Shouting “Whose streets? Our Streets!,” students and civil activists marched to the Whalley Avenue Jail Tuesday as part of a national day of protest against police brutality.
The march to protest social and civil injustices by police and the government began outside the New Haven Police Department headquarters. Shelton Tucker, a local activist, opened the protest with a speech, saying that its intention was not to target police officers.
“[This is] not a protest against police, but against police brutality,” said Tucker, who was himself previously incarcerated.
Tucker went on to speak about what he perceives as the problems with the current legal system. He said he thinks the criminal justice system is corrupt and ineffective.
Many of the protesters agreed with Tucker’s opinions.
“You are presumed guilty as soon as you walk in,” said William Dorris, a member of People Against Injustice, an activist group.
Echoing the opinions of other protesters, Dorris said it is hard to get a fair trial. He said prosecutors only care about themselves and are not careful about whom they send to jail. He also talked about what he called a widespread belief among prosecutors that public defense lawyers are ineffective and untrained.
After Tucker’s speech, the protesters marched down to the Elm Street courthouse. On the way to the courthouse, some of the protesters carried and wore signs that read “People Against Injustice.” Others sang chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, police brutality’s got to go.”
Barbara Fair, People Against Injustice coordinator and the mother of Shelton Tucker, addressed the growing crowd at the courthouse. Fair discussed problems she sees with the war on drugs and the incarceration of people with drug problems. Incarceration, Fair said, does not work. She said a better solution is to help people with drug problems by giving them more opportunities.
When the march ended outside the Whalley Avenue Jail, Fair referred to the targeting of minorities as a war.
“In the heart of America there’s a war — targeting the poor and people of color,” Fair said. “[It is] led not by foreigners but by our own government, selectively incarcerating citizens by [the] thousands.”
A crowd of about 40 people showed their support by marching in the protest.
“With all the social inequalities and lack of respect, peoples’ lives are adversely impacted,” said Simone Mason, a Green Party candidate for state representative. “People end up in prison because someone became overzealous.”
Yale students from the Student Legal Action Movement also marched in the protest.
Johanny Cruz ’06 said she attended because she feels strongly about the subject of the protest.
“It’s a problem that doesn’t seem to go away,” Cruz said. “If cops know we are angry, maybe they will think twice.”
Another Yale student said she thinks Yale participation is necessary.
“It is important as a new member of New Haven to support this cause — and that I lend my voice to what they are trying to do,” Shari Wiseman ’06 said.