A hush fell over parts of downtown New Haven shortly after noon on Friday as several hundred protesters marched hand-in-hand and in silence to the court house to protest incidents in Ferguson and Staten Island, where police killed black men, and Cleveland where police killed a black child.
The silent die-in protest was planned by participants from Yale Law School and other Yale organizations. A “Never forgetting Ferguson” Solidarity March is planned for Hartford at noon on Saturday, beginning at the intersection of Main Street and Albany Avenue.
The New Haven event was an effort to “reaffirm the dignity of Black lives,” according to organizers, and to protest the failure of two grand juries to indict law enforcement officials involved in the killed of unarmed black men,” they said.
Rakim Brooks, a Yale Law School student and one of the organizers of Friday’s protest, said the demonstrators are looking for several key reforms, including requiring all police departments in Connecticut to examine their policies “on the means of subduing an unarmed or armed suspect,” and to publicize those policies to inform the public.
Another proposal is to create a special prosecution team to handle cases of alleged police misconduct. Brooks said Connecticut’s current system, and those in many states across the nation, involve regular prosecutors who have a very close relationship with the police they are theoretically expected to investigate and prosecute in abuse cases.
“We’d encourage each state to establish these kinds of special prosecutors,” Brooks said.
Another reform on the protestors wish list is for police forces to publicize “what means of redress” members of the public have if they feel they’ve been subjected to police misconduct or abuse.
David McGuire, a lawyer with the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his organization is participating in a national petition campaign to get the federal government to make its guidelines against racial profiling legally enforceable, so that police that do racial profiling or abuse based on race could be prosecuted.
The demonstration began at Yale Law School, on 127 Wall Street, in New Haven and made its way to the court house on Church Street.
“Within the past two weeks, two grand juries have failed to indict law enforcement officials involved in the killings of unarmed Black men,” said Temidayo Odusolu, in a prepared statement. She is a spokesperson for the student organizers of the die-in protest. “This is nothing new. Recent events continue to show us that Black people are lawfully considered threats, criminals, and ‘demon[s].’ We live in a society that prides itself on respecting the rule of law, and yet privileges racial profiling and harassment over this supposedly cardinal value. We cannot sit idly by while the legal system that should serve all of us, and that many of us will soon be sworn to uphold, kills with impunity.”
The Hartford event is being planned in conjunction with Connecticut United Against Mass Incarceration and students from University of Connecticut, in collaboration with Mothers United Against Violence, according to organizers. The “Never forgetting Ferguson” Solidarity March in Hartford will be on Saturday, December 6th at 12 p.m. and will begin at the intersection of Main Street & Albany Ave and end at Keney Park (Woodland street Entrance).
“Join us in solidarity on Saturday, December 6th at 12:00 p.m. Feel free to bring banners, posters, and your VOICE,” the organizers said.
Here are several prepared statements released as part of the Haven Haven protest:
“We are outraged to see that separate and unequal codes of conduct, nightmares we hoped were relegated to our forefathers’ generations, persist today. We are outraged because, somehow, it is permissible in a legal proceeding in 2014 to describe an unarmed young Black man as ‘a demon,’ reviving the same racialized stereotypes that justified Southern Redemption, Jim Crow, and other forms of racial domination. This description stripped Michael Brown not only of his humanity, even in death, but also of the justice due to him. He deserved better. So do we.” The Yale Black Law Students Association.
“We support our brothers and sisters at Yale Law School and their efforts demanding justice for the Black lives lost at the hands of law enforcement. We hope that today’s die-in event continues to progress the narrative that Black lives matter.” McKenzie Morris on behalf of the Harvard Black Law Students Association.
“When Justice falters, lawyers must help her get back on her feet.” Heather Gerken, J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at the Yale Law School.
“Yale Law School’s Black and brown students are possessed of a particular form of dual consciousness, aware through experience of the social realities of policing, and knowledgeable through their professional training of the logic and operation of law. They are uniquely situated to speak with authority about the failure of law in Ferguson and Staten Island. We stand with them now and into the future as they endeavor to change our legal system for the better.” Muneer Ahmad, Clinical Professor of Law and Supervising Attorney at the Yale Law School.
“There is no issue more important in the U.S. right now.” Swapna Reddy, Co-Chair of the Yale Law School Clinical Student Board.
“We believe that change will never come if we allow our disagreements at the margins to tie our hands.” The Board of the Yale Law Chapter of the American Constitution Society.
“Although the Federalist Society does not endorse specific positions, we feel compelled as individual members of its Yale Law School chapter to add our voices to the current reaffirmation of our nation’s commitment to racial equality. Racial inequality is noxious and unacceptable. Today, our hearts break for those across our country and in our law school community expressing a crisis of faith in our nation’s commitment to the basic and fundamental promise that all are equal. We all must do better to listen, to truly hear, and to act. As a nation, we must actively debate appropriate policy responses to the serious questions presented by recent events. But today we find it necessary to first stand in love and solidarity.” Members of the Yale Law School Chapter of the Federalist Society.
“We express our profound disappointment in the miscarriage of justice surrounding the tragic death of Eric Garner and the failure to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. This situation provides an all too common example of the separate and unequal justice applied in America, the room for problematic prosecutorial discretion, and the way in which our criminal justice system fails to adequately protect minority communities. These communities are then doubly failed when the legal system fails to hold to account police who use excessive force against them. We need a system that gives equal protection under law.” The 2014-2015 Board of Yale Law Women.
“As these events unfold, we are overwhelmed with outrage and heartbreak but continue to have hope that these tragedies may spark meaningful action on the disproportionate inequities that plague black and brown communities. We join in the call for reform and for a country where all of us feel safe and protected by the police. Destructive policing has no place in our neighborhoods. Enough is enough. We encourage others at Yale Law School to join in this effort.” The Yale Latino/a Law Students Association.
“We stand in solidarity because struggles for justice and equality under law are tied in deep and complex ways; because LGBT people of color, particularly trans people and youth, are disproportionately subjects of police profiling and brutality; and because today members of our community are crying out in pain.” Abigail Rich and Max Nardini, Co-Presidents of Yale Outlaws.
“We denounce the lack of accountability for the police officers responsible for the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and far too many others. We affirm the anger and grief of all people of color struggling against a system that fails to protect or value their lives. We demand honest reform to our law enforcement bodies that tolerate and promote racism. In the words of Eric Garner: ‘It stops today.’” The Board of First Generation Professionals.
“We are committed to peaceful student activism, especially as regards important issues of justice and equality. We applaud student engagement at all levels; we support thoughtful discourse; and we reaffirm our commitment to addressing this serious issue as it exists at Yale and in New Haven through dialogue with leaders in the administration and the community.” The Yale Graduate and Professional Student Senate.
“The Yale Civil Rights Project stands in solidarity with those protesting the non-indictment of the police officers involved in civilian death – today we mourn for Eric Garner and Michael Brown, but history tells us that those names will be all too quickly joined by many others. Deaths at the hands of the police officers meant to protect the citizenry deeply implicate the American justice system. As a nation, we cannot stand idly by as black lives continue to be undervalued – and as people, we cannot stand idly by when our own communities cry out for justice and healing.” The Yale Civil Rights Project.
Pem McNerney contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: Temidayo Odusolu was originally misidentified in this article. That was corrected at 3:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5, 2014.