Marchers head down Broadway toward the police station. Maya McFadden

Dixwell and downtown New Haven’s streets filled with cries for justice Friday afternoon as marchers sought to turn the tragedy of a New Havener hospitalized due to police mistreatment into a spur for structural change in how law enforcement deals with Black citizens.

The state and local NAACP organized the march along with the Cox family and civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

Maya McFadden

The crowd gathered outside the Stetson branch library on Dixwell Avenue before the march.

“We will change the policy of the New Haven Police Department, but around the world!” Pastor John Lewis declared before the assembled.

Then the group marched through Dixwell and downtown streets to the police station, filling the air with call-and-response chants.

” No justice …”

” … no peace!”

“No racist …”

“… police!”

“If I say: I think my neck is broken …”

” … don’t take it as a joke!”

“Black lives matter!”

“Randy Cox’s life matters!”

Marches start out on New Haven’s Dixwell Avenue. Maya McFadden / New Haven Independent

March leaders included state NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile and civil-rights attorney Michael Jefferson, a member of the legal team. 

National Black Lives Matter Tamika Mallory addressed the crowd at a pause in the march on Broadway. She tied Cox’s case to those of Breanna Taylor and Freddie Gray (“who died from the exact same rough ride”) among other victimized by police officers.

“We are dying all over this nation. Don’t let anybody tell you it is isolated. It is coordinated,” Mallory said. ​“Only we are responsible for fighting the power!”

It was the latest development in the unfolding Cox case, which began on Jan. 19, when police arrested Cox, who’s 36, that day without incident at a Lilac Street gathering. En route to the police station, the driver of a prisoner conveyance van slammed on the brakes; Cox crashed his head against a wall of van and injured his neck and spine. Rather than directly seek medical treatment, officers at the police lock-up accused Cox of lying, demanded he stand up, placed him in a wheelchair, then dragged him across the floor into a cell. Cox remains in the hospital, unable to move or talk, as his case has sparked nationwide outrage. The department has placed five officers on administrative leave while the state police investigate their actions in the incident. The department has also upgraded its policies in hopes of avoiding a similar future incident. Cox’s legal team met with Connecticut’s U.S. attorney Friday to request a federal probe.

Brother and sister Cortez Legrant, 17 and Jaelin Roberts, 21, joined the march in support of Randy Cox, who is Legrant’s uncle. 

Roberts said she has grown up seeing Cox all over New Haven. She described him as reserved, quiet, passionate about the people he loves, honest, and respectable. 

When she heard Cox was hospitalized as a result of being in police custody, she said, she was in disbelief. 

“I’ve heard about so many incidents about so many things that just aren’t right, but to know that it’s happened to someone I cared about, it was hurtful,” she said. 

Before the kick-off to the march, Legrant and Roberts sats beside each other outside the Stetson Library with a sign reading, ​“I can’t move. Justice for Randy.” 

Roberts said she hopes for the march and community support will serve as a wake-up call.

“I would like to see justice for him and other people who may have gone unnoticed or unheard,” she said. 

Legrant’s relationship with his uncle throughout his life has been rooted in their common love for football. 

Legrant currently plays football at Sun Prairie East High School in Wisconsin. He described his uncle as his biggest supporter for his football career. Cox could often be found attending Legrant’s games, or the two would go to local games together. 

When Cox was injured, Legrant was getting ready for a football game and received the call from his mother. 

“I didn’t know it would happen to someone I know,” he said. 

Legrant visited his uncle at the hospital on July 4. He said Cox couldn’t do anything but cr.. ​“It was really tough seeing him,” he recalled. 

Because Cox can’t speak, Legrant spent his visit talking to his uncle about football. 

Legrant said he hopes that his uncle heals quickly and that the incident will result in all police departments having better arrest and transportation procedures to prevent similar cases in the future.

Dixwell residents Doreen Hutchinson and Louise Pierce turned out for Friday’s march in matching T‑shirts that others wore as well. The shirts featured a black-and-white image of Randy Cox beneath the words, ​“Help I Can’t Move!”

Hutchinson, who teaches kindergarten at Wexler Grant school, said she knows Cox’s family well from her work in the public school system. ​“A real nice person,” she said about Cox.

How did watching the police video of Cox’s injury and mistreatment make her feel?

“That could have been my son. That could have been anybody,” she said. ​“Something has to change.”

Pierce said she was upstairs at the Q House’s new senior center earlier in the day when she found out about the march.

Why did she come down and decide to join in?

“To support the family,” she said. ​“To see what kind of change” will come from this. ​“They’re getting away with murder,” she said about the too-many times she has watched and read and heard about officers seriously injuring Black suspects.

She said she watched the police body cam video from Cox’s case once and only once. She couldn’t bring herself to watch it again.

“I think change is gonna come this time,” she said. Because this time, ​“it’s on TV.”

Mimi, who declined to give her last name, an emergency room worker, traveled from her home in Waterbury to attend Friday’s march. 

“I’m almost embarrassed to say we are Americans” when thinking about how the police handled Randy Cox, she said.

“No one deserves to be treated this way. There’s no way these cops should get away with it. There has to be justice.”

Another local public school teacher, Dee Marshall (pictured at right above), said she turned out to Friday’s march to help educate her students and all young people in this city on the importance of ​“medical Miranda” rights, and on getting an officer’s badge number if a police officer mistreats them.

“I can’t watch the whole thing,” she said when asked about the police body cam video showing Cox’s injury and mishandling by cops. ​“I’ve taught so many of these kids.”

Paul Bass contributed to this story which was originally published July 8, 2022, by the New Haven Independent.