As rush hour neared on Tuesday evening, the route from Fair Haven to Downtown was flooded with protesters walking the street crying, “Justice for Malik Jones.”
Malik Jones was fatally shot by an East Haven police officer after a car chase on April 14, 1997. On the 18th anniversary of his death, protestors staged a march from Grand Avenue in Fair Haven — where Jones was shot — to the Afro-American Cultural House at Yale. At the head of the march was Emma Jones, Malik’s mother, who has become a prominent New Haven activist in the years since her son’s death.
Standing at the site of her son’s death, Jones told protesters that she was moved by the number of people who had come out in support of her son, but that Malik’s death was not an isolated case.
“We are not discouraged today, because there are so many people who have gone on, but look at you standing here today, emerging to say justice for all of the people who have been brutalized by the police,” Jones said.
Jones also noted the importance of constructing a broad coalition for equality — justice can only come, she said, if whites as well as minorities speak out against police brutality.
Tuesday’s event was the latest in a series of protests against police brutality in recent weeks. After 15-year-old Teandra Cornelius was slammed to the ground during the St. Patrick’s Day parade, activists staged three protests: two at New Haven Police Department headquarters on Union Avenue, and one at City Hall, where they confronted a group of pro-police protesters. The officer who pushed Cornelius — who had a knife in her purse — was taken off patrol during investigation of the case, but the police department exonerated him after finding that he had committed no wrongdoing.
As part of the demonstration on Grand Avenue, Jones presented white roses to three parents also looking for justice from the police. Those parents’ whose children were among 43 student-teachers who went missing in Iguala, Mexico in September, joined Tuesday’s march. The parents claim that the Mexican police and other federal authorities are partially responsible for their children’s disappearance, and they are part of Caravana 43, an organization currently touring the United States to raise awareness about abuses of power by and the corruption of the police forces in Mexico.
Through a translator, one of the leaders of Caravana 43, Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval, told protesters that the situations in Mexico and the U.S. are not that different, and that all groups must join together to fight police.
“Young people here in the United States must organize and must start a revolution,” he said. “The courage that comes from deep within our souls … will tell everybody that we can get together and fight.”
The march began with roughly 80 people on Grand Avenue, but swelled to about 100 by the time it arrived on Chapel Street in Downtown. Throughout the march’s duration, police vehicles accompanied protesters, closing off streets when necessary. New Haven residents composed the majority of the marchers, but roughly a dozen Yale students also participated.
Chris Garaffa, one of the protest organizers, said he was very pleased with the turnout, adding that the intersection of New Haven residents and Yale students was particularly special.
One of those Yale students was Fish Stark ’17, one of two announced candidates in November’s election for Ward 1 alder. He said the issue of policy brutality is one that has the capacity to attract many Yale students, and he cited as evidence the high turnout for a student-organized protest after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was not indicted in the killing of black teenager Michael Brown.
The march ended at the Af-Am Cultural House on Park Street. Garaffa said he and other organizers wanted the event to be not only a march, but also a community-based discussion about police brutality in New Haven.
At the Af-Am House, both students and New Haven activists spoke about the march they had just completed. Karleh Wilson ’16, leader of Yale’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Yale students often forget the privileges attached to the University’s name.
“As a Yale student, it is really easy to ignore all the injustices that happen outside of Yale in New Haven,” Wilson said. “We are surrounded by gates and ivory towers, and as a Yale student, these gates make me sick.”
Protesters renewed calls for police transparency, calls they have often made in recent months. Stark said he hopes for three results from the protest movement: a fully empowered Civilian Review Board, police accountability and progress towards “true community policing.”
Protesters also emphasized that police brutality is not an issue limited to New Haven, or even to the United States. The presence of the three Mexican parents at the event served as a reminder of the transnational character of police brutality.
“Terror is going on everywhere in this country — not just in New Haven, not just in South Carolina. It’s in every single town, every single community,” said Norm Clement, one of the protest leaders.