At an organized protest for Daniel Prude, a mentally-ill Black man that died in Rochester police custody five months ago, a prominent member of the Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ office in attendance was almost struck by a car ramming it’s way through a crowd of over 200 protesters on Thursday night, September 3, in Times Square.
The next day, Friday, September 4, the march organizers Nupol Kiazolu and Strategy for Black Lives members with Assistant to the Deputy Brooklyn Borough President and Community Coordinator Hercules E. Reid gathered for a press conference on Times Square’s Red Steps to once again protest police brutality and indifference, calling for the resignation of Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. They also gathered to denounce the acts of “domestic terrorism” committed the night before, said Reid.
Simultaneously, on Friday night, pockets of unaffiliated vandals, one upper class and at least one out-of-towner, were arrested and charged with rioting in the Flatiron district in lower Manhattan as a “abolition” protest turned into a riot that smashed windows and damaged property.
The separate group was sponsored by the New Afrikan Black Panther Party and Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement. Their demands of #AmnestyForAll is aimed at getting the charges against protesters from George Floyd and Black Lives Matter events dropped.
All of this comes after the shooting deaths of protesters in Kenosha at rallies for Jacob Blake, a Black man shot and paralyzed by Wisconsin police after an attempted arrest. It marks an increasingly violent and radicalized clash between the myriad of Black Lives Matters protesters and counterprotesters across the nation utilizing fear as weapons in some cases, actual weapons in others.
Reid said by the time he arrived there were already counter-protesters to the Black Lives Matter demonstration on-site on Thursday. NY1 reported, the counter-protesters were being “verbally harassed” when multiple people got into the black car and attempted to leave and were being blocked.
Strategy for Black Lives Chief of Staff Na-Lekan Masego said that there were people engaged and arguing with the counter-protesters but he was trying to de-escalate the situation.
Reid said no one did anything to the car until the driver revved its engine with “intention.” “It was almost like a joke to see him smiling at us, revving up the engine even more, and then seconds later he’s barreling forward,” said Reid.
According to reporters and videos from the scene, most people were able to jump away in time with no serious injuries and damages to their property but were “rattled” over the situation.
Reid was wearing a yellow covering for the rain and was captured on video being pulled out of the way of the black Ford by his friend. “He’s a hero in my book,” said Reid. The car was driven by an unidentified Black male, he said. A white, transgender woman was in the passenger seat, said Masego, believed to be linked to ‘Trump supporters.’
According to Detective Sophia Mason, a DCPI Spokesperson, the investigation is ongoing and did not give further details or the confirmed identities of anyone in the cars yet. Shea has said publicly the first car is not affiliated with the NYPD as rumored.
They continued to march north. When the march reached Columbus Circle later the same night, said witnesses, another driver in a separate car from before circled the protesters, and when approached, brandished a firearm. Masego said everyone went into a panic and then ran into the subways.
Reid said he witnessed inaction on the part of police present in both situations.
“Black people are living in a state of emergency. Our humanity must be recognized. What happened [Thursday] night was traumatizing. I legitimately thought in that moment that Hercules’, Na’s, Nupol’s, and my own life might have ended right then and there,” said Larry Smith Jr., the friend that heaved Reid out of the way of the black car, in a press release.
“I organized the emergency protest for Daniel Prude. We were not expecting the march to be interrupted by an extreme act of violence. The moment that car plowed through the crowd, I had flashbacks to my experience in Charlottesville. We will not be deterred by radicalized right-wing violence,” said Kiazolu.
While no one was killed in this instance, Kiazolu still likened the situation to Charlottesville, where several people were struck and one killed while demonstrating against a Unite The Right nationalist rally in 2017.
Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Running a car through a crowd of civilian protesters is not as severe as gun violence or a race massacre or a church bomb in Birmingham, but it is, according to those standing in the path of the car on Thursday, terrifying.
The following press conference focused the discussion on domestic terrorism, said Masego, since the organization received death threats while putting it together. Masego said they spoke from the heart about their experiences with fear and trauma.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Deputy Legal Director and Director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality Jeffrey Robinson said in his presentation on race in America that, “If you want to see the faces of people who have directly experienced terrorism, you don’t have to go to the 9/11 photographs, you don’t have to go to the first World Trade Center bombing, you don’t have to go to Oklahoma City.”
Robinson said this describing photos of Black men, women, and children looking at the aftermath of the Alabama church bombing in which four little Black girls were killed in 1963. The bombing was in direct response to bus boycotts and massive civil rights protests unpopular at the time.
“They said they were going to have snipers on the roof to shoot us,” said Masego, “It didn’t stop us. We were like, you know what, we’re going to continue to do it because look at our ancestors and that’s the same thing Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, everybody who put their lives on the line for the cause [would do].” He said he didn’t know if the threats were from ‘Trump supporters’ or not.