Thousands gathered across the country to protest police violence against black men and boys in demonstrations that at times turned violent late Saturday.
In New York, where the protests were largely peaceful and soared to numbers of an estimated 25,000 people, two police officers were assaulted by protesters and hospitalized, the NYPD said. The incident occurred Saturday night on the Brooklyn Bridge after two lieutenants observed a man attempting to throw a garbage can onto the roadway at officers escorting the demonstrators, police said at a press conference Saturday night. The lieutenants went to arrest the man and were “assaulted by numerous other protesters,” police said, adding that the injured officers said others on the bridge attempted to help them.
In another incident, two traffic agents were in a car on Madison Avenue in Manhattan when a group of protesters broke off and a rear window of the car was smashed, police said. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Earlier in the day, the families of more than a half-dozen black men and boys who have been killed by police addressed protesters who marched in Washington, D.C., demanding Congress adequately tackle police brutality.
The masses gathered at Freedom Plaza and marched on Pennsylvania Avenue to a stage set up near the Capitol Building where National Action Network President Al Sharpton laid out demands for lawmakers and called on dozens of the family members to join him on the platform.
“My husband was a quiet man, but he’s making a lot of noise right now,” said Esaw Garner, the widow of Staten Island man Eric Garner, who died after a police chokehold in July.
Other family members spoke, including the parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen killed by a police officer in Ferguson Missouri; the girlfriend and 2-year-old daughter of Akai Gurley, who was shot by police in a New York stairwell last month; and the mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police at a park in Cleveland.
Film director Spike Lee, who marched with his daughter, told NBC News he was “thinking about the mothers here. Many women, black women are here who cops shot down their children. I’m thinking about them.”
The mother of Amadou Diallo, who was shot and killed by plain clothes officers in 1999, held up an issue of TIME magazine from 2000 with her son’s face on the cover next to the words “cops brutality & race” printed on the front. “Today, 16 years later we are standing still and demanding the same thing,” Kadiatou Diallo said.
Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton, echoed the same message. “This is not something new that just started. This is something that’s been going on,” she said. “But I truly believe by us being here together, and united, that God sits high and looks low and the light is also shining on what’s going on.”
“If they don’t see this and make a change I don’t know what we gotta do,” Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden said.
John H. Crawford, the father of John Crawford III, who was shot and killed by a police officer in a Cleveland Wal-Mart after taking a BB gun off the shelf, had another demand for Congress. “When you don’t have balance on the inside, you sure aren’t going to have balance on the outside,” he said. “We need a more diverse community within Congress to make things happen.”
Many expressed on stage that while the price of the death of a loved one is unimaginably high, they are appreciative that their stories have brought about a national conversation.”I think its absolutely phenomenal that all these people have come together for this one common cause,” Esaw Garner told NBC News.
Protesters gathered Saturday in other cities too. Thousands marched up Fifth Avenue in New York City, holding signs that read, “Black Lives Matter” and “Who do you protect?” Huge crowds later streamed onto the Brooklyn Bridge, blocking traffic for an hour. Thousands also protested in San Francisco and in Oakland.
Massachusetts State Police made at least 23 arrests, all for disorderly conduct; one other male was also charged with assault and battery on a police officer.
“I believe that there is going to be change,” said Levar Jones, who was shot by a police officer at a gas station in South Carolina but survived. Jones thanked the crowd for their support, and urged them to keep their calls for justice alive: “When you leave here, don’t let this end here.”