March For Charleston Shooting Victims Turns Into Police Brutality Protest as NYPD Makes Arrests

June 23, 2015 | Prachi Gupta

Witnesses say that four people were arrested in Harlem during a peaceful march in remembrance of the nine Charleston Shooting victims on Monday night.

The Daily News reports that around 200 people showed up at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. statue at 125th Street to honor the six black women and three black men who were killed by white supremacist Dylann Roof last Wednesday night. After the vigil, during which the Confederate Flag was burned, some of the demonstrators began marching. Elsa Waithe, a stand-up comedian and activist who helped organize the march, estimates that the about 50 people began walking around 8 PM. She says she saw three of the four arrests (The NYPD had not responded to ANIMAL’s request for confirmation on the number of arrests).

“There were vehicles to try to push us into the street,” Waithe says of the law enforcement presence, which was heavy even before any arrests were made. “It felt like they trying to hit us with cars, block us with paths, and knocking people with shins with the car bumpers.”

According to Waithe, the protesters turned onto a residential block, passing a park and apartment building, and members of the community began gathering to observe. Things took a turn, Waithe says, when a young woman jumped in front of a cop car to stop it from moving forward into the crowd. “That really must have set [the officer] off,” she explains. “The car started to chase her and me and then focused in on her.” The woman was the first person arrested in the night.

Then came the second arrest. “There was a guy on the bike — he’s not even with us — they pull him down to the ground,” Waithe recalls. “They try to put him in the car. They’re choking him. It’s really scary.” The man, who has not yet been identified, is currently receiving legal counsel.

There was one more arrest on 104th St near near Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, according to activist Keegan Stephan.

In the wake of the arrests, the group went to the precinct, where there was a stand-off with police. “The riot police came out and made us wait across the street,” says Waithe. It was there that the fourth person was arrested, and according to the Daily News, “she said she was given a ticket for disorderly conduct.”

“We waited for several hours until they released our comrades,” says Waithe.

Three were released, but the young man on the bike was reportedly carried away in an ambulance in cuffs. “When the ambulance came to pick up the kid who was on the bike, he had a bandage around his head and his face was swollen,” Waithe recalls.

“We were originally out there for Charleston,” she says, “but it turned into a police brutality march.”

“Some people were upset that we switched focus, but they’re clearly all interconnected, as we couldn’t have a peaceful vigil without aggressive police presence,” says Waithe, who urges the message that Black Lives Matter. “Police brutality takes a part in that, they’re all pieces in the system.”

(Photo: Keegan Stephan)