Richard Haste, the officer who fatally shot Ramarley Graham in February, was arraigned at the Bronx Criminal Courthouse Wednesday morning, pleading not guilty to manslaughter charges. Haste made a $50,000 bond that day.
Outside the courthouse, protestors from both sides gathered. Community activists took the opportunity to target Haste and his supporters during the proceedings. Even though the indictment was a victory for some, others weren’t as happy.
“I’m not pleased about it,” said Alicia Harrington, holding a poster of Graham as she stood in a barricaded section for protestors outside the courthouse. “I feel that it shouldn’t be manslaughter. It should be murder. He definitely murdered Ramarley in front of his grandmother, his 6-year-old brother. You see them: gun drawn, Ramarley’s walking in. You kick in the door. This was premeditated.”
But Haste’s supporters on the other side disagreed. “There was a loss of life, and we respect the grief that their family feels,” said Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch soon after Haste left the courthouse. “Anyone who loses a child or a family member has that grief. We respect that. Police officers are put in difficult situations each and every day. In this case, this police officer thought there was a weapon.”
Shortly thereafter, Graham’s family took to the microphones. “Is it the start I’m looking for? No, but it’s a start,” said Franclot Graham, his father. “Ramarley is not coming home. We won’t have him for Father’s Day. I keep asking, ‘Why did he kill our son?’”
As he burst into tears before he could continue, Constance Malcolm took over for her husband. “We have too much of this going on and it has to stop. We need this to stop. We can’t keep killing our kids. Something has to come out of this. We have to stand together to make this work.”
Community activism surrounding the case has been ongoing. Family, friends and community members held a rally for the slain Bronx youth outside City Hall last Friday. In remembrance of the 18-year-old unarmed Jamaican youth who was chased and shot to death in his own bathroom by police officers, “Ramarley’s Call” was a cry for justice in a case that has received shrinking news coverage in the four months since it happened.
“He was a good kid. In the time I knew him, he was never in trouble, never hanging out with the wrong crowd,” said Brooklyn native David Vaughan, who had tutored Graham.
“We used to always sit in the library and discuss daily life issues and stuff like that,” he said. “I always encouraged him to do good in school. I question the NYPD in the sense of their so-called community affairs. They always come out when something happens, but they’re never there to relate to the youth before these altercations happen.”
For Judith McKenzie, making sense of the tragedy and why Haste, the narcotics officer who shot Graham, is still free was difficult. “This is horrible. Just horrible. I just can’t even say it in words–the cop is still working. We need justice. Hopefully, we get justice for Ramarley and his family.”
The choice of City Hall as the location to protest the shooting may have alienated some who felt the community should speak out in more areas of color, but it served a point, according to Stop Stop and Frisk organizer Jose LaSalle.
“It’s time for us to bring it to this type of, what I say the ‘hood, because this is a tourist area. The people here could actually get an understanding of what’s going on, because the Ramarley case has been swept underneath the rug,” LaSalle said. “There are a lot of people, especially in this area, who don’t know about Ramarley Graham and what happened, because the media exposed it for a little bit and then they swept it under the rug.”
The correlation to another shooting, that of a certain Black youth down in Florida, was quickly made during the assembly. Holding a sign saying, “Hey, Christine Quinn: Where’s your hoodie and outrage at the murder of NYC’s boy, Ramarley Graham?” Leigh Golterman cited what she believes is the potential mayoral candidate’s two-faced position on the issue.
“Christine Quinn was so visible when Trayvon Martin was killed; she was out on the front steps of City Hall with her hoodie, all angry about the death of Trayvon Martin,” the Manhattan resident charged. “Meanwhile, we have a boy–a New York boy–killed up in the Bronx, and she’s silent. She doesn’t want to go against the police because it’s an election year. We’ve got a boy dead, and she’s not saying anything.”
Led by a banner with quotes from African-American leaders, the procession circled the small area next to the Brooklyn Bridge chanting, “We are Ramarley!” and “Mayor Bloomberg’s got to go!” People also took turns on a bullhorn letting passersby know about the case, all the while being shadowed by NYPD officers watching in the background.
“It’s a hard thing to deal with,” said Constance Malcolm, Graham’s mother. “We try to take it one day at a time, but there’s days when it’s very difficult. There’s days when I can’t even get up. I hear kids outside playing, and Ramarley comes to mind–that’s what he should be doing, not laying up in a cemetery at 18, all because of a police officer who rushed to judgment and I lost my child.”
Malcolm says officers must work with Black and Hispanic youth to better relations between the two parties and prevent further deaths from police violence.
“The cops themselves have to try to interact with these people in the community,” she said. “You can’t come in and just take over a block or a community without interacting with the people. You don’t live in the area but you police the area, and you don’t get to know these people. Not everybody’s a criminal. We do have working people. They just need to be more sensitive to what they do to people.”