Demonstrations against police brutality continued throughout New York City, with hundreds gathering in the shadow of the famous arch at Washington Square Park on Saturday evening.
The mass gatherings were just part of a series of protests taking place nationwide in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after being beaten by five Memphis police officers during a traffic stop earlier this month. Body camera and surveillance footage of the incident released on Friday sparked outrage and outpourings of grief throughout the country.
The officers involved, who are also Black, were fired on Jan. 20 and charged with second-degree murder on Jan. 26. The Memphis Police Department also announced on Saturday that it had disbanded the unit that the officers were part of.
About 100 cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers amassed at Union Square on Saturday afternoon, with plans to ride through Lower Manhattan as a group. The event was put together by advocacy organization Street Riders NYC, which organizes demonstrations in the form of bike rides. In 2020, the group gathered over 1,000 cyclists to ride from the Barclays Center to Central Park in solidarity with George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.
“We’re angry, we’re being heard, we’re being seen, we’re gonna be on the streets,” said Peter Kerre, one of Street Riders NYC’s co-founders. “We let people know the fight is still on. We’re not stopping any time soon, and we’re gonna keep the pressure on our elected officials to push for the change that we want to see.”
Jasmyn Peterson, a skateboarder from Brooklyn, also took part in Saturday’s convoy, carrying a poster that read “Change Is Now.” Through tears, she expressed her grief and shock about what had happened to Nichols.
“I can’t even watch that horrendous video,” she said. “I can’t believe people would put it on the internet for people to see. It’s horrendous.”
She said she attended the protest because she “wanted to be among people who were passionate and driven to make a difference.”
As they chanted “say his name,” the cyclists made their way to Washington Square Park, where they joined a larger protest. Speakers there included Brooklyn City Councilmember Chi Ossé; Angelique Negroni-Kearse, the widow of Andrew Kearse, a Bronx man who died in police custody in Schenectady, New York, in 2017; and organizers for Black Lives and the Party of Socialism and Liberation.
Among the crowd was Timothy Hunter with Strategy for Black Lives, a coalition of youth activists and one of the organizers of the Washington Square Park protest.
“This isn’t the first time this happened,” he said, “but I hope that we can make enough noise that this will be the last time.”
After some time, the crowd, which numbered in the hundreds, eventually spilled out of the park. NYPD officers on scooters rode ahead of the march as it made its way west along 14th Street and then north along Sixth Avenue. The cyclists from the earlier rally formed a ring around the crowd to protect demonstrators from police, whose presence intensified as the protesters neared Times Square. Protesters weaved their way around stopped cars as they brought traffic within the busy Manhattan intersection to a grinding halt.
The protesters coalesced around the bleachers near the Times Square TKTS booth, where event organizers delivered speeches calling for the abolition of the police and a reimagining of public safety. The protest eventually ended around 9 p.m.
At press time, the NYPD had no information available about any arrests made in connection with Saturday’s protests.
Christian Santana contributed additional reporting.