OPINION: Could Brooklyn arena host peaceful confrontation not in court but on court?
A protester who is accused of beating up a Brooklyn Jewish communal leader after a basketball game at Barclays Center was once the victim of police violence, according to news reports from last year.
On Thursday, as was widely reported, Shawn Shraeder , 25, described as a Queens native, was arrested in St. Louis, taken back to Brooklyn and charged with attacking Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay YM-YWHA in southeast Brooklyn, after an exhibition game.
The game, between the Brooklyn Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv, was a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces, as the Israeli army is formally known. Normally, such a game would not attract much attention outside the pro-Israel community. However, since Operation Protective Edge, tensions have heightened, and there were several pro-Palestinian groups picketing the game.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with people with a different point of view picketing the game — that’s what America’s all about. But according to Petlakh, several of the protesters blocked him as he was leaving the game, yelling, among other things, that “Your people are murderers.”
At that point, one of the protesters — allegedly Shraeder — punched him, resulting in a broken nose and a cut above the eye, requiring eight stitches.
Interestingly — and few in the major news media made this connection —Shraeder himself accepted a settlement of $82,500 back in 2013 after he sued the city, claiming that police beat him up and arrested him on minor charges three times during Occupy Wall Street protests. The Daily News quoted Shraeder as saying the beatdowns “left him with a bleeding ear, a hurt thumb and nightmares about cops.”
One would think that because of his own experiences, Shraeder would be more sensitive to violence and more respectful of the rights of others. But it doesn’t always work that way. Indeed, such experiences often harden people inside and make them more insensitive. Just ask any child psychologist.
Then again, he might be a “true believer” who only opposes violence when it is used against his own ideological brethren and feels it is OK when used against his opponents. If this is the case, he is in the same league as the East German Communists who came out of Nazi concentration camps in 1945, only to torture and imprison Social Democrats, people with ties to the West, religious believers and other enemies of the new regime.
At any rate, it’s a good sign that the attack has been deplored by a wide coalition of Brooklyn and citywide elected officials and community organizations, from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to Public Advocate Letitia James to Mohammed Ravzi, head of the Council of People’s Organizations, a Pakistani group.
I’d like to see another kind of basketball game — a peaceful game between Jewish-Americans and Arab-Americans, or perhaps between Israeli-Americans and Palestinian-Americans — that would be played right here in Brooklyn.
Where better to have such a game than in Brooklyn, which gave us Jackie Robinson? It’s something to think about.
Raanan Geberer, a freelance writer, recently retired as Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He had been Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Bulletin until 1996, when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was revived and merged with the Bulletin.
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