Ultimately, demonstrators wanted those congregated inside, including Brooklyn Borough president and featured summit speaker Eric L. Adams, to hear their simple directive. “The message to the developers is ‘go away,’” artist Sarah Quinter told Artsy in the lead up to the protest. “The message to the museum is ‘don’t ever host these developers again.’” Indeed, many feel the summit is antithetical to the museum’s role to safeguard, generate, and reflect the community’s cultural values.
Imani Henry, a member of a group affiliated with the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN), which organized the first demonstration, voiced frustration over how the summit’s location in a museum had overshadowed broader issues affecting people of color. “We are living and breathing as artists every day of our lives, whether people pay attention or not,” Henry said, noting that black street performers and graffiti artists have had their art criminalized by broken-windows policing. “We’re fighting for our lives,” he added, a statement borne out by the residents and activists who spoke during a noon press conference, giving long, often gut-wrenching testimonials about their experiences with displacement, poverty, and homelessness.