New York Protesters Won’t Be Silenced by Curfew

"You know that you’re going to have their ear for a second and you know you’re going to finally be able to get a message across.”
June 5, 2020, 5:41pm

New York City's new curfew continues after last weekend’s protests against police brutality erupted into violent clashes between protesters and police. More than 2,000 people have been arrested since they started. It’s the first time a curfew has been implemented across the five boroughs since World War II.

But it hasn’t stopped the protesters.

Darren Martin, a 31-year-old law student from the Bronx, rejected the idea of a curfew, insisting it’s just a way for cops to silence protesters.

“I came here to put my hands up and protest, to protest the police brutality that I’ve experienced personally in my life, that a lot of members of my family have experienced,” Martin said on his third night marching.

He noted there was no curfew implemented at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak that devastated parts of the city. “We’re all breaking social distancing right now, because this is more important.”

Martin was one of thousands who arrived at downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for Tuesday’s rally — a direct challenge to the 8 p.m. curfew. They came to shout slogans, listen to speeches, and hear poetry. It was a diverse and largely peaceful gathering.

A large portion of the group — around 2,000 — broke off to march over the Manhattan Bridge into the city. Police trapped them, stopping their progress into Manhattan or back into Brooklyn.

For almost two hours, people tried to negotiate with police, even chanting Ludacris lyrics — “Move, Bitch! Get out the way!” — as news helicopters hovered low to film the standoff. The cops told protesters that if they tried to move into Manhattan, they would be arrested.

“They didn’t want to see us walk off that bridge peacefully,” said Martin. “They wanted to see something go down.”

Martin, who didn’t plan to take a leadership role in the protest, helped negotiate with officers to defuse the tension, and ultimately led the trapped protesters back to Brooklyn, where they got off the bridge peacefully.

“You’re ready to get arrested,” he said. “You’re ready to get beat down. But, a lot of that goes out of your mind when you get close to them, because you know that you’re going to have their ear for a second and you know you’re going to finally be able to get a message across.”

Cover: VICE News' Meena Duerson talks to a protester outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Caroline Pahl/VICE News.)