A few of us Voice women headed down to the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse yesterday to join hundreds of New Yorkers protesting the acquittal of Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, the two NYPD cops accused of raping a woman in her apartment in 2009. There was chanting, sign-waving, speechifying; chants ranged from “We are here to say/Rape is not okay!” to “Not her clothes, not her fault/No one asks for sexual assault!” to “Fuck the police!,” a slogan that sounded unusually potent, if incongruous, coming from a crowd that skewed mostly female. Despite its on-the-fly organization — feminist group Permanent Wave put everything together in under 24 hours– the event attracted about 300 people to Centre Street yesterday afternoon.
A number of people spoke, including activist Savitri D, Titus Andronicus member Amy Klein, and that Reverend Billy guy. People were pissed.
Lori Alderman of Permanent Wave, one of the organizers, said she was “heartbroken” and “infuriated” over the not-guilty verdict. Alderman also pointed out that what happened was less about the jury that handed down the verdict, and “more about our culture. Silence condones victim-blaming and slut-shaming.”
I also talked to a number of women who identified themselves to me as rape survivors. California transplant and rape survivor Amanda Millis summed up a common sentiment in the crowd, telling me she was “not surprised, but completely outraged.”
“I don’t feel safe,” she said. “I don’t feel protected.”
Speakers stood on a little wooden box and spoke through a megaphone. Speeches alternated with periods of chanting, cheering, clapping. Savitri D managed to rile the crowd into a frenzy as she spoke with her baby daughter in a Baby Bjorn on her chest. “This girl is not going to grow up with this bullshit! We should be allowed to drink a few fucking beers!” she yelled, to wild applause.
The protest moved across the street to right in front of the court building’s steps. A few NYPD officers looked on, their faces deadpan.
I saw a shirtless man on the sidewalk with “Don’t Trust NYPD With Your Body” painted on his torso. “You can’t trust the police with your body,” he said, echoing the words on his own chest.
“What we know now is, don’t call the police.”
Protest organizer Amy Klein, also known as Amy Andronicus of the band Titus Andronicus, was one of the few people I spoke with who’d managed to identify a positive aspect of the verdict. “This is a uniting, not a dividing, case. I have talked to cops who feel similarly to us,” she said. “We got 1500 Facebook RSVP’s in 20 hours.”
On my way home, before the protesters marched up Centre Street and away, I ran into 19-year-old Jen Kaplan of Brooklyn. Also a rape survivor, Jen says her case was mishandled by her university and that she’s filed a federal complaint. I asked her why she came to the protest.
“I’m a survivor and I felt that I had to support this woman. I thought it would make her feel better,” she said. “Also, let’s start a fucking revolution.”