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Marchers in Brooklyn rally against police, civilian violence

#BlackLivesMatter picketers march through Brooklyn seeking to curb undue violence -- whether by police or civilians. Sept. 24, 2016. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

The bereaved wore memorial T-shirts and carried posters bearing photographs of slain black people. Some had been killed by police officers, others by civilians.

No matter who commits such violence, the bloodshed must end, said organizers of a rally Saturday that drew more than 100 marchers affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We’re gonna get those police off our back. But we gotta get off each other first. You hear me? We gotta get off each other first,” said rally organizer Hawk Newsome, who led the crowd in a chant: “I’m black and I’m proud.”

Saturday’s marchers, who protested through Brooklyn’s Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights neighborhoods, were showing solidarity with a movement that gained prominence nationwide over the past three years as a reaction to the killings of black and Latino people in encounters with the police, many of which were captured on bystander video.

“They matter when police shoot down black men and women,” activist Bertha Lewis, founder of the Black Institute, said before the rally. “And it matters when black people shoot black people and perpetrate crime against each other.”

Simone Peele, a marcher who said her brother was killed by the police more than two decades ago, said the latest killings by police — in North Carolina, in Oklahoma — evoke painful memories.

“The cops murdered him in his house,” she said of her brother, adding, “This has to stop. The killing has to stop.”

Vertina Brown wore a shirt showing her smiling daughter Tiarah Poyau, the St. John’s University student shot dead by a stray bullet early this month at the Caribbean J’Ouvert street party.

“I’m here for justice for my daughter,” she said. “Gun violence — it has to come to an end.”

The march began at the intersection where the student was killed, Empire Boulevard and Franklin Avenue.

“Guns down, lives up!” the marchers chanted after crossing the intersection.

“Don’t shoot! I wanna grow up!” they said blocks from where a lawyer in the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was killed at the same festival a year earlier, caught in the crossfire of a gang war.

“We got issues when we’re dealing with police. We got issue when we’re dealing with ourselves,” New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) said. “Death looks the same.”

Williams delivered a retort to a right-wing criticism of Black Lives Matter: that its activists unduly focus only on killings by the police rather than violence committed by black people against other black people.

“I’m sick of people telling us we have to choose which one we’re fighting against,” Williams said into a megaphone, soon after passing a school named for Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier at Ebbets Field, which existed nearby until razed in 1960.

A girl no older than 10 ran to the schoolyard fence and grabbed the bars.

“Stop the violence! Stop the violence!” she cried.


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