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Kalief Browder remembered at Welling Court in Astoria

By Bill Parry

A mural depicting Kalief Browder, the young Bronx man whose harrowing ordeal on Rikers Island led to his suicide June 6, appeared one week later at Astoria’s Welling Court.

Artist Katie Yamasaki painted the portrait of Browder, who was locked up for nearly three years without a trial and was subjected to beatings by guards and fellow inmates, as well as nearly two years of solitary confinement, all for allegedly stealing a backpack when he was 16 years old. The charges were dropped in 2013 but his family said the mistreatment led to mental illness and made his life unbearable.

Browder’s story helped inspire the current reforms on Rikers Island and all city jails, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“There is no reason he should have gone through this ordeal,” de Blasio said.

Browder’s haunted likeness on the mural is accompanied by his quote, “This happens every day.”

Yamasaki painted the wall as part of the 6th annual Welling Court Project street party, where 80 artists from around the world added to a unique selection of public street art on several blocks in the Old Astoria section.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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