By Joe Anuta
More than 200 people solemnly marched through a commercial strip in Woodside Saturday evening to show solidarity after a longtime resident and gay rights activist was killed last month.
Lou Rispoli, an activist who lived with his partner of 32 years in the neighborhood, was beaten so brutally by two unknown assailants Oct. 20 that he died of his injuries five days later.
He was remembered Saturday as a stalwart of the neighborhood who stood up for the rights of others.
“I’ve been robbed of this amazing man, and friends have been robbed of an amazing soul,” said Danyal Lawson, Rispoli’s partner. The two were married at Queens Borough Hall the day same-sex marriage became legal in New York state.
At the time, Rispoli said it felt like “the Berlin Wall falling down.”
At about 2 a.m. on the day of his death, Rispoli was walking near the corner of 41st Street and 43rd Avenue when witnesses said two men he was talking with hit him in the head with a blunt object, according to the NYPD and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
The attack put Rispoli in the hospital, where he eventually succumbed to his injuries.
Van Bramer decided to hold a candlelight march to show the neighborhood that violence would not be tolerated, he said.
The throngs of friends and neighborhood residents gathered at the corner of 51st Street and 43rd Avenue and marched down the commercial corridor as the sun set.
At the corner of 41st Street and 43rd Avenue, yards away from where Rispoli was attacked, Van Bramer stood on a small podium amid a sea of faces glowing in candlelight.
His office had brought a portable speaker, which pierced the silence on the block as he announced that the reward to information leading to the arrest of Rispoli had now reached $25,000.
“We will not ever forget and we will never stop fighting for justice,” he said. “We are Sunnyside and Woodside. The people who killed Lou Rispoli are not.”
Johnathon Dunn has lived in Sunnyside for 30 years and had never seen anything like the candlelight march.
“It was one of the most moving things I’ve ever witnessed in my community,” he said.
Dunn did not know Rispoli personally, but nevertheless was handing out police fliers in front of a makeshift memorial, where others were placing their candles casting light on the site of the murder.
Those with information are asked to contact the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS. Information can also be sent via the Crime Stoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.