Bay Ridge melting pot celebrated during neighborhood march

January 18, 2016 Meaghan McGoldrick
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Love thy neighbor.

That was the message at a Monday, January 18 march organized by local residents hoping to curb anti-Muslim rhetoric they say has run rampant in the neighborhood—both online and in person.

“It all began on Facebook,” noted organizer Teri Brennan. “My personal opinion is that there aren’t that many haters—they’re just really loud. A lot of the time it’s easier to look for the opportunity to hate so we thought, let’s create an opportunity for people who want to raise their voices in kindness.”

And so, families of all ages and denominations seized the opportunity.

The march kicked off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 1 p.m. near the corner of 86th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway – the very spot where, organizers say, a young Muslim woman was physically assaulted while waiting for the bus in December – and spanned 86th Street towards Fifth Avenue. From there, supporters took a right and made their way to Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, 414 80th Street, where they remained to reflect on the afternoon.

“I came here to support my neighbors in what many feel is a difficult, vitriolic time,” said 12-year Bay Ridge resident Alan Aja, one of the event’s organizers. “We wanted to come together to stand up and say, we’re not going to tolerate the horrible language and outright physical altercations— we’re not going to tolerate hate.”

Lifelong resident Justin Brannan agreed.

“Bay Ridge has always been a wonderfully diverse neighborhood of inclusion and love,” he recalled. “Ever since I was a kid, this community has been a melting pot where everyone respected each other, learned from one another and looked out for each other. It’s one of the things that has always given Bay Ridge that tight-knit, small-town feel.

“Age, race, color, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, marital status, political affiliation… here’s the thing: we are New Yorkers first,” Brannan went on. “That’s what we need to remember.”

Muslim resident Sabrina Hajjar shared similar sentiments during a speech during which she held back tears at the march’s start.

“Thank you all for being here; we all appreciate it – Muslims and non-Muslims, people of all colors and religions – we all appreciate it,” said Hajjar. “There was a girl waiting for the bus [right here] – she was Muslim. She was persecuted. She was assaulted for wearing the hijab.

“We in American cannot stand for this,” she went on. “People of all religions, of all colors – we need to be united, and we need to stand as one.”

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