Photographer Justin J Wee attended the Black Lives Matter demonstration and rally on July 7, 2016, in Union Square Park in Manhattan, after the recent killings of two black men by police. Wee photographed the attendees he came across. These are the faces and words of the people he met.
“Honestly, I feel numb. I don’t want to hear it. I’m over it. It’s just time for us to come together. That’s it. It’s just time for us to come together. I think the first step is a huge step, but that’s looking at the self. If everybody begins to love themselves individually, we’ll see our likenesses, we’ll see how we’re connected, and that’ll bring us together. … I can guarantee you that if the police force were to meditate every day, you would see a lot of policemen making different decisions on the field.” —Jacob, 20
“As a white person I’m here to, most importantly, listen to the experiences of people of color and stand in solidarity with them. I think that complacency and indifference at this point is akin to violence. We can’t stand idly by while this is happening day after fucking day.” —Helen, 20
“I got up this morning and just couldn’t stop crying. I’m just sad. I’m really sad. It’s legal lynching. It’s the new Jim Crow. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel safe. There have been numerous times walking around my neighborhood, the block that I live on, where I’ve been stopped by police asking, ‘What are you doing?’ and it’s like, 'I fucking live here.'” —Kia, 26
“I grew up and went to private school in D.C., and my relationship with the cops has always affected me; being pulled over and stopped all the time, or patted down and whatnot. It used to happen all the time because they didn’t think I was from that neighborhood. It’s a very personal thing for me, especially because my entire family and most of the people I love in my life are black and have had issues with the police. ... It’s just scary. People are scared for their lives.” —Jimi, 22
“Do I feel like nothing will happen to me at this rally? No. There’s police here. If something violent was to break out, they’re here to ‘protect and serve’ right?! They’ve done it to protesters before. You know, jailed them, hurt them, so I don’t feel safe here. Police presence does not make me feel safe. ... I’m just in complete disillusionment of what it means to be black in America” —Kimberly, 22
“This continues to happen because of racism. Racism and nothing else. … And you know, they’re trying to make this movement look like it’s anti-cop, but it’s anti–cop brutality. In the last five years, everyone killed by the Baton Rouge police has been black; they haven’t shot a single white person in five years. And I don’t think they should go out and shoot white people. They’ve just got to stop shooting everybody.” —Steven, 64
“To see all these people uniting, that’s the beautiful part. For all these people to come together, and for you to know that in your despair, or in your mourning, you are not alone, that’s the beautiful part. But once you get together … it seems kinda silly to walk around with signs protesting, in a sense, an organization, the police department, who’s literally standing by and watching you. … There is so much more that could be done. This is a powerful amount of people, and there is a group of people who are protesting. But then there are a bunch of people just standing around as though this is a show. … That’s kinda disturbing to me.” —Will, 26
“It continues to happen because there’s a certain group, in robes and uniforms, who are patrolling the streets believing that black lives are optional. I think that’s being perpetuated; they’re raising children who believe the same thing. So it’s even more important for me because I do have sons and I don’t want them to inherit a future where going outside puts their life at risk” —Mutiya and Messiah, 15
Jared Harrell is a Photo Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jared Harrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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