Don’t Stop With One Protest

By Guest Columnist Apr 28, 2008

by Thanu Yakupitiyage Photograph of protesters in Jamaica, Queens by Jason DeCrow/AP On Friday morning when I first heard the verdict of the Sean Bell case, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of frustration. I felt very much like Rinku Sen describes in a recent blog. I felt disaffected. For a moment, I wondered how grassroots organizing was really ever going to change anything if, at the end of the day, one judge could still make a verdict such as this. Despite these feelings of discouragement, the gravity of the moment and the acute sense that something had to be done led myself and hundreds of other concerned individuals and parties to attend the People’s Justice Coalition Rally & March for Sean Bell on the evening of May 25th. The rally was held in a park next to the District Attorney’s Office in Queens and it continued far into Jamaica, Queens. Looking around at the individuals, community members, activists, and organizers carrying signs in protest, I was struck by the familiarity of this scene, that eight years after the officers involved in the shooting of Amadou Diallo were acquitted of all charges, here we were again with Sean Bell. The most important thing that I took away from the rally was People’s Justice Coalition’s call to not let one moment of protest be the only thing that is done, referencing the cycle of unjust verdicts followed by moments of collective outrage that often times fizzle into nothing. Preventing another case of blatant police brutality requires that we all step up in our communities, holding institutions of power like our police accountable for their actions on a regular basis. I regained a sense of hope as we marched down Queens Boulevard, observing MTA bus drivers honking horns in support, bodega owners coming out of their stores to wave at marchers, and the NYPD that lined the streets as we protested looking on with what could almost be interpreted as a solemn acknowledgment of a clear wrong-doing. It is a constant struggle to find the strength to be actively engaged, but in a moment such as this, we need to reevaluate our positions and find new ways to move forward.