Michael Brown Grand Jury Demos, Day 2

The second day of protests in NYC over the Michael Brown Grand Jury verdict was truly unprecedented. Thousands of people packed densely into Union Square. I could feel how massive the gathering was from its sheer energy, but I don’t think anyone could have captured its size in one photograph:

Then it exploded into the streets, swelling to the length and breadth of every corridor it reached. You could stand in almost any spot in lower Manhattan and watch it go by for minutes, without any idea where it started or ended.

It still wasn’t quite clear how massive the march was until it hit Houston Street and shut down all four lanes of traffic. Even on this expansive corridor, with a central meridian, and double-wide sidewalks on both side of the street, the demonstration consumed it whole as far I could see, in both directions, for longer than I could wait to observe.

I’ll never forget receiving a text that the head of the march had walked onto the FDR Drive. This was as inconceivable to me as taking the Queensboro Bridge felt the night before. I had read about activist in other cities taking over highways, but never believed in could happen in NYC, where protest culture had been beaten down by years of abusive policing. I didn’t think activists here would even attempt, and I was sure that if they did they would be met by violent resistance. But this march, led by mostly young activist, marched onto the FDR without a second thought, and they NYPD fell behind and to the service roads. It truly felt like a new era in police-community relations and public demonstrations against grievances in NYC.

This commenced what felt like a large procession of taking over and reclaiming iconic images of NYC. While other marches were taking bridges, this march that I was with occupied the exterior of the U.N.:

Times Square:

And the West Side Highway:

I peeled off from the march far north of 140th St. As it pressed on without me around a large curve in the West Side Highway, it honestly felt surreal – like a procession of ghosts.

I could hardly believe that this new era of demonstrations and policing was real. But in the coming days, it continued, day after day, taking over more and more iconic scenes across NYC. 

Until the Eric Garner Grand Jury decision was made, then the NYPD completely flipped.

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