After three successive nights of protest and unrest in East Flatbush following the shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray by police, City Council member Jumaane Williams held a press conference this afternoon to call for calm.
“What happened here in the past couple days is wrong,” Williams said. “There are people — well-intentioned as they my be — who are coming into the community and capitalizing on a terrible situation and making it worse.”
Williams blamed outside agitators for the numerous arrests made in recent nights, as police on horses and in riot gear have clashed with angry youths.
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“We have 45 young people in jail now, some of them bleeding,” Williams said. “Some of them had probation, parole, and were never told what would happen if they got arrested.”
Not everyone attending the press conference agreed with Williams’s assessment. Jose LaSalle, a founder of the Stop Stop-and-Frisk Freedom Fighters interrupted Williams mid-sentence.
“This is a police brutality issue,” LaSalle shouted, disrupting the council member’s statement. “It’s not a community issue!”
Crystal Davis, whose sister Shantel was shot and killed by police in the same neighborhood last year, supported Williams’s appeal for calm.
“We’re angry, yes we are angry, we’re very angry,” David said. “But at the same token, we cannot tear up our own community. We cannot do this. . . . Shame on whoever is taking our children and putting them through the system unnecessarily.”
Davis called for concerned people to meet at 7 p.m. on March 18 at Cupcake it Up to discuss a more reasoned strategic response.
Kimani Gray’s tearful father also attended the press conference, though he did not speak.
“He’s not happy with what’s happening,” Williams said, standing next to him. “He’s not happy with the violence that’s occurring. He’s not happy with us destroying ourselves.”
Whether today’s press conference will have any impact on the tumultuous street protests that have roiled the neighborhood for the past three nights remains to be seen. On Facebook and Twitter, many of those upset over Gray’s death were planning to meet again at 7 tonight at the location of his death, the corner of Church Avenue and East 55th Street. Regardless, the NYPD will certainly be out in force. This afternoon, police on horses, in cruisers, in mobile command trucks, and in helicopters blanketed the neighborhood, with a presence on every street corner.
The Voice will have coverage of whatever happens.