Plaza as we mobilize to call an end—oh, Saturday, 12 noon this Saturday, to call an end to this, because this isn’t the beginning of this, and it won’t be the end. But join us on Saturday at 12 noon. Thank you for coming. Thank you for the folks who share their stories. Thank you for everyone who’s struggling in the ghettos of New York and around the world. These roses that you see here today, we will leave them here for the NYPD, to let them know why we’re here: in honor of everyone who’s been killed and murdered and assassinated by the New York Police Department, for all our political prisoners locked up upstate and around the country. We leave these flowers to let them know that we come here in peace. We come here to occupy everywhere, because we know something better is possible, and we the people will make it so. Thank you.