Eight hundred people gathered for a vigil at the site of Eric Garner’s killing on Staten Island to demand police accountability in New York City and the passage of the Right to Know Act, a critical piece of police reform legislation.
The gathering, organized by Make the Road New York, featured young people of color, LGBTQ New Yorkers, and immigrants who have been directly affected by discriminatory and abusive policing and who demanded an end to the practice.
“Young people of color and LGBTQ New Yorkers like me came together today to demand an end to the unjust and abusive policing practices that have devastated our communities,” said Phoenix Russell, Board member of Make the Road New York. “The Right to Know Act is a vital step in making talk of true police accountability into a reality. Today we stood together — strong, proud, and beautiful — to say: we must pass the Right to Know Act, and we must do it now.”
At the vigil, community members erected an altar with photographs and other items to show their respect to Mr. Garner and spoke passionately about their experiences with abusive policing in New York City.
They then called for strong action to ensure police accountability, including immediate passage of Right to Know Act. The Right to Know Act would re-affirm the constitutional rights of New Yorkers to know why they’re being stopped and to know they can say no to a search after being frisked if there’s no evidence of a weapon.
At present, the Right to Know Act has been introduced in the City Council and has a majority of the Council as sponsors for both of its component bills. Community members, eager to see police reform progress this year, are calling for immediate passage.
The gathering also recognized some of the victories this past year, including: implementation of the IDNYC program; and, the increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers. In the coming year the group will focus on the Respect and Dignity Platform. The broader issue platform includes policy priorities for Latino, immigrant, and LGBTQ New Yorkers across a wide range of issues.
Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said: “Eight hundred immigrants and New Yorkers of color issued a clear call for respect and dignity for our communities, starting with the need to pass the Right to Know Act to ensure police accountability. The Respect and Dignity platform that we launched today presents the solutions that our communities will be fighting for in the year to come.”
“As a Staten Island resident, today I’m proud that our community took a step further towards winning the respect and dignity that our families deserve,” said America Mendez, MRNY member from Staten Island. “We sang, we chanted, and we rallied for justice, which includes police reform, fair and affordable housing, and immigration relief for undocumented families. And now we are excited about the year of action that we have ahead.”
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