“The way [the Justice League is] moving, it’s like it would appear to outside forces that they are the face of the movement, and it’s so not true,” said Ty Black, a 26-year-old activist and artist.
After the killing of the unarmed [Akai] Gurley by an NYPD officer in a stairwell of East New York’s Pink Houses, Black and a small group of young activists from East New York and Crown Heights, along with Gurley’s aunt, came together to form Justice for Akai Gurley. The group has organized multiple protests at the Pink Houses, marching through different public housing complexes in East New York before stopping at the 75th Precinct.
According to Black, the group aims to build community power and reclaim control of their own streets, while also “eliminating police presence in our neighborhood through things like copwatch,” the tactic of vigilantly documenting routine police interactions with civilians. In February, copwatch footage exonerated Jonathan [Daza], a Sunset Park street vendor who was accused to assaulting the police; video showed that in fact it was Daza who had been violently assaulted by his arresting officers.
“Police are the paramilitary arm of New York City development,” says Asere Bello, another member of JFAG. He pointed to the broken elevator in Gurley’s NYCHA building and the burnt-out light in the stairwell where he was fatally shot as a part of the disenfranchisement that played a role in his death.
JFAG plans to ask NYCHA residents about the repairs needed in their buildings and recruit handymen to fix them. After surveying residents in East New York who expressed a need for ways to deal with interpersonal violence—the police receive more than 700 domestic violence calls each day—JFAG’s second march was led by women, and focused on the connections of state and gender violence.
The point, representatives of the group say, is to reclaim their own power and reduce dependence on state institutions, and show the connections between Broken Windows policing, displacement, gentrification, and police brutality.
“For us it’s a matter of getting the skills to navigate our own relationships or our own conflicts…in a way that lessens the dependency and completely eliminates the dependency on the state to resolve our conflicts,” Bello said.
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