Photo by Prem Calvin Prashad
By Prem Calvin Prashad

The religious leaders of the Flushing Interfaith Council gathered at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Flushing Sunday to sign a second Flushing Remonstrance in protest against racial profiling in the policing and surveillance of Muslims by the NYPD.

The original Remonstrance was signed in 1657 by English settlers opposed to the persecution of Quakers by Director-General Peter Stuyvesant and the colonial government of New Netherland. The new Flushing Remonstrance is translated into nine languages, all but one on display at the second signing of the Remonstrance.

About 25 Flushing residents of various ages, religions and ethnicities signed the new Remonstrance, which addresses Mayor Michael Bloomberg directly with grievances related to the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policing as well as the department’s surveillance of mosques and places where Muslims gather.

“I really appreciate as a Muslim the solidarity and the support of the interfaith community,” said Adem Carroll, a member of the Interfaith Council. “It’s very meaningful and in the spirit of the value and traditions of Flushing.”

Many consider the Flushing Remonstrance the precursor to the Bill of Rights and one of the first attempts in the Americas to protect religious freedom. The creation of a second Remonstrance was inspired by Naomi Paz Greenberg, of the Morningside Quaker Meeting, after a boycott of the mayor’s Interfaith Breakfast two years ago by religious leaders to denounce the NYPD’s surveillance of the city’s Muslim community.

Greenberg said she thought at the time, “Why not produce something that looks beautiful and calls everybody to the highest ideals?”

The Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, rector of St. George’s Church, at 135-32 38th Ave., led the program as well as the reading of the new Remonstrance. Benitez described the irony of those elected officials in favor of the policies opposed by the document mourning the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, noting that those practices have “more in common with apartheid than the Constitution of the United States.”

A momentary silence was also held in observance of the death of Mandela.

John Choe, director of One Flushing, said the signing and presentation of the document served not only as a rebuke to the Bloomberg administration but also to encourage a dialogue with the next.

“We hope the Second Remonstrance will help set a more open and inclusive tone in the next administration at City Hall,” he said. “We expect to see much better protections for the rights of all New Yorkers under our next mayor, Bill de Blasio.”

State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) lauded Flushing as a place where “we can be diverse and the freedom to be diverse is protected.”

He also praised the original signatories of the Remonstrance, saying “to have that compassion and care for another group of people is what makes this country so great.”

The Remonstrance is remarkable, as none of the signatories were Quakers yet were troubled by the persecution of their neighbors.

During the signing, Wendy Moscow, of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Queens, led the assembled in Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” Ed McCurdy’s “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” and other folk songs that invoked unity, faith and tolerance.

The council hopes to present the new Remonstrance on a parchment scroll directly to the mayor. The document demands an immediate end to stop-and-frisk and the surveillance of mosques because these polices “violate our constitutional rights and demean the integrity of the New York City Police Department.”

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