Tonight, Justice League NYC is leading a #ChokeholdOnTheCity action demanding justice for Eric Garner. But first they have to plan.
Make sure you have space on your phone to save photos and videos. Be prepared to get arrested. Give your name, birthday, and emergency contact information to two friends, so they can help the National Lawyers Guild get you out of jail. Write down the lawyer's number on your arm. Make sure you have photo ID.
That's some of the advice Justice League NYC gave to demonstrators at a training session for non-violent protests planned for later today, the anniversary of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo's non-indictment in Garner's death.
One year ago, cities around the nation erupted with widespread, spontaneous street protests to rail against high-profile killings of unarmed black men in New York and Ferguson. The deaths haven't ended and the police-community relationship is still fraught, but in recent months the protesters have been less visible in the streets of New York.
Advocacy groups like Justice League NYC and Campaign Zero have focused on the long, difficult work of policy and incremental change, while mass street protests have moved on to the scene of new incidents in Chicago and Minneapolis. How do you organize an action to keep the pressure on back here?
Practice, practice, practice
A successful protest isn't just strangers pouring onto the street. Around 25 people met in a common space at the New School Tuesday to get ready for tonight's actions.
Robert Caliendo, a lawyer in attendance, noted that "dozens" of criminal statutes could be in play, though the most prevalent are obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. One participant asked what would happen if they were arrested and needed medical care.
A Justice League NYC organizer, Darius Gordon, led the group in a practice scenario, with participants play-acting as cops, agitators, and marchers. The faux-protesters linked arms and shouted, "This is what democracy looks like." The cops yelled, "You are all subject to arrest." One "arrested" a bearded man, who put his arms behind him and let himself be hustled away.
Gordon singled out that man for praise. "When he got taken away, he did something really good," he said. He didn't resist. It turned out the successful protester was a veteran climate change activist.
While being arrested, Gordon advised, it's best to have your hands up. You don't want them near your pockets, he explained, where it might seem like you were reaching for something.
Gordon demonstrated by putting his hands up in the air while the students watched. He held the pose nonchalantly. Some were taking notes. It was the same pose from that other protest: "hands up, don't shoot."