The protests began in Ferguson, exploding after the prosecutor announced that the policeman who killed Michael Brown would not be brought to trial. They spread across the country after the Staten Island grand jury refused to charge the policeman who strangled Eric Garner, killing him on camera. Now, as others — Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, Akai Gurley — are added to the list of casualties, the marches keep on building.
Professional and college athletes don shirts saying, “We can’t breathe.” Congressional aides go on strike to stand on the steps of the House, calling “hands up, don’t shoot.” From Boston to Denver to Miami, die-ins and protests tie up major intersections in big cities. Nonviolent protestors chain themselves to a BART car, declaring they want to stop the line for four and one-half hours, the time Michael Brown was left on the street in Ferguson. This weekend, tens of thousands marched in Washington, Boston, New York and elsewhere.
Why march? Marching is a public protest, a witness demanding attention be paid. Marching is a public classroom, teaching millions about what has long been true about police violence and racial injustice, but too seldom acknowledged. Marching forges community, an evolving community of ordinary heroes who put their bodies on the line to call the powerful to account. Marching involves moving from spectator to participant in history, going from being on the sidelines to being on the field. It is exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.
These marches are spreading, in part because many share Eric Garner’s final plea, “I can’t breathe.” African American outrage is clear. We experience police abuse as a daily reality.
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