After the killing of Jordan Neely on a New York City subway car last week, an outcry erupted across the city. These were protests against the injustice of Neely’s death, yes, but also against the power structures that let his killer walk free, and even the constellation of circumstances that deemed Neely a threat rather than a neighbor. In this blistering dispatch, Arielle Isack reports from one such protest — but while she forgoes detached objectivity for immediacy, her fury doesn’t cloud her clarity. An urgent read.

Like a sea of minnows, we all turned to face the same thing at the same time, one another, or the cops, who at this point had set up a barricade between us and a secondary group that was forming, and screaming, at another strip of subway platform a few feet away. Again and again we were jostled by the gigantic black TV cameras moving clumsily through the crowd, desperate to follow the action, to get as close as possible to whoever was speaking or chanting the loudest. All the noise, chaos, and pain stitched together into a makeshift fluency: several were nominated—wordlessly—as group leaders, owing to the sheer persuasiveness of their rage and frustration, the way it rang clear through the screech of metal on metal. We pressed our bodies to be close to them; their words were something to move our rage and grief through. They turned despair into a group feeling: a rage borne by the hope, or the proof, that people could take shape against evil, against an insanity that was indistinct from the overpoliced and underfunded environment of the MTA itself. I smelled something chemical: someone had graffitied JORDAN NEELY WAS MURDERED HERE on the ground in black, but the words held up only briefly before they were smeared underfoot, beyond legibility. As F trains slid in and out of the station, protesters on the peripheries of the platform leaned into cars, stalling them to inform commuters of the situation: A BLACK MAN WAS MURDERED BY A WHITE MAN INSIDE AN F TRAIN CAR ON MONDAY. THE COPS DID NOTHING FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES. A chant of FIFTEEN MINUTES! FIFTEEN MINUTES! erupted in the general direction of the officersIF YOU SEE SOMEONE ON THE TRAIN WHO NEEDS HELP, HELP THEM, they begged the people inside the trains. Most passengers did nothing, shifting uncomfortably or pulling out their iPhones to record us. The moment anyone’s body leaned into the open cars, two cops would intervene, yelling GET THE FUCK BACK and pulling the offending bodies back onto the platform. People on the opposite platform weren’t spared: a white woman saw people yelling across the tracks, plucked her earbuds out, and upon hearing the words MURDERED HERE, immediately clapped her hand over her mouth in cartoonish but genuine horror.