This article contains strong language.
ITHACA, N.Y.—Sunday’s weekly rally on the Commons featured a reinvigorated group of protesters this week, propelled by new revelations of police misconduct locally as well as the memory of Dejour Gandy, a Newfield man who was killed during a home invasion, on the first anniversary of his death.
The group gathered at the Bernie Milton Pavilion, as they routinely do, and began their weekly ritual of speeches and updates before setting off on a march, this week choosing to go to where they thought Mayor Svante Myrick is currently living and demonstrating outside of his residence.
Was it actually Myrick’s residence? Protesters were heard saying they were “about 95 percent sure.” Regardless, Myrick never did appear as the crowd chanted challenges to him and his administration, asking for action on the demands. Most significantly, the group made an impromptu banner and affixed it to the fence in front of the house.
The banner demanded the abolition of the Ithaca Police Department, a common ask from the protesters, as well as the firing of four specific officers: Kevin Slattery, Eric Doane, Michaela Conrad and Vincent D. Monticello. The first three of those names came up in an Ithaca Voice story last week about Slattery’s suspension from comments he made on a body camera about beating a suspect (for which an investigation is ongoing and Slattery has been suspended with pay due to police union provisions until the investigation concludes), whereas Monticello, a deputy chief in the department, has found himself a target of protesters for weeks after his conduct towards rally-goers in October and allegations that he misgendered at least one person who was arrested. The city is investigating the Slattery incident, while Myrick has said he’s asked the state to review Monticello’s conduct.
Outside of the police, a protester who goes by Meek offered a passionate remembrance of Dejour Gandy, a pre-kindergarten teacher who was killed in his house in Newfield in December 2019. His grief over Gandy’s death turned to anger about what he views as an apathetic police response to the crime, which has still not been solved and no arrests have been made, at least none that have been announced publicly, in connection with Gandy’s death.
“I know we’re cold out here,” he said before a shivering crowd of about 40 people. “But we will never be as cold as Dejour was that night.”
Additionally, the attendees mocked the city’s declaration of a day of remembrance for trans people, arguing that trans people would prefer the city take actual action on something like Monticello’s conduct instead of a remembrance gesture.
Protesters played an impressively loud version of “Smack a Bitch” by rapper Rico Nasty to accompany their march, a departure from their normally Rage Against the Machine-centric soundtrack.
The early portions of the event included discussions about banning certain people from events and the Ithaca Pantheras group as a whole—akin to some of the rockier rallies in late summer, when the group was having open but often contentious conversations about its purpose and direction that seemed cathartic in nature. Out of those conversations rose the Ithaca Pantheras, which is one of the central groups driving the current weekly protests. There was a group therapy session feel to those conversations, similar to the sentiment that dominated a portion of the Commons gathering.
“We are a community organization, we are not a corporation,” said one protester. “We do not want to recreate these hypocritical systems within our organizations. We’re trying to be better people, we’re trying to do better. And we are going to fuck up. But unlike the systems that currently exist, we are going to be accountable.”
“You don’t have to like everybody who is in the group,” protester Ray said, imploring the group to move past petty grievances, calling it “white drama” and emphasizing the sacrifices she and others are making to show up each week despite not being paid for their participation. “We’re worried about puny drama. We’re here for Black lives, we’re not here for anything else.