It’s not just Ferguson, Missouri, where communities are pushing back against police brutality this year. In Los Angeles, there were protests after police shot and killed Ezell Ford, a South Los Angeles resident who was mentally ill. The Ohio Students Association, meanwhile, has been organizing following the police shooting and killing of John Crawford at a Dayton area Walmart.
After two videos emerged this September–one showing officers slamming a pregnant woman, Sandra Amezquita, on the ground and another showing police attacking street vendor Jonathan Daza–residents of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park took to the streets, largely organized by a group called El Grito de Sunset Park. The officers involved in Amezquita’s arrest are being internally investigated; the officer who kicked Daza, Vincent Ciardello, was suspended.
On Wednesday evening, almost 300 people packed the Sunset Park Recreation Center for a town hall meeting hosted by the New York Congress for Puerto Rican Rights. It was an opportunity for residents of this largely Latino and Chinese neighborhood to voice their concerns to City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D), U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez (D), New York City Police Chief Philip Banks and to one another.
Local 72nd Precinct Captain Tommy Ng issued a bilingual statement highlighting his own experience as an immigrant as contact information for community affairs officers. During the question and answer portion of the three-hour meeting, residents asked why police officers are so often accused of abusing civilians and why officers like the ones who threw Amezquita on the ground haven’t been fired. Many questioned Commissioner Bill Bratton’s leadership. NYPD officials listened but didn’t respond.
Colorlines caught up with some of the residents at the town hall meeting to hear their thoughts on police conduct in Sunset Park.
Brenda Rivera, 24, with her son Nathan, 17 months
Rivera says she’s never interacted with the police personally, but she’s so scared of them that she declined to call them after her home was robbed.
Edgar González, 46
González says was arrested for a robbery he didn’t commit. Charges were eventually dropped.
Jesse Rose, 42, with her mother, Irma García, 69
Rose, an attorney, says she attended the town hall because she’s frustrated with hearing stories of police brutality in her neighborhood.
Khalil Vásquez, 22
Vásquez, a college student who works with a group called Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, wondered if police were trying to pacify communities by participating in local town hall meetings.