STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. August 7, 2010. On Saturday evening a diverse group of Staten Islanders united against hate crimes, held a candlelight vigil outside Borough Hall before marching to White Castle where Assembly Member Matt Titone treated everyone to a burger.
Earlier this year, on July 7, a man made homophobic comments before assaulting Richard Vieira and his partner at a White Castle in Staten Islands Stapleton section. Police continue to search for the assailant.
In response to the attack and to the recent wave of hate crimes targeting Mexicans Staten Island Pride called a candlelight vigil and march. The event was held on Saturday night and was sponsored by a variety of groups, elected officials and individuals, including: Make The Road New York, the Guardian Angels, the Public Advocates office, State Senator Diane Savino (D 23rd District), New York City Council Member Debi Rose (D 49th District) and State Assembly Member Matt Titone (D 61st District).
Standing in front of Borough Hall, the vigilers were besieged by the New York press corps which has been following the hate crimes story. Standing in formation, to the right of the crowd, a group of Guardian Angels held candles.
As the time neared to start the march event organizers addressed the crowd and the press.
We want to call attention to hate crimes here on Staten Island, said Gerard Mawn of Staten Island Pride.
We want everyone here to commit to being a solution, to being part of the solution, to the hate crimes that started many months ago, he said.
Mawn introduced Matt Titone who thanked the Guardian Angels for keeping the community safe and for participating in the vigil and march. Titone also thanked police and told the crowd that six arrests have been effected since the bias attacks began in April.
Surrounded by the press, Titone led the vigilers in a march to the White Castle where Luis and Richard Vieira were assaulted. Richard Vieira, his arm in a sling, joined the march. He was surrounded by Guardian Angels as the procession made its way down Bay Street.
Cars passing the marchers honked in support as protesters held up signs saying I Am Staten Island and Respect For Diversity.
Standing in the parking lot of White Castle, Matt Titone addressed the marchers as TV crews looked on.
I would like to treat everyone, including the press, to a burger on me. We passed a budget I got paid. But seriously I really do want to thank everyone for participating and really showing our unity, our stand against hatred, Titone said.
We will not stand for intolerance. We are not afraid of those who are afraid of us. And we will continue to work, we will continue to march and we will continue to pray for those who feel differently, he added.