HARTFORD — More than 200 people marched to the state Capitol on Saturday afternoon to make sure no one forgets about the death of Michael Brown, whose shooting by a police officer earlier this year in Ferguson, Missouri, has led to an ongoing series of demonstrations and protests throughout the country.
Public anger was reignited recently with a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer, as well as over the killing of another unarmed man, 43-year-old Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a chokehold by a police officer in New York.
The Hartford marchers started at the intersection of Main Street and Albany Avenue and were escorted by the Hartford Police Department to the state Capitol.
The protestors chanted things like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” “No Justice, No Peace” and “I can’t breathe” — a reference to the Garner incident in New York.
The rally, which was largely peaceful, wasn’t without controversy.
The Rev. Jarmaine Lee, of Hartford’s Mind of Ministry Church of Jesus Christ, was given a citation by Hartford police for using a bullhorn along the route to the state Capitol. Lee said he’s marched to the Capitol several times over the past few years with the Rev. Henry Brown and has never been told he couldn’t use a bullhorn.
“Today is the first time I have ever been told you cannot use a bullhorn on the state Capitol grounds in a peaceful protest,” Lee said.
Hartford Police Sgt. Edward Yergeau said that Brown was called before Saturday’s protest and told he would not be allowed to use a bullhorn during the march to the Capitol. He said they didn’t make a big deal out of it while they were marching, but Deputy Chief Neville Brooks insisted the city noise ordinance be enforced and Lee was the one using the bullhorn.
“Brooks instructed us to cite anyone with a bullhorn,” Yergeau said.
Lee insists that wasn’t past practice for the department.
“How dare you open your mouth Mr. Officer Friendly and speak against me,” Lee said in what appeared to be an unscheduled speech to the crowd. “. . . the Bible says that no weapon that forms against me shall prosper and I condemn you now in the name of Jesus Christ.”
A woman from the crowd suggested they pass the bullhorn around in order to make sure they were all given citations, but the rally just continued as scheduled.
Lee is scheduled to appear Dec. 29 in Hartford Community Court.
The first speaker was UConn student Daeja Bailey of Hartford, who read a poem about police violence entitled To My Black Son, which she said she wrote about a week after Michael Brown’s death.
The Rev. Sam Saylor, of Hartford, spoke about his experience with the police when he came to the aid of an injured pregnant woman, describing an assault by police that left him with 13 stitches.
Saylor said attendees should not go home feeling good about the rally.
Rather, he said people need to talk to young boys and girls about the “rules of engagement, of life.”
He continued: “We can’t win against a person with a gun and a badge and a license to kill. I don’t want you to go home feeling good about a kumbaya moment and an emotional pickup. I need you to go home with a resolve. I need you to come back again and to continue to come back again, and defy the killing. Because the killer still lives in our society.”
State Reps. Brandon McGee and Doug McCrory both attended the rally.
The event was organized by Connecticut United Against Mass Incarceration and UConn Students in collaboration with Mothers United Against Violence.