Several dozen demonstrators gathered and marched through Harlem Monday to protest the shooting death of a pregnant Black woman
by the Seattle police.
Charleena Lyles, 30, was shot and killed Sunday morning after allegedly brandishing a knife at two Seattle police officers whom she allowed into her apartment. Lyles had called the police to report a burglary and, according to dashcam audio released by the department, sounded calm as she spoke about the break-in.
However, once she showed the knife, the police gave her several warnings to “get back” and Lyles was shot multiple times. Three of Lyles’ four children were in the apartment during the shooting.
Lyles’ family has maintained that the shooting was unjustified because Lyles had struggled with mental health issues and had a small stature. According to her father, Charles Lyles, she weighed about 90 pounds.
Law enforcement officials have not said whether or not Lyles’ children witnessed the shooting. They are now being taken care of by a family member.
Both officers who discharged their weapons during the incident are on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues, in accordance with department protocol.
“If worst comes to worst, you could have used a Taser instead of a gun for someone that has three kids inside the house,” her brother, Domico Jones, told the media.
In Seattle, protesters reportedly gathered for a vigil outside Lyles’ apartment complex.
A rally and subsequent march in New York went on without incident, though the protesters and the NYPD did get into a verbal confrontation just before the demonstration began. The rally itself was emotionally charged, with lots of shouting, chants and harsh criticism of the police. It featured several speakers who spoke out against police brutality, racism, fascism and even intersectionality. Self-policing in the Black community was also frequently brought up and drew applause from the crowd.
It was also, at times, somewhat somber.
The sister of Delrawn Small, a 37-year-old Black man who was shot and killed last summer by an off-duty police officer, delivered a calm speech amid all the fiery rhetoric at the rally. Victoria Davis said that the Lyles shooting “didn’t sit well” with her and called it “disgusting.” “We can’t feel safe in our homes, walking the streets, male [or] female,” said Davis. “It just doesn’t really matter. The verdict yesterday kind of said that our lives just don’t matter.”
Davis was referring to the verdict in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, a former Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile, a Black motorist. Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter and other charges Friday but was fired from his policing job soon afterward.
Davis said that she didn’t want to “feel defeated” but criticized the police for not being able to protect the Black community.
“I want to have hope and I want to have faith and I want to believe that here in America [and] all around the world that human beings matter, especially [that] Black people matter,” she said. However, the Lyles shooting tested her belief in that, Davis added.
Another protester, who asked to only be identified by her first name, Heather, expressed a similar sentiment. “Personally, I cried and I already have very strong feelings toward the presence of police in our communities,” she said. Heather went on to claim that she had been harassed by the police in the past and that her friends had also been harassed, beaten, profiled and targeted by the police.
“It terrifies me and makes me wonder who’s next, you know? I don’t think the police serve to protect us seeing [as] they killed a Black woman who called 911,” she said. “I think we should rely on each other to protect each other rather than the police, but that’s just me. It’s because I’m tired of watching people be brutalized.”
After the speeches were given, the protesters began to march their way through both Harlem and East Harlem, passing by and stopping near several housing projects. As residents leaned out their windows to look at the demonstration, the marchers chanted several slogans, including one that had an expletive aimed at the police who were walking alongside the march and following the procession with their police vehicles. The march lasted for about an hour and came to an end at Jefferson Houses in East Harlem.