ITHACA, N.Y.—The weekly “Truth and Justice” rally on the Commons started marching again after taking a week off, ending their Sunday event with a short trek over to the Ithaca Police Department where they reignited their demands for police to quit their jobs or alternatively for those jobs to be eliminated entirely.
The crowd of about 40 people braved wet, cold conditions to gather at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in downtown Ithaca. There, they heard from a string of speakers calling for abolition of prisons, police departments and a greater dedication to racial justice overall. “No police, no prison, total abolition!” was one of the more popular chants at Sunday’s rally.
In a continuation of recent themes, protesters talked about defensive measures both against police and counter-protesters. While two weeks ago, the group practiced how to smother tear gas canisters, the most recent event focused on how to handle interactions with police, particularly as more and more people who regularly appear at the protests believe they are under increased scrutiny from Ithaca Police Department officers. Massia White-Saunders has talked several times about how he feels targeted by the police since he became active in the protests, but noted that knowing how to handle interactions with officers has helped him have some level of calmness.
“I’m having trouble sleeping at night, for real,” White-Saunders said.
A representative of the Armenian Student Organization at Cornell University also read a speech to the crowd drawing attention to the once-again tense Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and denouncing America’s silence on the issue. The Armenian Student Organization had held their own event on the Commons earlier on Sunday.
Once the group moved to out front of the Ithaca Police Department building, the protest touched upon most of the themes that have become commonplace over the last several months. The crowd repeated their chants calling for the defunding of the police, but the group has also narrowed its focus recently on two police officers in particular: deputy chiefs John Joly and Vincent Monticello. Both officers were heavily involved in the protest two weeks ago that ended with six arrests and pepper spray deployment, culminating in a petition with growing momentum demanding that Monticello leave the department.
“You can quit, it would be so easy,” shouted one protester at the building as officers peered out of the windows. “You could lay down your badge and your gun and you could help people. The job is not that great.”
Sonja Taylor, another protester, made extended comments on the judicial system and the inequities she sees within it, punctuated by her anger at those who oppose the movement and continue to deny that systemic racism plays a role in the outcomes of not only the legal system, but society in general.
“That’s the world we live in, and that’s why we’re all here,” Taylor said. “They may say that we’re complaining. ‘There’s nothing wrong with the system.’ If there’s a lot of people that said there is, there’s probably something fucking wrong with the system.”
Though the election is just days away, the impending contest between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden was largely unmentioned.