Following the no-indictment decision in the Eric Garner case, New Haven residents and Yale students will rally on the corner of Church and Chapel Streets to protest police brutality on Friday afternoon.
Chris Garaffa, an organizer for the national justice coalition ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), estimates that at least 300 people will gather to protest a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo — an New York Police Department officer who killed Garner, a New York resident, with an illegal choke hold. In the aftermath of the decision, the nationwide discussion on police brutality shifted from Ferguson, Missouri, to New York. Garaffa said that the activism surrounding 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death has led him to expect strong support to pour into Friday’s rally.
“Ferguson is everywhere,” Black Student Alliance at Yale Social Justice Chair Alexandra Barlowe ’17 said. “Ferguson is New Haven and Ferguson is New York, even though it might look different in different places.”
According to Garaffa, widespread public anger over the grand jury’s Nov. 24 decision to not indict Darren Wilson has changed the nature of activism in New Haven. In the days following the jury’s decision, the Elm City has seen a number of movements and organizations forming to protest police brutality, structural racism and “The Surge,” a New Haven Police Department tactic where officers use an unannounced show of force in areas where they have received large numbers of complaints, he added.
In the days since the Brown decision, activists have already staged several protests leading up to Friday’s rally. On Nov. 25, over 100 protesters assembled in front of City Hall. Nearly one week later, the Hands Up, Walk Out event organized by the BSAY drew over 200 students, faculty and city activists.
“I think people are really picking up on the fact that the system is treating black and brown lives as disposable and as not worth anything,” Garaffa said. “If we’ve seen anything out of the couple weeks here in New Haven, it’s anger — and the anger is resulting in people wanting to organize.”
Barlowe said that, though Yale student organizations are forming closer bonds with local activists after Brown’s death, ultimately, the people who live outside of Yale’s walls have a better understanding of residents’ issues with New Haven policing.
On the same day as Hands Up, Walk Out, Karléh Wilson ’16 organized a march that led members of the BSAY protest to the steps of City Hall. As Yalies passed by, New Haven residents joined the marchers, elevating their numbers to roughly 400.
“A problem that we have at Yale is that we don’t ever know what’s going on in New Haven,” Wilson said. “I wanted to bridge that gap.”
The events in Missouri have led protesters throughout Connecticut to identify specific problems within their neighborhoods, said ACLU Communications Director Jeanne Leblanc. She added that Ferguson has also broadened the dialogue about policing issues to a wider audience, with some proposing body cameras as a means of ensuring police accountability.
Garaffa said that groups like the Malik Jones Foundation, People Against Police Brutality and My Brother’s Keeper are collaborating on specific changes in New Haven like the introduction of a more powerful civilian review board.
“I think that people are looking for new ways to change the system,” Wilson said. “However, it’s going to be a lot more creative than it has been before, because people are eager for change.”