Thursday, December 3, 2015

AmNY Express (12/3/15): Preparing for a protest

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."

Agitating for change

The Gathering for Justice, of which Justice League NYC is a part, is not new to the activist sphere. Created in 2005 by civil rights leader Harry Belafonte after the handcuffing of a 5-year-old girl circulated via video, the group has been active on social justice issues ever since. In December 2014, Justice League presented a list of 10 demands to NYC, including the immediate firing of Pantaleo and the end of broken-windows policing. Some, such as the appointment of a special prosecutor, have been achieved. Pantaleo, however, still draws a paycheck on administrative duty (his actions are under federal investigation).
One year after Pantaleo's non-indictment, Justice League hopes to keep the issue in its sights. Simultaneous protests starting at 5 p.m. at Gracie Mansion and on Staten Island will put their planning to the test.
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