Hundreds of medical workers at SUNY Downstate staged a die-in on Thursday to protest police brutality and the health disparities that affect black Americans.
Emergency medical residents and other hospital staff kneeled or lay on the ground for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd, killing him.
“I can stand here as a brown, female, immigrant physician with a loud voice — and I can do this because of the sacrifices made by black people a long time ago,” said Dr. Smruti Desai, an emergency medical resident. “It is our turn to fight for them.”
While hundreds of staff at the central Brooklyn hospital — which serves a predominately black patient population — kneeled or lay on the ground, speakers read aloud the names of victims of police violence. Dozens of staffers in scrubs and white coats then marched to Grand Army Plaza to join a larger march through the borough.
The die-in came on the eighth straight day of protests across the city demanding police reform in the wake of Floyd’s death, with clashes between police and protesters and violent arrests caught on video becoming a regular occurrence.
SUNY Downstate has been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic since March, hospital officials reporting that 90 percent of those in the zip codes surrounding the East Flatbush medical center who died from the coronavirus were black.
“Our patients woke up one day and they had to face a pandemic that took the lives of their family, their friends, and their neighbors,” said Dr. Teresa Smith, Associate Dean at SUNY Downstate, “only to wake up and have to face the death of their people at the hands of the people that are supposed to protect them.”