Over 300 marched through New Haven’s streets on Thursday evening to rally against a recent series of police shootings across the country and the subsequent death of five officers at a Dallas protest on Thursday.
The rally was organized by New Haven’s Black Lives Matter group in response to the shootings of two black men — Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — by police earlier this week. Both men died from the sustained injuries, leading many cities to protest police brutality against black citizens. In Dallas, what began as a nonviolent protest on Thursday night went awry when five police officers were shot and killed by a sniper, who later told authorities that he wanted to “kill white people,” especially white officers.
“We fought for our rights and yet we still get killed,” co-founder of New Haven’s Black Lives Matter group Lia Miller-Granger said. “Where is the justice?”
At 7:30 p.m., about 200 residents gathered at a fountain in the New Haven Green, many wearing black shirts and holding signs with messages such as “Stop the war on black America” and “Fight back, defeat racism.” The group marched towards the corner of Chapel Street and Church Street, where they stood for over one hour, chanting powerful messages and sharing their stories with those present.
Jeremy Cajigas, who is part of a group called Eliminating Racial Profiling, said the event was about rebuilding trust between minorities and police officers. About 10 members of his group were present on Thursday.
“I don’t want my son to grow up and be a statistic,” said Rocky Rose, a New Haven resident who attended the rally on Thursday. “I’m tired of everything that is going on with our black community.”
At roughly 9 p.m., the rally morphed into a march, as participants walked a lap around the New Haven Green before making an impromptu turn onto Temple Street and taking on the New Haven streets. The large mass continued down Temple, turned left on Elm Street and walked down Broadway Street before turning around to head back to the Green.
Despite the traffic disruption, cars and buses on the street were largely supportive of the march, sounding their horns in tandem with the protesters’ chants.
The march, which lasted about 30 minutes, ended at the same spot it began. Once there, organizers expressed their joy with the support they had received, and continued to speak as the crowd began to disperse.
And while organizers recognized the large turnout at the event, they stressed that the movement could not stop there.
“We have a good moment here, but we need to do more,” one of the organizers said. “At the legislative level. The President. The mayor. The [police] chief. Even me. We all have to be held accountable.”
The gathering was peaceful for the most part, excluding an instance when a man drove past the area twice in a blue pickup truck shouting racist slurs.
Protest organizers preemptively asked a police officer, Sergeant Davis, to stand closer to where the man was driving by. The truck did not appear again.
More than ten police officers were present at the event, including New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman, who watched events unfold from the middle of the New Haven Green.
Earlier on Friday, New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said in a press release that the police department had modified their officers’ patrols, pairing up officers and making patrol patterns “less predictable” in response to the Dallas shootings. Other major cities in the U.S., including New York and Chicago, instituted similar practices on Friday.