More than 200 people took to the streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens on Monday, to call for a more human approach to the justice system through investing in social support structures and violence prevention over law enforcement and incarceration, according to one of the organizers.
“This is about human justice. If you start with ‘criminal,’ justice is not possible, but when you start with human all things are possible,” said Divine Pryor of the Jamaica, Queens-based violence intervention nonprofit Community Capacity Development. “We are marching because we are here to take back our humanity, humanity that had been snatched away by centuries and decades of oppression.”
The more than 13-mile march coincided with Indigenous Peoples/Columbus Day and covered three out of the five boroughs, starting at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, proceeding over the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, uptown to the Queensboro Bridge and over the span to the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing complex in the country.
Several elected officials joined the rally, such as Public Advocate — and rumored candidate for governor — Jumaane Williams, who gave an impassioned speech calling on officials to invest more heavily in affordable housing, education, quality food, mental health services, and jobs.
“If you do that, you will see the violence decrease — and that is not an excuse for anybody to shoot up a city, period,” said Williams outside Barclays Center. “So there has to be accountability, but we can’t put more money in the accountability than we do in preventing it from happening in the first place.”
Williams said the city should learn lessons from the crime decreases over the past decade thanks to these investments when working to undo the rise in crime during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pol denounced other elected officials’ fear-mongering for their own gain.
“Human justice is the way and we need leadership that’s not going to feed the fear — even if it’s an election year — to tell us what we need and push our communities through that fear, to keep us all safe.”
At the Brooklyn stadium, famed rapper Fat Joe briefly stopped by to show his support for the cause.
“I’m here for the people, I’m here for human rights, I’m here for justice for all,” said the Bronxite.
Another marcher travelled all the way up from Miami, Florida, said he was motivated to make the trip from the Sunshine State to support the criminal justice reform message.
“[The] criminal justice system, that’s something that specifically puts someone in a cage, in a box. Before they get to that point, let’s find out how can we prevent that from happening,” Chevy Deacon told Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication amNewYork Metro. “Reform is normally done after, but I think there’s a lot of reform and education that can be done prior to that.”
One Queens resident said the march is a sign of solidarity among people of color facing injustices and in opposition to the celebration of Christopher Columbus.
“Instead of celebrating a man that didn’t do any good, we’re here to make a change,” Aylin Agudo said. “Technically we are the same, but we’re not the same because of how we look, where we come from, what social class we are. So I feel like today we’re here to say, ‘You know what, it doesn’t matter what race you are, what color you are, how you look or [where] you come from, we all are one and deserve the same rights.'”
This story first appeared on amNewYork.