At 6:15 p.m. on Friday, a young protester held up a large mirror, inches away from a police officer’s face.
Written in blood red paint across the front of the mirror were the words, “Look at yourself.”
“I wanted to make them see themselves,” explained the protester, as large crowds gathered at Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. “I’m tired of us having to fight for something and they don’t see us. So if they’re not going to see us, they’ve got to see themselves.” Motioning at the red letters on the mirror, they added, “This is all the blood that they have spilled.”
Four days after George Floyd was killed by a police officer who kneeled on his neck during an arrest in Minneapolis, protests continued across the country on Friday night. In New York City, the demonstrations began at Manhattan’s Foley Square at 4 p.m. before thousands gathered in front of Barclays Center two hours later.
There was a feeling of exasperation in the air, as protesters collectively took a stand, fed up with racism, police brutality, and violence against Black people.
“We’re tired of minorities dying,” said a protester who asked to remain anonymous. “Our brothers are dying. They’re protecting the system that’s killing all of us. It’s not just Black people. It’s all of us. It’s all of the minorities who are enslaved by a white system.”
The demonstrations began relatively peacefully, as people chanted and attempted to communicate with hundreds of officers who were stationed around Barclays Center.
Most officers were either stone-faced or combative when protesters tried to engage them in conversation. One exception came early in the evening, when a man spotted a police officer he recognized from civilian life and asked, “Why do they have you down here, too?” The officer, a Black woman, acknowledged her conflicted feelings about being on duty at the protest and threw up her hands as she sighed, “What are you gonna do?”
As police helicopters whirred above, tensions rose throughout the evening. Some protesters threw bottles at officers, who responded by brutally beating them to the ground and making arrests. A handful of demonstrators retaliated by breaking the back window of a police car and throwing a burning pizza box into the vehicle. Several blocks away, near Fort Greene Park, a police van went up in flames.
Dozens of protesters were sprayed with tear gas, handcuffed, and taken away to buses that lined the arena. According to the New York Times, a senior police officer said that between 50 and 100 people were arrested Friday.
Despite moments of violence, however, there was a feeling of unity that spread through the crowds of protesters as they came together to stand up against the oppression of Black people. Strangers helped wipe tear gas from each other’s faces. Others handed out masks, gloves, and bottles of hand sanitizer.
At around 10 p.m., as most demonstrators dispersed, a woman climbed up on a bench and addressed the remaining protesters.
“Listen, we’ve got brothers and sisters all over the country right now, fighting the same fight,” she said. “This is the most together that the United States of America has been for years. So I thank each and every one of you for being here, using your voice to make a change in this fucking world.”
She added, “If you look around, you’ll see all different kinds of people here. All different kinds of stories and all different kinds of lives. And not one life is more important than the other. So why is it that Black lives are being killed and slaughtered and lynched in 2020? Nobody has an answer for that here, and that’s why the fuck we’re here. We’re here in solidarity.”
Complex staff photographer David Cabrera captured a series of images at Friday night’s Brooklyn protests, which can be seen below.