Occupy Sunset Park marks King’s birthday

January 19, 2012 Heather Chin
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In tribute to the 83rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther KingJr.’s birthday on January 16, over 100 members and neighbors ofOccupy Sunset Park (OSP) marched up Fourth Avenue from TrinityLutheran Church to the Magistrate’s Courthouse on 43rd Street,where they posted signs declaring a PEOPLE’S REPOSSESSION of thecity-owned landmark for community use instead of for NYPDpersonnel.

The march was the culmination of an afternoon spent sharing storiesand songs, and breaking bread, a way for the community to gatheraround common goals for a stronger, more active and empoweredneighborhood of people of all ages, ethnicities andbackgrounds.

I want to see all of us looking at one another as brothers andsisters, said Linda Sarsour, a leader in the Brooklyn ArabAmerican community. We need to drop our stereotypes. As a person[whose family is] from Palestine, a country that is occupied,Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is the only occupation I will support…It was one of the only movements that has welcomed Muslims withopen arms.

Lots of different people from different backgrounds [are here],all wanting a better life for their families and each other, saidStacy Mosher, who moved to the area 12 years ago. One thing I’vetaken note of is the gentrification issue, as an element of itmyself…I want the community to improve in crime and the economy,but I don’t want people who’ve been living here all along to getpushed out. As part of the problem, I want to be part of thesolution.

Other issues that drew people to speak out – in Spanish and English- were concerns about housing rights, economic and policeinjustice, immigration rights, education rights and a community’sright to have safe spaces to play and gather.

Michael Taylor, from Australia via New Jersey, found the event viaa Google search for MLK Day events and was impressed by what hesaw. I wanted to see what the Occupy Wall Street movement is aboutin person and I’m glad to see it’s alive and well, said Taylor.It’s a lot more about community than waving flags. That’s a reallygood sign.

The campaign to reclaim the courthouse, a massive stone structurethat houses Community Board Seven (which protesters don’t want todisplace) as well as the NYPD’s Personnel Bureau, was borne out ofa belief that it could be better utilized to address needs forprograms such as the Head Start program that was evicted from St.Michael’s Church – across the street – late last year.

It’s the perfect juxtaposition between a community that needsspace and a location that has space, said OSP member Ian Horst.We’re just going there to lay claim to it as a communitybuilding.

And lay claim they did. Singing such songs as We Shall Overcome,the marchers carried lit candles up Fourth Avenue beneath a blueand black poster depicting Martin Luther King Jr. before stoppingin front of the courthouse, where police officers watched while ahandful of members taped PEOPLE’S REPOSSESSION flyers on thedoors and gates.

Leticia Alanis, director of local nonprofit La Unión, was elated.It was a beautiful experience of unity and mutual understandingand support, she said. I also felt that the action at thecourthouse was very powerful and, really, everybody felt inspiredand the important message [shared].

David Galarza agreed. I thought the work of everyone here todaywas really impressive, dynamic and befitting a celebration of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. and the Occupy movement, said Galarza. Ifanyone thinks the Occupy movement is dead, the support, love,dedication and outpouring of support just here today is proof tothe contrary. It’s not a movement that’s going to go away becausethere’s still way too much injustice.

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