Photo via Twitter/@NYPDQueensSouth
When the commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica kneeled with peaceful protestors, it caught the attention of the city.

Before taking a knee in solidarity with peaceful protesters at Foley Square Sunday, NYPD Inspector Brian McGinn was overheard saying, “They did it in Queens, I mean if it stops the riots.”

He was referring to Deputy Inspector Vincent Tavalaro and several officers from the 103rd Precinct kneeling with parishioners of The Excelling Church during their peaceful protest the day before in Jamaica.

State Senator James Sanders, now in his fourth term representing southeast Queens following 12 years on the City Council, wants to see that example continue as the city is shaken by nightly rioting with a curfew now extended through Sunday.

“I am angry and I understand that many of you are angry over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who was murdered by a white police officer in Minnesota,” Sanders told his constituents. “The incident has sparked protests in major cities around the country, including New York, and also right here in southeast Queens.”

Sanders, who grew up in Hammel Houses, a public housing development in the Rockaways before serving three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, then noted how these peaceful protests have turned violent at night.

“We all have a right to peaceful protest, to make our voices heard, and to honor the memory of George Floyd, a man who reportedly had no prior criminal record, before the encounter with the police that led to his death,” Sanders said. “However, when we start destroying our own neighborhoods, we are doing a disservice to this man’s memory. I believe George Floyd would want justice by having all of the officers involved in his death arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but I don’t think he would want to see his fellow citizens targeting each other by burning down stores, looting, and provoking police, or getting injured with rubber bullets, flashbangs, tear gas and pepper spray.”

Sanders blames provocateurs from out of town for creating explosive situations.

“It is important to note that there were a lot of peaceful protests and that the majority of people who got arrested were visitors from out of town, looking to stir up trouble and chaos for their own purposes and agenda,” Sanders said. “I would also add that there were several incidents in which the police could have handled their interactions with the protestors in a more professional manner. I think it is safe to say that tensions are high and everyone is one edge.”

Going forward, Sanders invoked the lessons of the civil rights movement.

(AP photo)

“I would ask my fellow citizens to look back at the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose use of peaceful protest made enormous strides forward in the civil rights movement,” Sanders said. “Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but if we act violently then we are no better than the violence we seek to eradicate. As Rev. King said, in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”


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