Wednesday night March 21st 2012 brought a planned “Million Hoodie March” in honor of Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was shot in Florida by a street vigilante for looking “real suspicious.” A Florida state law, Stand Your Ground Law, would let the shooter Zimmerman go. The law and the facts behind the murder itself is bringing up a huge national controversy over racism and other issues.
The African-American was killed while only wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and iced tea. These facts brought hundreds of sympathizers in hoodies with Skittles and iced tea in hand. Marchers all gathered in Union Square in force at around 6 PM. Shortly afterwards, Trayvon Martin’s parents showed up to give a speech to the masses at the park. The movement Occupy Wall Street had started a small occupation at Union Square earlier that week and joined the rally with their large number of protesters, shared their experience in city marches and, last but not least, used the human microphone for relaying information.
At approximately 7 PM, Martin’s parents were set to leave the park when the marchers were heading out onto the street. NYPD wanted all the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, but as Union Square was already overflowing, there was no place for marchers to go.
Also noteworthy: The march was supposed to go to the United Nations uptown as it was the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, however, marchers decided to go West, after Martin’s parents left in a black SUV on E.14th in that direction. Perhaps there was some confusion or loss of leadership there.
The marchers took E. 14th street and walked West over to 6th Avenue where there was a little confrontation with a NYPD motorcade at the intersection there. This frustration led to chants of “Let us march!” Then after a few minutes of chaos, marchers decided to take the entire 6th Avenue uptown.
NYPD constantly tried to keep up with their motorcade and they kept attempting to redirect marchers onto the sidewalks. Given the huge number of walkers, people weren’t going to let the police tell them they couldn’t take the street as they chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!”
At 19th and 6th Avenue, NYPD tried to use their entire motorcade to block the street as three white NYPD vans came to block it as well. The vans were late to the party when marchers walked around the motorcade and took 6th Avenue again. NYPD attempted this again at 23rd and marchers reacted to this move by turning East into the narrow street. They lost the NYPD there.
When hitting 5th Avenue, they marched up to Madison Square Park. There, they walked through vehicular traffic and amassed at the southwest corner of the park. Marchers couldn’t make a decision on what to do next and the march split for a minute or two. And this brought NYPD time as they caught up with the march at the park. When they arrived, marchers then took all of Broadway and walked back down south to Union Square. The energy from the marchers was pulsing as they chanted and took the streets.
The large marching group took over Union Square again. I was at the park’s southeast corner where there was an argument with a few of the rally organizers; a few wanted to keep marching in honor of Trayvon Martin where the main organizer wanted to tone things down. The marchers took things into their own hands and marched South on Broadway. I went with this march for the chunk of the night. Back at the park, Occupy Wall Street protesters stayed at the square while another large march went to Times Square.
The march that went downtown took the streets with their strong and powerful energy as they went all over downtown:
The 200-250 person march reached Canal Street and marched even further downtown on Broadway. Shortly afterwards, the march turned East at City Hall Park to enter One Police Plaza. There, they scaled the barricades to enter the plaza.
After entering, there were loud cheers before quickly turning to enter the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway. When they did this, a group of 20-30 NYPD vehicles with sirens and lights drove onto the Brooklyn-bound lane of the bridge to only be fooled by the marchers. They went even further South on Broadway. The energy was strong.
Marchers passed by Zuccotti Park, home of the Occupy Wall Street movement, to only see it still barricaded and guarded by officers with batons. I asked a marcher, “where is this march going?” And she responded with a, “no idea!” They went further South and they reached the Wall Street bull. Participants scaled and knocked over the barricades. Two protesters stood on top of it with their fists in the air as the crowd shouted, “No justice, no peace!”
NYPD then moved in and the march walked on to Battery Park. At the park, they turned and went uptown on Washington Street. NYPD came in force with riot police and 20 somewhat vehicles. The marchers maneuvered through a park to get on a smaller street where the cop cars couldn’t get access. They took the street on Greenwich and ran as a huge group to the West Street avenue.
Then they met more police at Battery Park on the other side of Battery Park City. The energy was still strong with the police coming in force.
The march then decided to head back to Union Square. It was a slow moving march, however, people kept their energy up with singing, chants and some moments of silence. NYPD had riot cops with batons and zipcuffs alongside the march and everyone stayed on the sidewalk at this point.
With reports of hundreds of rally members at Union Square, the downtown marchers kept their pace to meet them at the park. The Times Square march had already returned before the South march made their descent.
Everyone dispersed into their little groups. Occupy Wall Street had their signs and tables. Occupiers laid around and chatted. Trayvon Martin focused protesters had a few small groups doing the human microphone where speakers could share their feelings and thoughts on the murder case. Later that night, NYPD closed the park with barricades and Occupy Wall Street reacted with a march and some activity of their own.
Here’s a photo of the crowds at Union Square before the police closed the park:
*All photos are mine