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Brooklynites come together for Paris

Voices on Smith Street: ‘Viva la France!’

November 16, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined religious leaders and officials on a candlelight walk through Carroll Gardens Sunday night following a vigil in solidarity with the victims of terror attacks in Paris. Leaders flew the flags of the U.S., France, Kenya and Lebanon in memory of the victims of recent attacks around the world. Eagle photos by Mary Frost
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Brooklyn stood with France Sunday night as hundreds gathered with candles in Carroll Gardens for an interfaith vigil to honor the victims of the Paris terror attacks.

Officials and religious leaders also remembered the victims of recent attacks in Beirut, Kenya and around the world. The flags of the U.S., France, Kenya and Lebanon flew in Carroll Park.

“It doesn’t matter where terrorists strike; if it’s in Paris or Park Slope, Budapest or Brownsville, we all feel it. We all mourn together in one spirit of humanity,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who organized the vigil.

Leaders of various faiths prayed in English, Arabic, French and Hebrew, urging unity and love.

The prayer service was followed by a candlelight walk through Carroll Gardens, an area of Brooklyn populated by many French nationals. The walk culminated in a service at Saint Agnes Roman Catholic Church, which holds a weekly Mass in French.

As the solemn procession moved along the sidewalks of Smith Street, past French cafes and bistros, voices called out, “Viva la France!”

Joanie O’Brian traveled in from Bay Ridge to show her support for the people of Paris.

“I’ve gotten to know the French people,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle. “I belong to the parish of Saint Agnes. We have the 11 a.m. mass every Sunday for the French people, and they’re a great people. So I wanted to come here tonight to support them.”

Different Religions, One Humanity

For Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center, it was an important night to stand with France.

“My wife was a refugee from the Holocaust with her parents, and France was kind enough to take them in,” he told the crowd. “And here we are alive today, many years later.”

He called the vigil a “testimony … that we’re a group of one humanity that is based upon an important principle: mutual respect for each other.”

He told the terrorists, “You will not succeed.”

Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the Community of People’s Organization, a Muslim group, said, “In times of such acts we stand together and we pray to God for justice.”

He warned terrorists to look out, “because the red, white and blue are coming to get you.”

Brooklyn Backs France

“Here in New York, we know well what terrorism is all about. But we also know that this barbaric act cannot define great people and great cities,” said U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez. “We are stronger than they are.”

“Carroll Gardens is the home of many people from France whom we have welcomed as neighbors and with whom we grieve this evening,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “We are here for you, and we will be here for you.”

Councilmember Brad Lander read excerpts from the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” written in Paris in 1789, which asserts that men are born free and equal in rights.

“It is those values — Liberté, égalité, fraternité — freedom, radical equality and compassion, that the terrorists attacked, and it is those values that we have to hold onto and embrace as we respond,” Lander said.

Councilmember Dr. Mathieu Eugene said that he had just spoken to his stepsister, who lives in Paris.

“She was crying. She told me that she went to visit the scene. She saw a piece of a body,” he said.

His stepsister’s daughter had been eating in a restaurant near where the terrorists were shooting, he said.

“Her daughter had to go under the table and hide,” he said. She survived the attacks.

Eugene said he wanted to let French people everywhere know “that we are all together, that we will stand with you and fight with you.”

Councilmember Jumanne Williams said, “Whenever these atrocities occur I think, ‘It’s not Paris, it’s New York. It’s not Beirut, it’s Brooklyn. It’s not Kenya, it’s New York City. It’s not other people’s family, it’s my family.”

“Je suis Kenya. Je suis Beruit. Je suis France,” Williams said.

Melchior, age 10, summed up the feeling of those gathered.

“It’s not something acceptable to do and I don’t think I would ever do that anywhere, whether it’s Paris, whether it’s Asia, anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s just not something good to do.”

Adams said that he would be meeting next week with the NYPD to discuss staff safety training at major venues in Brooklyn, including Barclays Center, MCU Field and catering halls.

“While we want you to go about your business as usual, government officials are going to do what we have to do to make sure this borough remains safe,” he said.

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