- Alicia Garza
co-creator of "Black Lives Matter" and one of the 14 people arrested for shutting down the BART transportation system on Black Friday in San Francisco. She is also the special projects director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
- Dante Barry
organizer at Center for Media Justice and Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. He participated in last week’s Ferguson protests in New York City.
As Darren Wilson resigns from the Ferguson police force, protests continue across the country, from shopping malls to football stadiums, over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson for shooting dead Michael Brown. Over the past week, there have been demonstrations in more than 150 cities — on public roadways, in shopping malls and government buildings. On Saturday, protesters kicked off a 120-mile, seven-day march dubbed the "Journey for Justice" from Ferguson to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. Black Friday was also a day of action as activists staged protests at retailers across the country. We are joined by two activists to discuss the week’s protests and what comes next for the movement against police brutality: In Oakland, Alicia Garza, co-creator of "Black Lives Matter" and one of the 14 people arrested for shutting down the BART transportation system on Friday; and in New York City, Dante Barry, an organizer at the Center for Media Justice and Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, who participated in last week’s protests.
AMY GOODMAN: Protests are continuing in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country over the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Wilson resigned from the Ferguson Police Department Saturday. Over the past week, there have been demonstrations in over 150 cities—on public roadways, in shopping malls and government buildings. On Saturday, protesters kicked off a 120-[mile], seven-day march titled "Journey for Justice" from Ferguson to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. This is NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: It’s a matter of turning anger into action, funneling that anger and bringing about justice. That’s what we’re seeking to do here. So we’re marching from Ferguson to Jefferson City, Mike Brown’s hometown, to the hometown of the governor. This is a nonviolent march. It is a peaceful march. And we’re looking to enlist and engage people of goodwill all across Missouri, all across this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Black Friday was a day of action as activists staged protests in shopping malls across the country. In St. Louis, two shopping malls shut down after protesters staged a mass die-in. In Seattle, police arrested five people after protesters marched in two shopping malls. Activists chained shut two doors at one mall and staged a die-in at another. In New York City, seven people were arrested after a Black Friday action outside Macy’s flagship store. A day earlier, seven others were arrested for trying to disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Sergio Uzurin took part in the Macy’s Black Friday protest.
SERGIO UZURIN: Voicing your opinion is not enough. You have to disrupt business as usual for this to happen. And that’s the only thing that’s ever made change. It’s the real way democracies functions. And so, we’re here on the busiest shopping day of the year in one of the commercial centers of the world to let people—remind people that lives matter before profit. You can’t have profit without lives.
AMY GOODMAN: In Oakland, California, demonstrators briefly shut down a BART train station by chaining themselves to a train. Fourteen people were arrested. Mollie Costello is director of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice.
MOLLIE COSTELLO: We are interrupting Black Friday commerce specifically to send a very important message, which is that black lives matter. We want to send this message in the wake of the—the decision to not indict, with the Ferguson verdict, not indict Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Mike Brown. We’re sending the message that his life matters, all black lives matter, and that it’s not up to the cops to decide differently.
AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, demonstrators temporarily shut down part of the busy Interstate 395 highway that runs through Washington, D.C. Members of the St. Louis Rams also took part in an act of protest. Ahead of Sunday’s football game, a group of players entered the stadium with their hands raised overhead in the "hands up, don’t shoot" pose in a show of solidarity with Mike Brown. Protests are expected to continue today. The group Ferguson Action has called for a nationwide protest walkout at schools and places of business at noon Central time.
We’re joined now by two guests, who were in the streets this weekend. Alicia Garza is co-creator of Black Lives Matter, one of the 14 people arrested for shutting down the BART transportation system on Black Friday. She’s also the special projects director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Dante Barry is with us, organizer at Center for Media Justice and Million Hoodies. He participated in last week’s actions in New York to shut down the FDR Drive and the Lincoln Tunnel, as well as the Black Friday protests at Macy’s.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Dante, let’s begin with you right here. Talk about what happened on Black Friday.
DANTE BARRY: So, a group of organizations—Million Hoodies, Rockaway Youth Task Force, some students from Columbia University and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity—put together a protest in response to Black Friday. It was called Blackout Black Friday. And we’re targeting Macy’s, the largest shopping center in New York City, and also has a history of racial profiling around black people. We targeted and we shut down Herald Square, Times Square, had about 1,500 folks that turned out just for this one action at 1:00 p.m. About seven arrests. And it was amazing to see so many folks that—come out and really, really ready to turn things up.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Alicia Garza, on the other coast, in California, what were you doing in Oakland?
ALICIA GARZA: We shut down the West Oakland BART station. Our intention was to shut it down for four-and-a-half hours, which is both the amount of time that Mike Brown’s body lay on the street after he was killed by Officer Darren Wilson, and also it represented four hours and 28 minutes. Twenty-eight minutes represents how every 28 hours a black person in this country is murdered by security officers, police officers or vigilantes.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you go forward from here? What are the plans of protest organizers like you, Alicia?
ALICIA GARZA: Well, our plan is to continue to elevate the message that black lives matter and that all black lives matter. It’s really important to us that folks understand that this is a national movement, that what’s happening in Ferguson is happening in communities all over the country, and that the sleeping giant has been awoken. So folks who have been enduring police violence and police terror and state-sanctioned violence for decades are now standing up to say, "Enough is enough, not one more Darren Wilson, not one more Mike Brown." And so, I think what we can expect to see is continued and escalated protests around the country until justice is served.
AMY GOODMAN: Alicia, you shut down the BART system for four hours—BART system, of course, well known to people around the country because of a killing a few years ago, the killing of Oscar Grant at the BART station at Fruitvale. How did you shut down the station you shut down? Which one did you shut down?
ALICIA GARZA: So, we shut down the West Oakland BART station, and we did it in a few ways. So, one way was that we had about 200 people outside of the BART station who held a healing ceremony. And then, inside, we had a group of folks, including myself, who chained ourselves to the train to make sure that it could not move. We know that Black Friday is one of the largest days of commerce, and we also know that black folks spend a lot of money. And we wanted to disrupt the system, and we wanted to make sure that there was no more business as usual, until Mike Brown’s family and families like John Crawford’s and Jordan Davis’s and Renisha McBride’s no longer have to look at an empty seat at the table.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Dante, what you’re calling for now, and what groups here in the greater New York area, and how much you’re coordinating with groups, for example, like Alicia’s in California?
DANTE BARRY: Absolutely. So, one, we’re definitely coordinating. There’s a number of groups that are coordinating efforts and responses to not only the situation in Ferguson with the Darren Wilson case, but also the impending case around Eric Garner, which is about to release a grand jury decision very shortly in December. And, of course, I think—
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, the Eric Garner case—
DANTE BARRY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened this summer in Staten Island.
DANTE BARRY: So, I think this goes back to Alicia’s point about like every 28 hours we’re seeing a black person being killed. And here in New York, we saw the murder of Eric Garner, a black man who was choked—was given an illegal chokehold in New York City, in Staten Island, by a number of police officers, and one, in particular, Daniel Pantaleo, who is the person that’s up for potential indictment. And it was malmanaged, mismanaged, in terms of how they responded and also of just actually, like, this whole idea of "broken windows" policing, which is a whole other issue—it’s a cousin of stop-and-frisk—of being arrested for having, quote-unquote, "loose" cigarettes. So we’re going to see very shortly—
AMY GOODMAN: And he was taken down.
DANTE BARRY: He was taken down.
AMY GOODMAN: Forty-three-year-old father of six, I think.
DANTE BARRY: Right, a father of six.
AMY GOODMAN: Taken down in this chokehold as he said, "I can’t breathe"—
DANTE BARRY: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —something like 11 times. And the only reason we know this is because—
DANTE BARRY: Because a tape.
AMY GOODMAN: —a young man was put on his cellphone video and started to film. And once the coroner said homicide—
DANTE BARRY: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —called it a homicide, the young man who filmed this was arrested, as was his wife.
DANTE BARRY: Right, right.
AMY GOODMAN: The only arrest in this case.
DANTE BARRY: Only arrest, only arrest, which I think opens up a lot of questions, and I think you’re seeing this, particularly when we talk about surveillance in communities of color, when you’re looking at surveillance of folks, the tactic of how we can use communication and technology as a platform to really document these incidents, but still it’s being used against us and harming us by more policing and more incarceration.
AMY GOODMAN: How did the police respond here? I mean, you have this situation, while we were awaiting the verdict in Ferguson, of yet another young African-American man being killed in a housing project in New York by police. Police [Commissioner] Bratton immediately announcing the man was completely innocent and that the officer had accidentally fired in a stairwell of the housing project.
DANTE BARRY: Right. I think, well, that it’s interesting for the last week that, with the protests, the police officers have been very eerily calm. And I think it’s been—it’s because of the amount of tension that’s happening across the country, right, and the cultural intervention that civil disobedience provides in terms of like really altering the narrative around the police versus the community. And it’s really about community empowerment. So, I think when we look at some of the responses by NYPD, it’s been very, very calm in relationship to other protests that are happening across the country.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Alicia Garza, the response of the police in the Bay Area, and what you know of protests throughout the rest of the country?
ALICIA GARZA: Well, what I know is that for the last 108 or so days, that police have been faced with escalating protests, and that police have acted differently in different places. I know, for us in Oakland, we were greeted by riot cops, and there was a group of 14 of us, right? I know, for folks in Ferguson, they are constantly being greeted by riot cops, all for continuing to exercise their right to protest. And so, I think what we’re seeing is a real disproportionate use of policing, particularly in moments where there’s demonstrations against the police, right?
I think the other thing that we can also just count on is that we know, and the police know, that eyes are watching them all over the country, and so that may be one reason why some responses are calmer than others. But we also have to take into account the responses that don’t make it on the national news. I know when folks were protesting in Oakland, there was tear gas that was launched. We saw sound cannons on the streets, right? And we haven’t seen that since the Oscar Grant protests in 2009. So, again, I think what we’re seeing is a real use of military weapons, a real show of force by the police department. For us, in particular, we were treated well, right? And again, this was during the daytime, with hundreds and hundreds of observers. But we do need to keep in mind what happens when the TV cameras aren’t rolling and folks are demonstrating in the street. There are a lot of instances that we’re hearing about of police brutality, like what happened in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when a few folks who were protesting around the National Day of Action Against Police Brutality were brutalized by police in Chattanooga.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, President Obama today at the White House holding meetings. They’re going to be evaluating the program where they give military equipment to towns and cities, police departments, and also talking about the issue of distrust between law enforcement and communities of color. What are your thoughts about this and, overall, President Obama’s response, as well as Eric Holder, again, going around the country to deal with this issue?
DANTE BARRY: Well, first, I’ll say that the president’s response has been weak up until this point. And I think, as I mentioned before, the cultural intervention that civil disobedience and the act of resistance is providing is building momentum all across this country. And I think that the president and the White House are hearing and seeing that momentum. So, folks that are coming from Ferguson, folks that are all across this country, young civil rights leaders, are going to be able to meet with him today to really discuss some of those challenges. But I think when we look at the reason why this is happening under his watch, I think it just goes back to this idea that we’re not post-racial, and there’s just a false assumption that we are post-racial, even with a black president. But this is happening under his watch, so it’s more of a scrutiny around the issue of the seat of the presidency, in general.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Alicia Garza, your last comment? I mean, the significance of the federal government, of the president himself, at a time when questions are being raised about whether there would be federal civil rights charges brought against the officer, many saying it’s unlikely?
ALICIA GARZA: I think it is unlikely. And unfortunately, I think that we need to see our president and our attorney general take aggressive action to make sure that lives are protected in communities like Ferguson, in communities like Oakland. We’ve seen a stunning lack of response by our federal government by way of intervention in the tragedies that are happening across the country. And of course we would love to see President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder step up even more. I know that folks are calling for a national plan of action to be implemented, and we support that demand 100 percent. We want to see more aggressive intervention from our president and from our U.S. attorney general, not in the form of tanks and riot gear, but in the form of legislation and policy that addresses systemic inequities that are based on race in our country. We can no longer ignore that racism permeates every system within our society. And until we address those issues, protests and uprisings will continue around the country. So we do call on President Obama and Eric Holder not just to hold closed-door meetings, but in fact to continue to empower the young leaders that are showing us all how it is that we change society one heart and one mind at a time.
AMY GOODMAN: Alicia Garza, I want to thank you for being with us from Oakland, co-creator of Black Lives Matter, and Dante Barry here in New York, organizer at the Center for Media Justice. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be joined by Professor Michael Eric Dyson, who asks, "Where do we go from Ferguson?" Stay with us.