Thousands of New Yorkers over the last few days have taken to the streets in all five boroughs, setting cop cars aflame, braving beatings by batons and suffering pepper spray to the eyes, all so they can scream an urgent message for all the world to hear…

I Can’t Breathe.

They marched in Manhattan, where the New York Police Department once gunned down Patrick Dorismond.

In Queens, where the NYPD shot 50 bullets at Sean Bell.

In the Bronx, where an NYPD cop choked the life out of Anthony Baez.

In Brooklyn, where the NYPD shot 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr.

And they marched on Staten Island, where the NYPD stole the breath from Eric Garner’s lungs.

Nearly 2,000 protesters were arrested over five nights as America’s largest city joined a national uprising against police brutality that saw demonstrations in about 140 cities, a mass unrest the likes of which this country hasn’t seen in over a generation.

There were moments in New York when it felt like this multi-racial coalition of protesters, led largely by young people of color, was taking back the streets from the NYPD, a police force bigger than some nations’ armies that’s terrorized this city’s Black and brown residents since its founding.

It felt like more and more people here had come to question the cops’ monopoly on force and to embrace the radical idea of defunding the department, or even the abolitionist dream of a New York without New York’s Finest at all.

And so New York’s Finest erupted in violence.