‘Something has to change’: Queens residents protest in Jackson Heights, Woodside over Floyd death

Protesters in Queens and throughout the city have called for $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD's budget. While cuts were made Tuesday, activists and progressive members of the City Council say they weren't enough.
Photo by Dean Moses


Nearly a thousand protesters took to the streets of Jackson Heights and Woodside Saturday afternoon calling for an end to injustice following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers this week.

Queens joined the nation in a wave of protests after video footage surfaced, showing Police Officer Derek Chauvin allegedly kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, killing him.

“I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing it, I’m tired of living it, I’m tired of being in fear,” Jamaica resident Malaika Brutus told QNS. “Something has to change.”

The protesters gathered in Diversity Plaza on Roosevelt Avenue and Broadway, before making their way up Broadway, stopping traffic for several blocks.

Protesters chanted “no peace, no justice,” and “say his name: George Floyd!” with their fists in the air as police officers wearing riot gear gripped tightly to their batons, shadowing the marchers every move. There were times when the demonstrators went head to head with the officers, screaming that they are tired of the abuse and the deaths.

But for most of the march, the atmosphere was rather peaceful and calm in comparison to the fracas that unfolded Friday night outside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Activists handed out water, masks, and snacks as the marchers wound their way toward the 115th Precinct.

As the Queens group passed along a residential block, neighbors rang out cowbells in support of the effort.

Several Q32 bus drivers showed their support with loud honks, along with many others stuck in traffic due to the protest. The Transit Workers Union Local 100 have made public statements in support of the Black Lives Matters protesters, with one driver refusing to allow the NYPD to transport arrested activists at Friday’s protest Brooklyn.

Residents and business owners in Jackson Heights rang bells and beat on buckets out of their windows, reminiscent of the nightly ritual celebrating health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Ogunfowora, who traveled from Elmont in Long Island, felt it necessary to protest even during the pandemic.

“If you’re not doing anything at this point, you’re standing up for the police who keep killing us,” he said behind a black protective mask. “There’s nothing left to argue about, we need justice.”

The crowd flooded the roadways, stopping traffic, as they made their way to the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights. State Senator Jessica Ramos, came face to face with the officers and warned them not to harm the protesters. She could be heard telling the officers, “do not touch my people.”

The march came to a halt in front of the precinct as protesters continued to shout in Spanish, asesinos police, which is translated to “murderous police” in English.

State Senator Michael Gianaris marched with protesters for several blocks. He said it’s important for those who don’t grow up with fear that people of color grow up with to “stand up and show support.”

“I’m here because there is injustice going on in this country. It’s been going on for a long time,” he told QNS. “We’re seeing a lot of it going on in just the last couple of weeks.”

Gianaris said he and his colleagues have to start making policy changes both at the city and the state level.

“Hopefully we’ll take that on and do that shortly,” he said.

The senator also called on the NYPD to “be better” after the department has come under fire for their actions in Brooklyn on Friday.

“You saw what happened [Friday] night, they were too quick to turn to aggressive and violent actions — opening their doors and knocking people over, pushing women down on the floor. They have to get a lot better,” Gianaris said.

By 6:05 p.m., the crowd had started to disperse and the protest ended around 7:30 p.m.

Police could not immediately comment on how many arrests — if any — were made during the protest.

“There’s protests everywhere in the city,” a spokesperson said.

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