A racial justice rally at Bed-Stuy's Restoration Plaza had a strong message for attendees Friday: Protesters need to start getting ready to face violence.
The rally, held by Black rights organization December 12 Movement, called for justice for Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man left paralyzed after he was shot at seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis.
It also came days after two men protesting Blake's shooting in Kenosha were fatally shot as they demonstrated. 17-year-old police-admirer Kyle H. Rittenhouse has been charged with homicide in the shootings.
Assemblyman Charles Barron took the stage Friday evening, addressing about 50 protesters just steps from Fulton Street's Black Lives Matter mural. "This is a warning to America. We are not the only ones who can bleed. We're not the only ones that can lose our loved ones unnecessarily, and we're not going to be the only ones who lose life without consequences to you."
He said Black communities needed to take back power in the streets, in schools, with police and within economic systems. "When you have power, that's the great equalizer."
Speakers at the rally also commended athletes for taking a collective stance against racism. After Blake's death, there was a wave of athlete boycotts and postponements in professional sports leagues, starting with the NBA, WNBA, the MLB and MLS.
The Kenosha shooting was a wake up call, December 12 Movement member David Danielson told protesters. "It sends us a message that violence is something we, too, should get in shape for."
Danielson said it was a question of people preparing their mental and physical health to deal with violence, so they are not intimidated by it. "God forbid if you're at a rally and you've got to be able to maybe run and jump," he said, speaking afterwards.
December 12 Movement chair Viola Plummer had a message of personal responsibility. "We want you to fire up. And don't misunderstand what fire is. It's not somebody out of control, it's a determination that I will do everything I can, because I'm fired up."
Plummer, a lifelong civil rights activist, helped found the December 12 Movement on Dec. 12, 1986. The organization is one of many fighting for racial justice, and is known for its messaging of fight and battle against oppression and oppressors.
On Friday, Plummer took her microphone into the crowd to hear from attendees themselves.
She spoke with Bronx resident Sakia Fletcher, who said she was passionate about shared equity in Black education. She has a Black son who is 13.
"Every time he leaves the house I'm scared, but I fight for him, for his future, for him to be safe, and to defund the police," she said.