At least one man was arrested yesterday evening when hundreds marched to and from Times Square demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager shot and killed in Florida by a neighborhood watchman who found Martin’s hooded sweatshirt “suspicious.” The detained man was marching south along the curb on Sixth Avenue near 23rd Street when a small female cop grabbed him and pulled him onto the sidewalk. Two more officers jumped in, knocking the first and the man to the ground, where he was cuffed.
Before that, hundreds in hoodies of different colors marched peacefully without police escort north on Broadway, against traffic, from Union Square. They clogged the bike lane and Bloomberg’s pedestrian plazas, and weaved through lines of cars to honks of support from stalled, smiling motorists in cabs, a UPS truck, and private vehicles. Some drivers applauded. Tall buildings echoed back chants that honored Martin and called for justice in his killing. For several blocks, crosstown traffic was at a standstill. The Empire State Building was shrouded in fog.
I joined the march around 21st Street. I was coming from uptown, but no trains were stopping at Union Square because of a “police investigation.” As I alighted from the 23rd Street station around 8 p.m., the march was just about to pass, headed north. Along the route, one man held up a bag of Skittles—one of the few items Martin had on him when he was shot. The hundreds arrived at Times Square, again weaving through stopped traffic, crossing against the light, halting passing cars. A bus almost ran over a few protesters. Police on horseback briefly prevented the group from crossing against oncoming traffic, so the march just continued straight. “Savor the moment,” one march leader told me. “These really are our streets.”
At the TKTS plaza, protesters beat drums and chanted. “Don’t shoot me, don’t kill me! For Skittles and iced tea!” The throng, hearing that half of group had been cut off and sent back, decided to return to Union Square. But this time, the police would follow. A flood of cops met the march at 42nd Street and tried to get the group onto the sidewalk. “Just follow them. Try to keep them off the street as best you can,” a white shirt told a few officers, who promptly started shoving several protesters onto the sidewalk, through narrow gaps between parked cars. The mood quickly turned from pro-Trayvon to anti-police. “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” they screamed. One man shoved onto the sidewalk identified himself as an Afghanistan veteran.
Shortly after the arrest, though, the tension eased, and the group raucously and peacefully marched down Sixth Avenue to 23rd Street, where they cut east down Broadway to a foggy Union Square. It was about 10 p.m. They expected to be met by as many as a thousand occupiers, but the remaining group at the park seemed thin, though the march quickly reinforced the pop-up occupation with a general assembly on the steps facing 14th Street, where police officers mulled, emergency lights flashing from their parked cars. Every time a few cops passed through the park, protesters sang the Imperial March from Star Wars.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart