Hope, not cynicism, at Garner protests

“Hands up, don’t shoot.”
“No justice, no peace.”
“This stops today.”
“Justice for Eric Garner.”

Those were just a few of the chants that protesters shouted on the streets of Manhattan Thursday night, referencing the recent deaths of two unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. 

But the mood – unlike the recent looting in Ferguson, Missouri – was anything but violent. Starting in Foley Square and marching north through downtown Manhattan, marchers stopped every few blocks to make sure no one was left behind. Call and response chants were punctuated by four-minute moments of silence for Garner. 

“I do think that people feel hopeful,” Tiffany McFadden, a local community organizer, told MSNBC. “By coming out and being in the presence of others, it just makes you more hopeful.”

“To say, ‘what did you expect?’ or ‘why could it be different?’ If that’s ok then that’s part of the problem,” said Tiffany Fernandez, another demonstrator. “We have to expect that things can change. Anything that’s ever changed has been because of people galvanizing and making it happen.”

Leaders kept order by shouting “mic check” – a tactic used during the Occupy Wall Street protests three years ago. When a group of demonstrators started to push a car that was trying to pass through a group of marchers Friday, one protest leader politely told everyone not to touch property and to remain peaceful. 

The solidarity was reflected in the faces of protesters, who ranged from lifelong community organizers to Columbia students living in Harlem to parents with toddlers.

“By people showing up across cultures and races … it shows how people really feel about the issue,” McFadden said.

Eric Garner

Hope, not cynicism, at Garner protests