A New York grand jury has decided not to indict the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death in Staten Island. I was too young to march with civil rights leaders in the 1960s. I am too old to demonstrate with the young people who have protested against the Ferguson grand jury’s decision and have kept the issue of police criminality, brutality and implicit bias in the headlines. I can’t demonstrate with them, but I’m proud of and grateful for them.
As many others, including Roland Martin, have said, these protesters have started a movement. It is a movement precipitated and inspired by the string of young men across the nation who died at the hands of police officers and vigilantes like George Zimmerman.
I was proud also of the demonstrators who participated in the Occupy Movement. I even went to observe and encourage the Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan. I am profoundly disappointed that the Occupy Movement has all but disappeared. Many accused the Occupiers of being unfocused, and disorganized with no meaningfully unifying concept. The recent protests about police brutality and the targeting of Black men are focused and unified in a way that the Occupiers never achieved. I thank God for them. This latest movement makes me hopeful that we will see a resurgence of political and social activism – including a rebirth of Occupy Wall Street.
I teach law at St. John’s University. The day after the Ferguson grand jury’s decision was announced, several students of African descent stopped by my office to discuss the decision. They told me they felt powerless, helpless. They are now studying for exams. I can only imagine how they feel as future lawyers trying to earn a law degree as Black vulnerability – physically, emotionally, economically (this is why Occupy Wall Street was so important)—increases exponentially. The protesters, I hope, inspire them. Like me, they may not decide to take to the streets, but they will engage in some type of activism in their communities, and at our law school.