The shocking video of George Floyd’s death was the tipping point for countless young people who have picked up the civil rights mantle and run with it.
People from different races, cultures, and walks of life are fighting side by side for racial equality. In many protests, the majority of the people are not of color.
“Everyone is just pissed. Everyone is pissed that this is happening,” Kerry Paul of NYC Marchers said. “This is an attack on humanity.”
“Y'all are human, too. Quit your job. Quit your job,” protesters yelled at police officers.
“As a Jew, I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” Zachary Schaffer of NYC Marchers said. “My people have been persecuted for thousands of years, and I know what happens when people stay silent.”
“I do think that white silence equals violence,” Monica Steffey of NYC Marchers said. “If you're sitting at home and you’re not doing anything, what are you doing?”
Their anger was raw and emotions ran high in the beginning as many demonstrators clashed with police.
“I needed to make sure that they felt that pain, they felt that anger and that rage, and that they understood,” Enilda Mateo of NYC Marchers said.
And officers moved in with batons to break up protests.
“Everybody just wants this to end. We want to end this oppression,” Senayda Recinos of NYC Marchers said. “We want to stop the system from being so corrupt.”
“There has been a voice that has been yelling for 400 years, and even a little bit before that, and it hasn’t been heard,” Paul said.
“We are over it. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Courtney Mesidor of NYC Marchers said. “401 years, we’re over it.”
Unlike the 1960s, there is no central figure leading this civil rights movement. Paul, Schaffer, Steffey, Mateo, Recinos, and Mesidor are some of the people who led thousands of protesters over bridges and through the streets of Brooklyn during some of the city's largest marches, sit-ins, and moments of silence.
Most are in their 20s. Elijah Green is only 19 years old. They call him Nova.
“No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!” Green yells through a bullhorn during a protest.
“I just feel like a change needs to happen because I have been racially profiled about four different times in my life, and I'm done with it,” said Green, also a member of NYC Marchers. “I'm tired of all of it.”
They all started out as individuals who wanted to have their voices heard, but they quickly rose to the front of the crowd as the movement became more organized. Fifteen of them have formed a collective called NYC Marchers.
Q: How did you go from people who are marching and expressing your frustration to becoming leaders here in Brooklyn?
“Just about everyone around here, we started seeing each other and we said, ‘Hey, we are all here, let’s get each other’s information,’” said Paul. “So let’s get together and try to organize and try to actually plan things out in advance, maybe get some speakerphones, megaphones, maybe get some food. Build some connections with other people who are trying to protest as well.”
Q: What is the goal of the collective now?
“To make a change. We are going to change the system,” Recinos said.
Q: Why did you decide to join the protests?
"The color of my skin," an NYC Marchers member said.
“The cops pull us over because they wonder how we are in a nice car,” Recinos said. “They think we're selling drugs. They think we have guns. They think all of this and all of that when we don't have anything. And it's every day. They catch you in the back blocks, they harass you, they beat you up, they do whatever they want to do to you. If nobody's there, they take you.”
Q: Do you think the protests are working?
“It's working because certain things are getting done,” said Chanice Reyes, a protester with NYC Marchers. “Certain reforms are getting done piece by piece, you know.”
“George Floyd, it started something, but we're not just going to leave it here,” a member of NYC Marchers said. “And when protests do end, we are not going to end.”
“No more quick fixes on our system,” a member of NYC Marchers said. “We are breaking it down and we're building a new one.”