- Published on Friday, 10 February 2012 08:55
- Category: Grand Central Stories
About 400 New Yorkers of all creeds and colors gathered in Foley Square on February 3 to call for the accountability of the recent NYPD actions and scandals.
The rally was a joint effort of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) and The Majlis ash-Shura of Metro NY. About fifty interfaith organizations and dozens of elected officials spoke out against the way the police department has been unfairly profiling Muslims and people of color. The most recent allegations include the screening of the film “The Third Jihad,” by over 1,500 police officers. The film depicts all Muslims as terrorists and is the product of a far right settler group in the West Bank.
“Commissioner Ray Kelly willingly participated in the making of this film and while he has apologized, he has not explained why the NYPD chose to lie, on the record, about his participation for well over a year,” said Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director of DRUM. “In the same period, the NYPD has operated without transparency or accountability and often with brute force with black, Latino, other communities of color, youth and Occupy Wall Street activists.”
Linda Sarsour, a member of the Muslim-American Civil Liberties Coalition, referred to the report released by the Associated Press stating that Shiite Muslims were under surveillance as a way to sweep the Northeast of Iranian terrorists. “This is confirmation of what our community has been talking about for the past ten years,” she said.
The crowd chanted popular rally cries, such as “When (Muslims, people of color, workers rights) are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” and “We’re gonna beat back police/racist attacks.”
Natalia Tylim of Brooklyn said that although she is not a person of color, she came to the rally because she is painfully aware of the issues of racism within the NYPD. “I want to join in solidarity with Muslims,” she said.
Naqi Haider, of Muslims for Peace, spoke on behalf of the Shia community. “Whenever we see an injustice, we must raise our voice or we accept silence as a consequence,” he said.
Council member Charles Barron spoke about the tragedies of Timothy Stansbury, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. He also called for the resignation of Kelly. “When you sit around while police stop and frisk people and you don’t do anything about it because it’s not happening to you – your time will come,” he told the crowd. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”
Barron also had a special message for the NYPD. “If you don’t get your act together, you will see an uprising in NYC that you have never seen before,” he said. “Masses of people are fed up with police. If you want to stop and frisk criminals, stop and frisk Wall Street.”
Donna Nevel, of Jews Against Islamaphobia, also called for the resignation of Kelly and his spokesperson, Paul Browne, as well as an end to all programs that profile based on race, religion and so on. “It’s not enough to speak words that aren’t backed by actions,” she said.
Jazz Hayden, a Copwatch activist, said that the NYPD is just part of the problem. “Police are just a tool in the arm of the state,” he said. “Silence is consent; we must be more aggressive and vocal. We are the masters and they are the servants. They have to provide us with Courtesy, Privacy and Respect (the NYPD’s motto) which they advertise, but never deliver.”
Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, who was beaten by police and held for 18 hours after the Zuccoti Park raid, spoke about his experiences as a young immigrant from the Dominican Republic living in Washington Heights. “I came to the U.S. in the 1980s and fulfilled the profile of a drug dealer,” he recalled. “Profiling is wrong and we need to correct it. This is a hate crime and hate crimes must be paid for with justice.”
Shaka Shakur, of the United Muslim Alliance, told a story of how his home was raided and he was arrested. “That means we are doing something right,” he said. “At this point, we are all in this together. We have the power of right on our side.”
David Galarza of the Justice Committee talked about the recent murder of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot to death by cops in his own home. “Last night, terrorism struck in the Bronx,” he said. “Ray Kelly is Irish Catholic, does that mean we have a moral obligation to oppress all Irish Catholics because of him? Kelly and Brown, out of this town!”
Galarza also invited everyone to take a “Know Your Rights” training class. Reverend Michael Mellick of Occupy Faith said that our country is showing signs of a “deep spiritual sickness.”
The day was capped off with a march to One Police Plaza, where protesters chanted a simple demand, “Fire Ray Kelly!”By Denise Romano, Aslan Media Columnist
About the Columnist: Denise Romano
Denise is a freelance reporter extraordinaire. She is Brooklyn born and raised with a Print Journalism degree from Brooklyn College. Though not of Middle Eastern descent, she started a blog to tell the stories of Iranians and Iranian-Americans after the 2009 election fallout. Ever since, she has been dedicated to giving voice to those who are marginalized by the mainstream media. When she is not writing, Denise spends time with her husband, sings in a barbershop chorus, cooks Italian food, and watches Saturday Night Live. Because she is in tune with the beat of the Big Apple, she launched this blog to share the everyday concerns of New York's Middle Eastern diaspora communities exclusively with Aslan Media.