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Tensions rise in Middle Village after counter-protesters crash 'No Room for Racists' march – QNS.com

Tensions rise in Middle Village after counter-protesters crash ‘No Room for Racists’ march

Photo by Dean Moses

A few dozen people marched in the Ridgewood Tenants Union (RTU)’s “No Room For Racists” protest to denounce what they say are “racists tactics” by Councilman Robert Holden on Saturday, Oct. 24, when they were met with a group of counter-protesters chanting, “Four more years!”

The march began at the Queens Center Mall where RTU protesters gathered. Before the march began, organizers spoke with police officers who asked them not to clash with counter protesters along the way — but organizers said their demonstration was a nonviolent protest, and that counter-protesters needed to be monitored.

Once online Facebook groups in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village caught wind of the planned protest, some members began posting a call to action to counteract it.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

Some residents stated RTU was “planning a riot,” some called them “thugs,” and some aligned them with other Black Lives Matter groups who organized the Maspeth protest against police unions that resulted in U.S. flags being taken from private homes and burned on Oct. 6.

Mike Papa, a member of the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition, called for the community to “join forces” to “stand up against this hate-filled group of anarchists.”

RTU was also notified of threats of violence made by members of a Middle Village Militia group.

However, RTU was not among the Black Lives Matter groups in Queens that organized the protest in Maspeth.

“We are not the same group but want to make it clear that we do not have any problems with burning American flags and that’s because BLACK LIVES and the lives of people of color matter more than your f—— flags,” RTU wrote in a statement. “We will stand up to racism ALWAYS.”

On Saturday, Raquel Namuche, an organizer with the RTU, said the group was not there to “instigate other racists because that puts people of color in danger.”

“Our mission of our group is to build the power of tenants in Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale and Maspeth,” said Namuche. “Our members live in Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale and certainly in Ridgewood. When Robert Holden says things like, ‘My constituents stand for Blue Lives Matter,’ that is wrong because we don’t stand for that. We’re here to say Robert Holden and racists like him need to be voted out.”

The march began at about 1 p.m. and proceeded down Eliot Avenue then Caldwell Avenue. Chants included “No Room for Holden, No Room for Racists,” with signs that read “Defund the police” and “Respect existence or expect resistance.”

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

RTU cited Holden’s recent bill, Intro 2116, in which he’s seeking to fully repeal the city’s ban on police officers’ use of chokeholds.

The bill has support from Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich, as well as several police unions including the New York City Police Benevolent Association and the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

When the march reached Caldwell Avenue and 75th Street, a barricade was placed by the NYPD to separate counter-protesters from the “No Room For Racists” march.

Photo by Dean Moses

Counter-protesters were sporting “Trump 2020” and “Back the Blue” flags, hats and T-shirts, while chanting “U.S.A.!” “Go home” and “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

For a few moments, the “No Room For Racists” protesters — who chanted, “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascists U.S.A.” and “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido [The people united will never be defeated]” — and the counter-protesters chanted at each other.

Once the “No Room For Racists” protesters moved to continue their march, the counter-protesters began to follow them closely behind.

Papa said they were following them to “ensure that they don’t trespass on private property and rip down American flags and set them on fire.”

“Since the police are now powerless due to Mayor de Blasio to be able to make any arrests on offenses like that, we’re just here to keep an eye on these guys until they’re gone from our neighborhood,” Papa said through a bullhorn. “They don’t want to engage in a dialogue. They don’t want to compromise. They don’t want to hear who we are. Nothing we can do but monitor them.”

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

Papa added that “they’re peaceful people. We’re the furthest things from racist. This is the most diverse community, in the most diverse borough in the whole city of New York, and we’re proud of that.”

Papa spoke about RTU being at the Maspeth protest, which he said targeted and threatened the wrong Ed Mullins’ home. When a QNS reporter who attended the Maspeth protest told him RTU did not participate in that demonstration, Papa said, “You’re entitled to your opinion.”

Juan Ardila, who is running for Holden’s seat, joined the RTU’s protest. He, too, agreed that their district is one of the most diverse in the city.

“As such, it’s important for everyone to feel like they have a voice,” Ardila told QNS. “I support peaceful protests that lift up the voices of those who feel like they’ve been left behind and unheard by our leaders. We’ve seen time and time again that our current Council member only caters to those that agree with him and seems to be comfortable ignoring the majority of our communities.”

The marchers stopped at the Metropolitan Avenue M station, where they said they would wait for everyone to go home, as many of them felt unsafe due to the proximity and chants from counter-protesters.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

At the station, counter-protesters shouted, “Get the f— out of here.”

Papa, who kept mispronouncing Ardila’s name, said he’d give him “one last chance to come out, tell us why we should vote for you. No comment?”

In once instance, a police officer asked the counter-protesters to stop following and to “just let them go.” But one person with the counter-protest group said, “We will do what you can’t.”

Ardila told QNS he joined the RTU’s “No Room For Racists” march to “support the grassroots movement for building people power from the ground up and fighting displacement.”

“It’s time for a change and peaceful protests like this one are showing that the working people of District 30 are ready to embrace new leadership, despite the objections of a loud few who are afraid of it,” Ardila added.

The march ended without any incidents.

In response to the protest and statements from RTU, Holden, who did not attend the day’s events, told QNS he stands with his neighbors and police.

“I will not be intimidated or deterred from supporting our NYPD or standing up for the quality of life in my district just because a small group of misguided anarchists scream and yell and block traffic in the street,” said Holden. “I stand with my neighbors and with our police.”
Additional reporting by Dean Moses.

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