By Madina Toure
Some 50 elected leaders, pastors and Queensbridge residents marched peacefully in Long Island City to protest the grand jury decision to not indict a white police officer in the death of black Staten Island resident Eric Garner in August.
Elected officials, residents and clergy members walked quietly and peacefully from the Jacob Riis Settlement Houses to the 21st Street-Queensbridge train station Dec. 17. Marion Jeffries, president of the Astoria-Long Island City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, led the march.
After attending marches in Staten Island and Washington, D.C., Jeffries thought a peaceful march would be ideal.
“I’ve been in the company of the victims’ parents and loved ones and not one of them wanted to bash the police or anything,” Jeffries said. “They just want justice. They want whoever is responsible, for them to go to trial and be indicted if necessary.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said he was happy to march in solidarity with his fellow marchers in a peaceful manner.
“I think many people, including myself, feel that what happened on Staten Island just is not right — that justice has not been served and we all have an obligation to speak out and demand justice,” Van Bramer said.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria); state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood); Chris Hanway, Jacob Riis’ executive director; and Bishop Mitchell Taylor, CEO of Urban Bound, also participated in the march. Jacob Riis, Center of Hope International, the Queensbridge Tenant Association, the Ravenswood Resident Association and the Astoria Resident Association also sponsored the march.
When the marchers arrived in front of the train station, two ministers conducted a prayer and everyone prayed in unison.
Queensbridge resident Chesterfield Hope, 44, said people are starting to care about the issue.
“It’s just good to see that people are concerned because for the most part, it seemed like people weren’t concerned at all until Ferguson,” Hope said. “I hope this really stays in the media and we get some real change.”
The clergy also participated in the march. Kelsey Young, deacon for the Friendship Baptist Church, said he was trying to send a message to the community with his presence at the march.
“I came out to show my support because if nobody comes out to support us or this cause, then it’s not going to do anything to change it,” Young said. “Me being here, I’m hoping that it will show that there’s people that care enough to come out and support this cause.”
For Crawford Hinson, senior pastor at the Friendship Baptist Church, the march was about encouraging the passage of laws that better serve the community.
“It wasn’t anger, but it’s hurt because so many families are suffering through some unjust laws that need to be changed,” Hinson said. “It sent the message that some of these laws will be changed so they can better the community for our people.”
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.