By LOUIS FLORES
The grieving family of Akai Gurley marched on Saturday through the Pink Houses NYCHA housing development in Brooklyn, holding a prayer vigil where the young Mr. Gurley was shot dead by a New York Police Department officer on Nov. 20.
Mr. Gurley was shot and killed in a dimly-lit stairwell by NYPD Officer Peter Liang. Mr. Gurley is survived by his domestic partner, Kimberly Ballinger, their daughter, Akaila, and other relatives in Florida, including his mother and stepfather. At the Saturday demonstration in the Pink Houses, Ms. Ballinger said of Mr. Gurley's death, "His famiy's hurt. I'm hurt. Everybody's hurting, but his daughter's the one that has to suffer. She's two years old. She will grow up without her dad. He was killed for no reason," according to a report by the cable news channel NY1.
The march and vigil took place in Brooklyn on the same day when activists up in Harlem held a speak-out and went on their own march, according to social media posts, marking the sixth, consecutive day of protests in New York City following the controversial announcement that a St. Louis County, Missouri, grand jury chose not to charge an officer with any crimes related to a shooting death.
The wire service Reuters reported Saturday's protests up in Harlem as a rally, which took place in the context of another announcement, namely, that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson had resigned from the police force after the Missouri grand jury decision cleared him of any criminal wrong-doing. The grand jury decision has been seen by police reform advocates as protecting brutal and racial policing tactics, which police reform advocates claim need to be ended in the name of justice and equality. Disappointment in the grand jury decision has sparked demonstrations across the United States since the decision was announced Monday night.
Furthermore, the Missouri grand jury decision, in turn, followed several months of heavy-handed police response to civil unrest after officer Wilson shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, in broad daylight on Aug. 9.
The continued demonstrations in New York City following the Missouri grand jury decision are taking place in the lead-up to the decision by a Staten Island grand jury whether to find probable cause for criminal charges to be filed in the chokehold homicide of Eric Garner by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. In an essay published by The Daily Beast, Jacob Siegel accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of keeping silent as New York City has erupted in protests over unaddressed complaints about police brutality and corruption, writing that the mayor will "have nowhere to hide once a grand jury weighs in on Eric Garner’s death." A report published last week by The Associated Press showed that police officers, who shoot citizens, are generally not prosecuted.
Hours before the Missouri grand jury decision was announced Monday night, police reform activists in New York City renewed their calls for the resignation of NYPD Commissioner William Bratton and for an end to his discriminatory "Broken Windows" theory of policing. Other activists in New York are calling for the appointment of an independent commission with subpoena power to investigate corruption at the NYPD, including at its do-nothing Internal Affairs Bureau.