People in New York City imagine a community free of police violence

A protester holds up a sign that reads “Safety Without Policing.”
Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

BRONX, NEW YORK People across the country participated in Night Out for Safety and Liberation events in 30 cities on Tuesday to demonstrate how they imagine a community without police violence. In the Bronx borough of New York City, NYC Freedom Cities and the New York Worker Center Federation hosted its own NOSL action.

Night Out for Safety and Liberation events began in 2013 as a response to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin and the violence inflicted on black and brown communities by police. The event’s guiding mission is to promote the idea that police-focused solutions cause harm to people of color and don’t lead to better or safer communities. It also serves as a response to the annual National Night Out held by police departments across the country that aim to foster better relations between police and communities.

Attendees share what they think a safe community looks like.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

Protesters join hands in an icebreaker activity.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

“The police do this community picnic [Night Out] every year and what it does is try to create some legitimacy with the community,” Albert Saint Jean, an organizer with Black Alliance for Just Immigration, said in an interview with Mic. “The thing is that it’s superficial legitimacy. Maybe a short while from now they’ll go back to arresting the whole neighborhood.”

The South Bronx has a history with police brutality. In 1984, Bronx police shot and killed Eleanor Bumpurs, a mother of seven, after responding to a call about an eviction dispute; in 2014, Santiago Hernandez was beaten by police while standing in front of an apartment building in the Bronx.

Freedom Cities and the WCF hosted the event in Brooks Park, a community park in the South Bronx, and invited protesters and community members to gather and get to know each other. The event focused heavily on inclusion with members from multiple community rights organizations such as the Black Youth Projectthe Street Vendor Project and the Retail Action Project.

Eliana, a Bronx native and hot dog vendor, holds a sign promoting street vendor rights.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

Jennifer Osula of the Retail Action Project attended the event to support her community and promote awareness of police brutality.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

Dondi McKellar, a street vendor and board member of the Street Vendor Project, shows off the organization’s shirt.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

Organizers and attendees also emphasized that public safety goes beyond freedom from policing. For them, it includes affordable housing, education, job opportunities, healthy food and access to health care.

“If you invest in the community, give us better schooling,” the Retail Action’s Project’s Jennifer Osula said in an interview. “Give us better access to work. We will do so much for ourselves. Prevention is better than a cure.”

Tara Newton readies for the protest with a sign that reads “Stop The Police.”

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

Protesters marched to the police-sponsored National Night Out event with signs and chants.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

“If we stand together, we have more power,” Poli, a member of Freedom Citiesand protestor in the rally, said. “A free city means to have protection for whatever happens, to have freedom and to care for one another.”

As a street vendor, Poli said he has experienced police harassment, adding that it’s time for communities to come together and create a safer environment.

Just down the street from the NOSL event, police officers held their own cookout, promoting a different view of community on their National Night Out. NOSL attendees and organizers marched down the block to the police event, chanting in both English and Spanish: “Ain’t no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop” and “Unity is power.”

After the action, protesters made their way back to Brooks Park and enjoyed a community cookout sponsored by the Street Vendor Project. As people ate, community members shared testimonies and poems to close out the event on a peaceful note.

A representative from the Black Youth Project talks about why events like this matter.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

Protestors embrace and head back to Brooks Park after marching to the police-sponsored National Night Out.

Source: Princess-India Alexander/Mic

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