As thousands of people around the nation take to the streets to protest the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans, many police officers are responding with violence. New York State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson has seen this violence up close. The Brooklyn representative was roughed up and pepper-sprayed by the New York Police Department at a protest in her borough last weekend. She says the department’s recent actions prove it is “out of control.”
I’m a Black woman. I am the mother of a teenage son. For decades, Black men and people of color — but Black men particularly — have continued to die at the hands of law enforcement around the country. George Floyd’s death was triggering for me and so many people across the country. The knee that was put on George Floyd’s neck is the same knee a police officer put on the neck of a young man in lower Manhattan just three weeks ago. The words George Floyd said — “I can’t breathe” — are the same words Eric Garner said in Staten Island five years ago.
On Friday, I went to the protest near the Barclays Center in solidarity with all New Yorkers, calling for police accountability and police reform. I was out there not as a legislator, but as a person of the community, a person who has had enough.
I was in a crowd of maybe 3,000 people. I saw a variety of things: People standing in peace, chanting. I also saw people pelting bottles. I saw people coming together around an agenda for reform, and I saw people showing that frustration and emotion rightfully.
State Sen. Zellnor Myrie and I were in a section with several hundred other folks when the police came with their bicycles, using them to create a barricade. All of a sudden, they picked up their bicycles by the handlebars, turned the wheels outward, and started shoving them into our bodies, unprovoked. The wheels were in my pelvis, my lower abdomen. Where we were standing, no one was doing anything that would warrant any such behavior from the NYPD. After hours of protests, the officers just kind of lost sense of who and what.