Since last Monday, all over the United States, and the world afar, protests have been popping up in-regards to the St. Louis County’s grand jury decision to uphold Officer Darren Wilson to murder charges—or any charges at all—in the killing of teenager Michael Brown.
Since the decision was announced people from various backgrounds have come together to denounce the injustice. And in New York City a group of Black, Latino, and Asian council members decided to take part in standing up for justice for all people of color.
With their hands held up, as if to demonstrate an un violent demeanor—a symbol that’s been connected to Mike Brown and other people of color when they come across law enforcement, a group of New York City Council Members, including the entire executive committee of the caucus, decided to walk out of the Council Chamber to the City Hall Rotunda during a stated meeting in order to protest against the grand jury’s decision and to demonstrate the importance of how their voices must be heard when it comes to issues that plague Black, Latino, Asian, and other racial communities.
The walkout was to call attention to the discrimination racial groups’ face when it comes to both legislative and political processes within this country; the demonstration’s aim was to also show how the everyday functions of public life are impacted when ALL voices who are meant to represent these communities are not heard when trying to expose such prejudice.
“The sub-text of this entire walkout was to show the importance of black lives in the legislative process, and political process, to call attention to the injustice of yesterday’s grand jury decision and other incidents where black lives have been lost to police officers,” said Councilmember Robert Cornegy of Brooklyn, who took part in the walkout. “So much of what we take for granted would cease to function if we are not present, if we are not participating.”
The dozen or so members who walked out were led by caucus co-chairs Andy L. King of the Bronx and Rosie Mendez of New York; the pair led a group of Black, Latino, and Asian city council members Inez Barron, Margaret Chen, Laurie Cumbo, Carlos Manchaca, Daneek Miller, Antonio Reynoso, and Ruben Wills.
Once out of the chamber, council members read a statement they had written in English, Mandarin-Chinese, and Spanish in hopes of getting the purpose of the walkout heard by all:
“We stand here today as members of the New York City Council—representatives of our majority minority city — to proclaim in solidarity that Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter! in Ferguson, Missouri. Black Lives Matter in the stairwells of our NYCHA communities. Black Lives Matter on the streets of Staten Island. And Black Lives Matter in this Chamber.
In the most progressive city in America, in a body with 26 members of color, we refuse to move forward with business as usual today. Not when Michael Brown’s parents will never taste real justice through the criminal justice system. Not when young people are putting their bodies on the line, marching in the streets to be met with tear gas, smoke bombs and shields. There is no American tradition more patriotic than protest. And THAT is why we’re walking out today.
The Black story and the American story are inextricably linked. Take us out and things don’t run. This body does not run. So today, let it all stop. More than a moment of silence, let us have this time of outrage. And let our action inspire others – in your homes, businesses, churches & communities — to proclaim & demonstrate your belief in the value of black life. We stand together because we stand united. Our voices and our lives matter.”
While the protest and speech may seem geared towards one particular racial group in the country, it is not. Much like the days during the Civil Rights Movement back in the 60s where Black-Americans fought against many injustices in order to find fairness, other racial political groups like the Chicano & Asian Civil Rights movement were inspired from and aided each other in striving to obtain civil rights for all.
Tuesday’s walkout held by the NYC council member is a reminder to the one thing we’ve forgotten from those who fought for our rights long ago: Together we should stand united because our lives do matter and in unison our voices can make it known.