Sunset Park residents march to 72nd Precinct
Demonstration comes after 2 ugly incidents
In the wake of two violent interactions between police officers and citizens, both captured on video, Sunset Park community leaders organized a protest march to the 72nd Precinct station house on Saturday.
El Grito de Sunset Park, a civic organization, joined forces with other groups to plan the protest march, according to Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who has been in touch with the groups.
In addition, El Grito de Sunset Park and the other groups are organizing a town hall meeting to take place on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Sunset Park Recreation Center on Seventh Avenue and 43rd Street, at 6:30 p.m.
The New York Police Department is investigating two incidents in which cops from the 72nd Precinct allegedly roughed up citizens during altercations.
“It is evident that these tensions are bound up in issues of culture, language and respect. The time is well overdue to address these issues openly as a community,” Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) wrote in an open letter to the community.
The most recent incident took place on Saturday, Sept. 20, when an officer was struggling with a pregnant woman who police say tried to intervene in the arrest of her 17-year-old son on a weapons possession charge. The pregnant woman, Sandra Amezquita, was pushed to the ground on her stomach, a video of the incident shows.
“You would think the police would respect a woman that is pregnant,” Amezquita, 43, told the New York Daily News through an interpreter in an exclusive interview with the newspaper.
That incident followed another violent episode that took place at the end of the Sunset Park Fall Festival on Sunday, Sept. 14, when an altercation between cops and street vendors became ugly. A video of the incident appears to capture images of a cop kicking vendor. The cop has been suspended pending an NYPD investigation.
Last week, Menchaca, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan), and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park-Bay Ridge) met with Police Commissioner William Bratton and other top-ranking officers of the NYPD to discuss police-community tensions.
“What we heard was a commitment to participating in this town hall, and a genuine desire to talk through community concerns that have been illuminated by these recent incidents,” Menchaca wrote in his letter to the community.
Bratton told the elected officials that the NYPD will take part in the Oct. 1 town hall, according to Menchaca.
Menchaca, Velazquez and Ortiz are also seeking meetings with the city’s new inspector general and with Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. Menchaca said he is working with community partners to set up a series of “Know Your Rights” trainings throughout the council district to inform residents on how to handle interactions with police.
“Look, there is no doubt that we are facing a crisis around community policing. Although I am distressed by the recent breakdowns in the district, I am also inspired by community members that have shown true solidarity with their neighbors, their friends, and most especially with complete strangers. In that spirit of unity and healing, we must move swiftly in the direction of deconstructing a dynamic that should have been addressed long ago,” Menchaca wrote.
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