Scenes From Last Night’s Eric Garner Protests In Dallas.
Just like last Wednesday night’s protests that followed the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, crowds once again gathered in Dallas last night to protest another controversial decision from elsewhere in the country.
This time around, the protests centered around a New York grand jury that similarly failed to indict a white police officer involved in the death of yet another unarmed black man. Even in spite of video evidence showing NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo taking down Eric Garner with a barred chokehold and the city’s medical examiner ruling the death a homicide, jurors still determined that there was no probable cause to indict Pantaleo in the death.
On the heels of the Michael Brown ruling, Garner’s case feels like an even more devastating setback to civil rights.
As such, outrage over the incident quickly spread all over the country, leading to protests not just in New York, but in places like Dallas, as well. At 7 p.m. last evening, crowds once again gathered in front of the Dallas Police Headquarters — this time holding up signs that bore slogans such as “I Can’t Breathe” or “Black Lives Matter,” while voicing support for both Garner and Brown.
The young man at the center of the movement began the protest speaking into a microphone about rampant inequality in the United States and the indifference from society at large to change. Then he gave those in the crowd opportunities to speak to those in attendance.
“We have to take accountability,” said one local protester named Rashida Jones. “It’s not just the officers’ fault, the reasons why these kids are dead. We don’t even vote. We don’t vote for the presidential election — but what about the primary?”
The crowd cheered and clapped their hands to agree with Jones. After a few other people spoke, the crowd then began its march down Lamar Street toward Downtown. Soon, what started as just a few people quickly turned 200 strong, the majority of whom chanted the “I Can’t Breathe” words Garner was taped as telling his arresting officers during his struggle.
What began as a peaceful protest became a little more dicey when police officers began flanking the crowd during its march through the city. Some showed their displeasure by yelling, “You can’t stop us!” Others purposely walked on the opposite side of the road.
Eventually, the crowd made its way to the American Airlines Center, where Usher was performing at the time, before laying down in mock death. The bodies covered much of Victory Plaza, with protesters still yelling with their backs on the ground, and many also holding their necks to signify a struggle for air.
From there, things turned into something of a disorganized mess. People began attempting to walk onto the I-35 on-ramp, while officers attempted to keep them away: one female was arrested after ignoring police officers’ warnings and making her way onto the ramp, anyway; she immediately began angrily yelling, “Let me go!” while the crowd following behind her yelled the same. The chant continued as the crowd began surrounding the officer’s car.
Following that incident, officers barricaded the freeway entrance, standing their ground against the increasingly unruly protestors while trying to remain as emotionless as possible. There the officers stood, expressionless, linking arms and taking in a barrage of angry citizens yelling in their faces and openly questioning their authority.
Eventually, the woman who was previously arrested was let go — much to the delight of the cheering crowd. And with the protest teetering on getting out of hand, the crowd moved to its next location. That, of course, didn’t stop one woman who was holding her young son from yelling f-bombs towards officers or another man from screaming “No justice, no peace!” right into an officer’s face while heading towards Dealey Plaza.
These were far from the only two especially vocal participants in the protest, though. And as people began spotting the officer who had previously arrested the female protester earlier in the night, they began circling her vehicle and yelling profanities her way while trying to block her car’s path. Other officers couldn’t really help; they were busy trying to corral wayward protestors in particular directions — an admittedly difficult task.
Throughout the duration of the event, protesters continuously spoke their mind — it seemed not one voice was quiet. But, as the crowd reached the grassy knoll, it was clear that this was as far as police officers would allow them to go. This time, the wall of officers was followed by police vans in case more arrests needed to be made. Other officers on bikes carried zip-tie handcuffs, which again caused more uproar.
By this point, any attempts to calm the crowd down seemed fruitless. Soon, two more people were arrested for trying to walk onto the I-35 entrance ramp once more. Still, more chaos ensued before the crowd was finally talked into looping back towards the Joule hotel. On its way — and after three-hours of marching — the crowd finally began to disperse.
At that point, it seemed as if everything that needed to had long been said — even if the point of the protest appeared more bent on being seen than heard. Despite some unfortunate bouts of chaos, that mission was largely accomplished.
This morning anyway, Dallas is still echoing with this group’s sentiments.
All photos by Kathy Tran.