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Cops block Black Women’s March from crossing New York bridge

New York

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 4/9/2018, 2:42 p.m.
New York State Police blocked protestors with the Black...

New York State Police blocked protestors with the Black Women’s March from crossing a bridge in Tarryown, USA Today reported. The move by cops angered the marchers and especially organizers of the event. Leaders of the march said they were prepared to be arrested when they heard they wouldn’t be allowed to cross the bridge now known as the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

The event, organized by 100Sistas and Black Lives Matter Hudson Valley, was aimed at bringing attention to the issues facing Black women in suburban and rural New York communities. However, it was declared an “unlawful assembly” by state police. In a statement, police said they “strongly support the rights of any group to peacefully march and express their freedom of speech.” Police said the proposed march across the bridge posed a threat to marchers’ safety. Still under construction, the bridge's bike and pedestrian paths are not open, and police said anyone who attempted to cross would be arrested.

“The Mario M. Cuomo Bridge carries an interstate highway with heavy traffic volumes traveling at high speeds, and also remains an active construction zone,” the police statement read. “This type of event presents significant safety issues for the marchers, drivers, and members of law enforcement.”

At about 10:30 a.m., police officers outnumbered marchers — holding signs, a tuba, trumpet and drums. Alicia Murphy-Wartell of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., was one of the first to arrive. Together with her two young children and her friend, Murphy-Wartell said she explained the significance of the march to her kids on the drive over. “As a white person, we are here to support our Black community members,” she said. “I told my son that it’s important to stand up for people who are treated unfairly.” By 11 a.m., nearly 100 people were there. In the moments before the march, it was unclear if anyone would attempt to cross the bridge, which crosses the Hudson River and is located a few miles north of New York City. Green said there were marchers who were prepared to be the first to cross and prepared to get arrested. They never made it that far.

Following the rally, marchers were met by dozens of state, county and Tarrytown police who, together with police cruisers and county plow trucks, blocked the off-ramp. “Look at all the police presence,” said marcher Ali Muhammad. “They are ready to arrest people, and they could have made this happen,” he said referring to the success of the march. Many protesters squared off with police officers at the barricade and chanted “Cuomo's Selma.” Others shot video on their cellphones. Slowly, the crowd inched forward until marchers and officers began shoving each other. No arrests or injuries were reported. Although the Black Women's March never did achieve its goal of crossing the bridge, some marchers called the protest a success. “I feel like it was a very effective informal, unofficial march that people who are concerned about equal rights and institutional racism, came out to participate in,” said Patricia O'Keefe of New Rochelle, N.Y. “Enough police came out today, and enough press came out today, that we did manage to get people’s attention,” she said. “But did they understand the reason? Will people reflect on the reason why all these police and press came out?”

Following the march, state police issued another statement. “The state previously communicated to the event organizer that the bridge is an active construction zone and highway and that to ensure the safety of event participants and drivers, foot traffic of any kind is prohibited,” the statement reads. According to the release, police offered several alternatives to crossing the bridge on foot, including other bridges and roads.