BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Long Island City joined New York’s continuing chants of “Black Lives Matter” with a prayer march at Queensbridge Houses last Thursday night.
Protests have been rolling through the five Boroughs in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who put Staten Island man Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. About 50 Queensbridge residents and neighbors attended Thursday’s protest, which was led by Marion Jeffries, president of the Astoria – Long Island City NAACP.
Local officials including State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside) and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) were also in attendance, as well as Urban Upbound CEO Bishop Mitchell Taylor and a number of other clergy.
With the crowd gathered before her on the steps of the Jacob Riis Settlement House, Jeffries said the purpose of the protest was not only to march in solidarity with Garner, Michael Brown and other victims of police violence, but also to call for legislative action.
“Laws changing – that’s the only thing that’s really going to make a difference,” Jeffries said. “Everybody all over the world saw what happened with Eric Garner and for them to not indict this [officer], I mean, how crazy is that? At least for them to have gone to court, gone to trial.”
Expanding on Jeffries’ sentiments, Gianaris said he specifically wants to see independent prosecutors handling cases where police are accused of violence against civilians, and has sponsored legislation to this purpose.
Protestors then walked together to the 21st Street – Queensbridge subway stop, many holding their arms in the air and chanting, “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
At 21st Street, the group huddled in embrace and bowed in prayer for their communities and those lost.
Queensbridge resident Alyssha Thomas was one of several young women to attend the march out of concern for their brothers and male peers.
“[I’m here] to support the people, the boys I hang out with, because of how the boys are dying these days,” Thomas said. “You have to show that love to your community, because it could happen to anybody that you hang out with.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.