New York City activists and feminists rallied yesterday to protest the acquittal of two New York City police officers on rape charges. The acquittal occurred despite what protesters call “overwhelming evidence” against the accused, including a taped statement by one officer that he had used a condom and penetrated the victim, which he later denied. The rally provided an expression of widespread outrage over rape culture and abuses of police power. It also uncovered rifts between protesters.
When co-organizer Lori Adelman took the stage, she thanked the police officers in attendance, for “doing their jobs” adding ‘This is not a rally against all police officers. It is a rally against rape.”
Over 1,500 people pledged attendance to the rally on its Facebook page. , and there were at least several hundred people in attendance. Many held signs with slogans such as “End Rape Culture” and “New Yorkers Against Rape.”
“Obviously this was inspired by one court case in particular,” Adelman told Raw Story, “but I don’t think any one trial or court case decision could bring together so many people unless it was indicative of a greater social problem and a greater cause that needs to be addressed.”
Outside the barricades, however, one man was joking about rape and “getting laid.” His companions looked visibly uncomfortable — as did he when asked for comment. “The issue at hand is not just rape, but the police,” he said. “This protest is allowing policing to continue.”
His specific grievances were that protesters were staying within barricades, that police were in attendance, that Adelman had thanked them, and that police controlled society.
Adelman, along with co-organizer Jill Filipovic, the Permanent Wave foundation, and what Adelman describes as a coalition “that transcends any one person or organization,” had organized the protest within hours of the acquittal. They described the rally as a protest against both rape culture and police violence.
“Cops are notoriously insensitive when it comes to sexualized crimes and incidents, from harassment to rape,” said Filipovic told Raw Story. “Try talking to a cop about getting groped on the subway and see what kind of response you get. I wish every squad had an Olivia Benson [a detective on “Law & Order: SVU], but that’s not how it works in real life. They’re also notably worse to particular communities.”
Author Julie Klausner, who was instrumental in stirring up interest in the protest and getting people to participate, also spoke to Raw Story.
“I was just affected by this story in a way that really rattled me,” she said. “The moment I heard the verdict, my heart sank and I felt so angry and sick, in a way I don’t usually feel when I read the news… it pushed some buttons in my lizard brain that made me want to throw a brick through a window. But that’s not what civilized people do. So a protest is the next best way of saying ‘this is sickening.’”
Many protesters were motivated by personal experiences. A man named Rico, who had come to New York City from Japan, said that he joined the protest because he had been unjustly harassed by police officers. This, he said, was in line with a history of racist discrimination and violence on the part of the NYPD. “I used to trust the police,” he said. “In Japan, I had no problem with the police. But ever since I moved here, I started hating them.”
On the crowd’s edge, a group of 14-year-old girls — Mikiko, Daniela, and Zoe — said that they had not heard of the event online, but instead had seen protesters coming to the park, had spoken to one of them, and were inspired to join. “Not all cops are bad,” said Mikiko. “But a lot of cops do abuse their power. When things like that happen, you don’t know who to trust. That girl, she’ll probably never be able to trust the police again.”
The girls added that they had never joined a protest before.
As the last of the speakers stepped down, protesters left the barricades and marched to NYPD headquarters. “Some of you have daughters too / NYPD, shame on you,” they chanted, standing in front of 1 Police Plaza.
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