News and Commentary

NY Protesters Chant ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,’ Admit They Have No Clue Where It’s From

Masses of protesters assembled in Times Square following the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Here are some photos of last night’s protest:

Times Square Protest
Times Square Protest
Times Square Protest

Pictures of black men who had died in confrontations with police officers were displayed on signs, while other signs included messages such as “F*** White Supremacy,” “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power,” and “Disarm The Police.” Protesters marched down 42nd Street while chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police!”, “I can’t breathe!”, “Hey hey, ho ho! These racist cops have got to go!”, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”, and “Join us! Black lives matter!” among other slogans.

At one point, the chants and marches became so heated that the New York Police Department showed up in truckloads to protect passersby from being trampled by the angry crowd. Demonstrators were warned to stay clear of vehicle traffic or risk being arrested. A group of individuals responded to the policemen by putting their hands up and chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

As they were chanting, I asked several of the protesters about the origins of the “hands up, don’t shoot” slogan. One woman, shown in the video above, told me she didn’t remember who said it.

“Maybe Eric Gardner? I don’t remember,” she said. We both had a good giggle and I moved on to a young man who was chanting fervently in a foreign, European-sounding accent, asking him what he thought he was chanting. “I don’t know. I’m just having fun,” he said, adding, “I think a black guy was shot by a cop and then they shot the cop.” I thanked him for the profound explanation, and surveyed several more. Here are some of the other responses:

There were videos of, I don’t remember exactly every person, but when the cops were holding a gun at them they said “don’t shoot” because they know it’s much more likely that you’re gonna get shot by a cop if you’re black and if a person has their hands up. so they’re saying “don’t shoot.” I don’t know if they said “hands up, don’t shoot,” but they definitely said “don’t shoot”… I’m thinking of a bunch of names that come to mind, I don’t know if Trayvon Martin said it, I’m assuming it’s one of the ones that have a video of it… I’m thinking right now of Eric Gardner and he said “I can’t breathe,” but I don’t know the details of every story. But the message is clear, there are people who are not doing anything threatening, and have their hands up but they’re still getting threatened by cops. – Katie, 23

It’s just from everything that’s been happening. I think it was from one of the phrases that Eric Gardner said. It was a famous phrase from somebody that died getting shot and they were like, “hands up don’t shoot.” – Taishan, 39

Hand up don’t shoot came from, was it Eric — no, “I can’t breathe,” that was Eric Gardner. “Hands up don’t shoot?”Hmmm. – Shay, 27

One protester told me she was chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” to remember Michael Brown.

“It’s from Michael Brown in Ferguson, where they told him to put his hands up, and then they shot him. It was almost two years ago and there has not been any justice,” she said. I asked her whether Brown had used the phrase, to which she responded, “They said ‘hands up’ and he said ‘don’t shoot’.”

The progressive activists on 42nd Street and Broadway Avenue could not tell me where the “hands up, don’t shoot” slogan and gesture had originated from, and quite understandably. The line was falsely attributed to Michael Brown, who was killed while assaulting a police officer in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Outrage among social justice activists ensued after witnesses claimed they had seen Brown put his hands up and say, “don’t shoot.” An extensive investigation by the Department of Justice found physical and forensic evidence contradicting the claim.

Michael Brown’s hands were not up. And he didn’t say ‘don’t shoot.’ The protesters did not seem bothered that Philando Castile’s death, details of investigation still unknown, was being compared to the death of a man who we know was resisting police. The narrative surrounding “hands up, don’t shoot” – which is built on a lie – intends to cast all killings of black men by police officers are products racism against blacks.

The chaotic scene continued in Times Square well until through the evening. Several protesters were arrested by the NYPD.

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