Hundreds of protesters surrounded the entrance to the Barclays Center on December 8 while Prince William and Kate Middleton were heading in to watch the Brooklyn Nets take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The royal couple, currently on their first official trip to New York City, were visiting the game to highlight a “partnership” between the NBA and the Royal Foundation.
A car took the couple straight to a freight elevator inside the arena. But basketball fans trying to get in to see the game had to wade through throngs of protesters to get to the doors. The protesters were staging another demonstration in reaction to the December 3 announcement that a grand jury would not indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.
“I have to go through them?” said one frazzled Nets fan to a police officer patrolling the area packed with protesters. “But I’m with you! I’m on your side!”
He did, indeed, have to go through them.
— Katie Toth (@kat_toth) December 9, 2014
Even the game itself was politically charged. Several players on both teams showed their support for the protest movement outside, wearing shirts with Eric Garner’s famous last words — “I Can’t Breathe” — during the pregame warmup. Cavs star LeBron James was one of them. Brooklyn’s own royalty, Jay-Z, posed for a photo with Nets players Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Alan Anderson, and Jarrett Jack, who were also wearing the shirt.
Josh Davis, 24, who was protesting outside, said he appreciated the players’ gesture, but said he would’ve preferred a louder verbal statement from them. “Just to show they know it’s not just some thing on social media,” he said.
After lying down for a “die-in” in front of the arena on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, protesters took over the intersection, tying up traffic before making their way to the Atlantic Terminal Mall.
Security guards tried to hold the mall’s doors together, but some protesters managed to pull them open and flood through the hallways. They marched up to Target, one of the mall’s anchor stores, where employees were hastily closing the doors in order to avoid confrontation. Instead, the group performed another “die-in” in the hallway, then headed back to the arena, loudly banging on windows as they left.
Once back outside, protesters continued, moving back toward the Barclays Center to greet spectators as they left the game. Twenty-three-year-old Aaron Williams joined the protests as he left the game. “I was actually at the game watching LeBron play…I’ve seen the protests in the city and wanted to go. The opportunity [presented itself],” said Williams, who says he’s often profiled by police in his neighborhood of Brownsville. “I felt like one more voice helps.”
At one point, protesters were entering the subway terminal at Atlantic Center, heading down the stairs and pushing against police. While this was happening, a man was arrested by at least five officers. After being surrounded on the ground by officers, the man was taken through the emergency service exit and escorted out of the area in plastic handcuffs.
While the terminal was still filled with officers, observers, and a few disoriented protesters shortly after the arrest, one family approached the turnstiles, passing several police officers, including those escorting the protester.
“Dad!” said a son, sounding nervous. “What are you doing?”
“Going to the subway!” his undeterred father responded, swiping his MetroCard before passing it back to his son. “You think these people are going to stop me? Not today, they’re not!”
If only the Nets had displayed the same perseverance. After jumping out to an early lead, they were routed by the Cavs, 110-88.