"I DON'T want another parent to feel what I'm feeling, or bury another child the way I did. Please, I'm asking you, stand up with us and fight. If not for me, fight for our kids, our future. Because they are taking away our kids one by one, little by little, and our rights are being stripped. You see what [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and [NYPD Commissioner Ray] Kelly are doing. They don't want us to rise up. Well we have to rise up and let them know enough is enough!"
Constance Malcolm spoke these words in late July at the most recent speak-out and march for her son Ramarley Graham.
Like Trayvon Martin, 18 year-old Ramarley Graham was racially profiled and murdered. But while in Trayvon's case, the state let his murderer walk free, in Ramarley's case, the murderer was the state.
In February of last year, NYPD officers allegedly broke into Ramarley's house without a warrant, threw his 67-year-old grandmother to the ground and terrified Ramarley's little brother. NYPD officer Richard Haste shot and killed Ramarley. Since then, Ramarley's family has led a relentless fight for justice.
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LAST WEEK'S speak-out and march, attended by around 100 people, was in part a celebration of a significant victory. In May, a judge threw out the manslaughter indictment against Richard Haste, but now, finally, as a result of continued struggle, a new grand jury is being convened.
Yul-san, a member of the Justice Committee--an organization that has been supporting and working with families of those murdered by the NYPD since the 1990s--put the indictment in perspective:
I want to stress to you all how important a victory it is that a grand jury has been convened. The first indictment of Richard Haste was the first indictment of an NYPD officer for a murder since the killing of Sean Bell in 2006. Most often, those officers [who have killed someone] may get a slap on the wrist. Some of them even get promoted.Yul-san also announced one of the next steps for the movement: a demonstration at 5 p.m. at the Bronx DA's office on the day after the grand jury announces its verdict. "If it's a good verdict, if it's another indictment, we're going to be out there to celebrate and tell the world that we're not done fighting," Yul-san said. "And if it's a bad verdict, we all need to be out there, and we all have to show our rage, in the same way the whole country stood up for Trayvon."
So this first indictment was a huge victory. This second indictment--because Constance and her family have stood strong and continued to be in touch with the DA's office, and because all of you have been out in the streets, doing outreach all around the city, calling, e-mailing and faxing the DA--it's not the system working for us, it's the people that's forcing the system.
Other next steps that organizers announced included flyering for the post-grand jury demonstration outside screenings of Fruitvale Station, the film about the police murder of Oscar Grant, and organized outreach in various neighborhoods in the Bronx to inform people about the case and recruit them to join in.
For at least a dozen people, including teenagers and adults, it was their first time at a demonstration.
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AFTER THE speak-out at Ramarley's house, demonstrators marched to the NYPD's 47th Precinct building, where the police who broke into Ramarley's house are all still on the job. Along the way. marchers raised their fists in the air and chanted their lungs out, shouting, "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, NYPD go away!" and "Back up, back up, we want freedom, freedom. All these dirty racist cops, we don't need 'em, need 'em." The main march took over half the street while a few protestors handed out flyers and answered questions along the sidewalks.
At the precinct, the speak-out continued. One activist, Deborah, gave an impromptu "know your rights" session, having the crowd repeat the three most important phrases for when dealing with police: "I don't want to answer any questions without my lawyer present," "I do not consent to this search," and "Am I being detained?" (If the answer is "no," you are free to walk away).
Another activist, Sophia, who was collecting signatures for the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, grew up just a few blocks from Ramarley's house and was home on the day Ramarley was killed. "The fact is that these things happen all the time, and it happened so close to home that it could've been my brother, my family," Sophia said. "I can only imagine the pain and the hurt that this family is going through. So I am glad to see all of you out here, and I am glad to see so many young people out here especially."
Other activists delivered poems, and one activist connected police brutality here to police brutality against young people and workers in Brazil and the occupation of Haiti.
Two of Ramarley's teachers also spoke out at the rally. Ramarley's 6th grade homeroom, writing and social studies teacher said, "The talent that he had, and the passion and concern that he had, is something that I would love for everyone to share with those that they meet. Too often in the media it is the victim that is depicted as something that they are not."
To expose the media and police narrative that demonizes Ramarley and to share how he really was, Ramarley's teacher read a poem she wrote about him that included the lines: "I remember a student whose spirit will never unrise. I remember a child whose writing touched souls. An eternal charm bucket."
Ramarley's 11-year-old sister, speaking at a rally for the first time, also shared her memories:
When I used to be over at my dad's, and Marley would come over, I would be in a room watching TV, and he would come in, him and one of my other brothers, and they would come in and start hitting me with pillows, and then sometimes, I would try to hit him back with the pillow when he was asleep, but he just kept hitting me with the pillow. And then, I never knew it was going to end up like this, because I really love my brother, and I'm only 11 years old, and it's sad for me to see my brother go down like this.Ramarley's mother, Constance, ended the rally by asking everyone to share Ramarley's story as far and wide as possible.
It's not cool for me to look at my brother like this. When my brother was being buried, I was crying like crazy, and my [other] brother was trying to calm me down, but I couldn't, because he was my brother. And I loved him very much, and I still don't know how to handle it. He may be deceased for a year, but he will not be forgotten. Ramarley I love you.