Abolition Square launched its first major action yesterday at People’s Monday, which was held in memory of Korryn Gaines. Hosted by NYC Shut It Down, People’s Monday has been the most consistent protest action related to Black Lives Matter in New York City and starting in December 2014. Every Monday, Shut It Down reads the facts surrounding the deaths of black people at that hands of the police as well as shutting down roads and disrupting public areas and shopping centers.
On the one week anniversary of the founding of Abolition Square, Shut It Down drew a large crowd as the read the facts of Korryn’s case. Korryn Gaines was a 23-year old black woman and well respected copwatcher in Randallstown, Maryland. On August 1st 2016, police raided Korryn’s apartment with a bench warrant for a traffic violation. They found her sitting calmly with her licensed shotgun and her son. After an hours long standoff, the police fired at Korryn killing her and injuring her son. Korryn livestreamed the event, until police and Facebook cut the feed and deactivated her account. Police refused to let her mother deescalate the situation and no one has yet to be charged with her murder.
Activists drew comparisons with this case and that of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader who was murdered by Chicago police in coordination with the FBI. Like last year’s death of Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland, many Abolition Square protesters expressed serious concern in the wake of Korryn Gaines’ murder about the increasing repression by police in reaction to slipping legitimacy.
As one People’s Monday participant put it, “We need to understand that we’ve reached a new stage of struggle in the movement. We need to understand that many white people and the police that protect them are frightened of this new black political power. We need to understand that Korryn Gaines was assassinated for her political beliefs.”
— Millions March NYC (@MillionsMarch) August 9, 2016
Shut It Down protesters also challenged the liberal apologist gun control narrative that suggested Korryn was responsible for her own death. Many Black Lives Matter activists who’ve marched for every name prior suddenly remained silent due to the fact that Korryn decided to defend herself.
“Black women have a right to self-defense,” explained a black woman associated with the #ShutDownCityHallNYC coalition. “Korryn Gaines knew she was a target. She was protecting her son and her home, a space those cops violated.”
— Issa Khari Ifé ☥ (@IssaKhari) August 9, 2016
After reading the facts in Abolition Square, Shut It Down led people into the streets shutting down traffic around City Hall Park. The march snaked through cars into the large subway station Fulton Center to do another fact check while police trailed behind. They then hit up Brookfield Place, the voices of the marchers echoing throughout the arena. Protesters chanted, “Rest in Power, Korryn Gaines. Racist cops, feel her pain.” By this time, the NYPD had mobilized the Strategic Response Group (SRG) with more than 30 anti-riot officers tailing the march from behind.
Shut It Down eventually found its way to a ‘Charity: Water‘ fundraising event, with the wealthy donors roped off behind a wall of security personal. Donors and guards alike stared in shock as Shut It Down recited the facts of Korryn Gaines’ murder. Protesters made the point that while those donors may feel like their contributing to a positive human development, they do not use their money to benefit black people These fundraisers are never held for to uplift black lives out of poverty or to fund primarily black and brown public schools.
After berating the donors for their compliance in white supremacy, the marchers continued to the Police Memorial Wall just south of Brookfield Place. Here, Shut It Down organizers explained that the city shows its commitment to white supremacy by choosing to build a wall commemorating dead cops instead of building one that commemorates black people who have been killed by the police. Shut It Down left this plaza and marched back to Abolition Square ending the People’s Monday with Assata’s Prayer.
— Ash J (@AshAgony) August 9, 2016
Many participants were excited that they were able to hold down the streets the entire time. Even with the presence of SRG, its clear the NYPD is being very cautious with how it handles this new occupation. Today is the second anniversary of Mike Brown’s murder. The Abolition Square protesters plan to hold a rally and march at 7:00pm.