As demonstrations for equal justice take new forms, some results start to emerge

June 11, 2020

by James Ford, WPIX 11

As protests near the end of another week, the quest for equal justice is taking on new forms — and getting some results.

On Thursday, that was evident at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, as well as at City Hall in Manhattan, and at hospitals across New York City.

Brookdale Hospital was one of dozens across the city where hundreds of doctors, nurses, EMTs and other health care workers walked out at 12 p.m. to demonstrate on their lunch break. The Brookdale protest featured hospital staff standing in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the same length of time George Floyd was tortured to death.

Some of the participants, like trauma and radiology nurse Stacey Williams, talked about the contrast she and many of her colleagues feel. They'd proven during the pandemic that they can save so many lives in this lower income, predominantly Black and Brown neighborhood, but like the rest of the country, they watched George Floyd torturously lose his life.

"We jump right in," Williams said in an interview during the hospital walkout. "I don't understand how that was able to go on so long without anyone just intervening in whatever way."

The walkout demonstration had been requested by medical professionals in the 1199 SEIU union. At hospitals citywide, members of the healthcare employees' union, and others, brought their fight against COVID-19 to the fight for equal justice.

Khari Edwards, the vice president for public affairs at Brookdale Hospital, said that it's ironic that people like his fellow healthcare workers have to see so many deaths of people of color at the hands of law enforcement.

"If somebody like that officer that killed Mr. Floyd ended up in front of our hospital," Edwards told PIX11 News, "we would have taken care of him."

But things are different outside the hospital setting.

"Whereas our healthcare system sees no color, no race, no boundaries, why doesn't society?" he asked.

The walkout was one of a variety of new developments on Thursday that show the drive for justice taking on new forms, and getting some results.

In Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke in his daily briefing about a series of 10 police reform measures that he's said he wants to sign into law, including a repeal of Statute 50-A. The repeal measure has passed both houses of the legislature, which would allow the disciplinary records of police officers to be released to the public.

"Don’t waste the moment," the governor said.

He'd been expected to sign the Statute 50-A repeal measure on Thursday, but did not, despite asking, at his daily briefing, "Why does the criminal justice system unfairly kill African Americans? Why does the system devalue black lives?"

The governor has tweeted that he intends to sign the 50-A repeal into law this week.

Meanwhile, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who's been one of the main leaders of protests in the city for the last two weeks, spent a few hours Thursday morning in Washington, testifying before the Congressional Black Caucus about changes to policing.

"We're not trying to fix the system," Williams told the panel on Capitol Hill. "The system is working the way I believe it was designed to operate. What we need to do is put an entirely different system down," Williams said.

Also on Thursday, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced a series of town hall meetings between young people and the police that will take place in every borough, once social gatherings are permitted again.

Crown Heights resident Janay Deer, who's in her early twenties, said that she found the idea appealing.

"They don't really get our opinion, since we're younger," Deer said. "We're a younger crowd. So it's good to hear what we have to say."

Her brother, Gerald, who's also in his early twenties, agreed, as they headed in to Brookdale Hospital to visit a loved one. He said that he was interested in attending a town hall meeting to let police know his experience regarding issues like stop and frisk.

It has officially decreased by 98% in the last decade, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Gerald Deer begged to differ.

"It hasn't declined for me," he told PIX11 News. "It still happens at the same amount it did four or five years ago."