• Rebeca Flores

The People Harmed

July 7th, 2020

We envision a world where restorative and transformative justice supersedes the retributive justice system. A world where the offender apologizes and takes accountability for their actions; a world where the victims can forgive and heal. We dream of the moment our communities can facilitate conflict resolution while actively preventing harmful behavior using essential community resources. We hope for the opportunity to meet our offender to make amends and to have a conversation about love, empathy and understanding.

In our fight to bring about the new world, one that is predicated on Black people’s freedom and liberation, one that is based in empathy and kindness, we have been met with violent and hateful opposition, which was unleashed on us the night of Tuesday, July 7th at the intersection of 42nd st and 6th ave.

A man took it upon himself and made the conscious, horrible decision of driving through our peaceful protest at high speeds. He chose to drive his SUV from one end of the intersection to the other, directly into a line of cyclists standing guard for a crowd of people on the street exercising their First Amendment right to protest. That crowd included a toddler. The driver and passenger chose to ignore a protester’s invitation to speak when they knocked on the driver’s side window. They chose to ignore their panicked pleas to reverse the SUV, as the driver pressed the gas pedal and crushed bikes beneath it. Human beings pleading with the driver through tinted windshield and yet he chose to press the gas pedal and accelerate toward us.

The NYPD amplified assertions that the driver feared for his life and was therefore compelled to accelerate his SUV through a crowd of roughly one hundred human beings. What the NYPD does not know is that we came face-to-face, we looked into his eyes and as he prepared to carry out his act of terror, what his eyes revealed was not fear but hate.

We have been preparing ourselves to evade and de-escalate the murderous hate of white supremacy since the day we decided to organize against systemic racism in this country. It is this organized preparedness that ensured that on that fateful night, the streets of Time Square were not varnished with the blood of mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, patriots, and heroes.

Thankfully, a protester acted quickly and popped the driver’s tires right before the moment the driver chose to barrel through the frontline of humans and down the street heading straight towards the protestors. Luckily, we were able to avoid being crushed like the bikes the SUV dragged for hundreds of feet. The driver fled the scene with no regard for human lives, but the vigilant cyclists and skaters caught up to the vehicle as it came to a halt due to the flat tires and crushed bicycles pinned underneath the SUV.

We are people who love and whom are loved and have families and friends. We experience joy, grief, hope, anger, gratitude, sadness, laughter, and pain, just as that driver does. We have dreams and aspirations for ourselves and our children, just as the driver has. Yet we will never understand why the driver chose to harm and nearly kill us. The horror, grief, and trauma caused will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

These actions proved that white supremacy persists and is in fact more hateful and violent than ever. This is why we must and will continue to fight to liberate our country from the bonds of white supremacy and systemic racism.

As the retributive justice system currently stands, it dictates that the driver be incarcerated and be treated inhumanely. It is a centuries-older system based in white supremacy, which harms all of us with its murderous hate, including the driver and the passenger. It is a testament to the foundation of empathy and love in this movement that we demand the driver and the passenger be held accountable with dignity and humanity, even though they treated us less than.

Instead of relying on the retributive justice system we want to see restorative and transformative justice at work. As the victims we want a just process where we will get closure, make amends and see proportional actions enacted to repair the harm we have been met with. We want the victim to participate in our mutual healing, receive mental health assistance, deal with restitutions and apologize for the harm caused. We want to enact a process that centers presentation and rehabilitation. We want them to be educated on the history of black people in the United States with an accountability structure in place that ensures the unlearning of internalized white supremacy. We demand the NY DMV suspend his license until the restorative justice process has been completed and the MTA to terminate these employees until they have healed their harm to the community. This is the world we envision, and this is what we want our communities to look like. We dream of a better world and it starts with compassion, empathy and justice. We sincerely hope our call is answered.

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