Black Lives Matter protesters march through Bayside

Photos by Dean Moses

More than 50 people united for a Black Lives Matter demonstration that began at Bowne Playground on Saturday, Aug. 1.

The protest was organized by Warriors in the Garden — a collective of nonviolent activists dedicated to protecting their community from all forms of systemic oppression. They decided to return to Bayside almost three weeks after a BLM demonstration with the Bayside BLM group turned hostile when some of them came in contact with a pro-police rally getting ready to march at Crocheron Park.

That afternoon, less than a dozen BLM protesters were met with verbal abuse that turned into physical attacks from some of the hundreds of people in the “Blue Lives Matter” group, including one woman who was slapped in the face by an unidentified man wearing an “NYPD” shirt and a 21-year-old protester who was beaten and arrested by police.

On Sunday, July 26, some of the protesters with Bayside’s BLM group and Warriors in the Garden met outside of the 111th Precinct — which had barricades placed in the vicinity of the precinct while almost two dozen police officers watched the small demonstration. The protestors were there to demand answers after weeks of police not following up with the Bayside woman who was slapped in the face. Additionally, the protesters questioned the arrest of another BLM protester, who told QNS he didn’t understand why police arrested and charged him.

The NYPD has not answered multiple follow up questions from QNS regarding these incidents.

On Saturday, the advocacy groups were back to march toward the residential neighborhood, made up of a predominantly white and mid- to high-income population, to march for justice and to call attention to racism and police violence.

The march began the demonstration in Flushing and turned onto Parsons Blvd., then Cherry Blvd. Bicyclists acted as protection for the march and traffic control. No police cars were in sight during the march.

Chants included “wake up, wake up, this is your fight too,” “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like,” and “Show me what community looks like, this is what community looks like.”

The march then made its way onto Northern Blvd. Another organizer took to the mic to lead a short song with the words, “Mama, mama don’t you cry, I’ll keep on marching till I die / Papa, papa don’t you know, the police has got to got / Ain’t no justice in this town.”

After crossing Francis Lewis Blvd., an organizer with Warriors in the Garden played “This is America” by Childish Gambino for a Black man with his fist up outside of the car dealership. She said that when they encouraged him to join the march, he said, “I gotta get money.”

By late afternoon, protesters arrived at the 111th Precinct, which the NYPD had blocked off in anticipation of the protests. Protesters then stationed in front of the precinct, with about a dozen police officers behind the barricades, and had several people who were at the other encounter speak.

Kristen McManus, the Bayside woman who was slapped in the face by an unidentified man wearing an “NYPD” shirt, said she wanted to take the time to “address the police officers at the 111th Precinct.”

“Hey guys, you remember me, I’ve been here every week. You ignore me but you can’t ignore all of us,” she said. “There’s a strong narrative in this community that you are the ones that keep us safe, but you did not keep me safe, you did not keep Yacine safe, you did not keep anyone safe that day except for Blue Lives b——-, that’s all you care about. […] I haven’t felt safe in this neighborhood since that day.”

Photo by Dean Moses

Before the protest turned around to Bell Blvd., a minor clash took place. The same protester who got beaten by police and arrested almost three weeks ago attempted to climb onto one of the barricades, although he was grabbed and brought back to the ground by his fellow protesters.

Several members of the crowd also got into a verbal dispute about the incident with the surrounding cops but further escalation was avoided — one protester who helped get the other person away asked a police officer to say what they said to him again while he was recording, but didn’t get a response.

No one was arrested as a result of the incident and the march continued as organizers told protesters “not to engage.”

As protesters marched on Bell Blvd. toward Crocheron Park, some people taking advantage of outdoor dining in the neighborhood held up their fists in solidarity with the marchers.

Protesters then rested in the park upon arriving around 5 p.m.

Kiara Williams, Warriors in the Garden’s co-founder and secretary, told QNS they felt they needed to return after what happened three weeks ago.

“Last time we were here we did not prepare for a counter protest … so we wanted to come back and make a statement this time to let Bayside know, ‘Your racism and your white supremacy and your fear for change has to end because as long as we’re around we’re going to keep making noise here until you start changing yourself,'” she said.

Williams said they were happy with the turn out and that there were no counter “Blue Lives Matter” protests, which they anticipated after receiving threats on their social media.

“I wasn’t OK leading people into that because it’s very traumatizing. I know it’s essential for people to see it and experience it, but I don’t know if they’re aware of being traumatized,” she said.

When asked about the minor clash back at the 111th Precinct, Williams said she was “frustrated.”

“It looked like the police got to us, and I know for a fact that they felt proud in that moment,” Williams said. “Yeah, this is upsetting, seeing them just stand there behind their barricades, seeing a Black officer stand there, is upsetting but are we going to be upset and irrational or are we going to be upset and strategic?”

At the park, protesters played music, ate pizza and had several speeches about racism and police brutality.

Jessica, an organizer with Bayside BLM group, said they were “incredibly grateful to Warriors in the Garden for bringing the much needed bodies and voices to help amplify our message to Bayside that we will not tolerate these racist antics any longer.”

“We limited our coordination with this protest as we felt it was owed to Warriors in the Garden to plan their return after the altercations and traumatic experiences they encountered during their first visit to Bayside,” she said. “We truly appreciate everyone in attendance and hope to see them at future Bayside BLM protests.”