Cobble Hill

Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz, Brooklyn officials and a huge crowd denounce hate symbols in Adam Yauch Park

November 21, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hundreds packed into Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn Heights on Sunday to protest swastikas and the message “Go Trump,” which was painted on the playground equipment in the park. Photo courtesy of Sen. Daniel Squadron's Office
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Hundreds came together Sunday morning to denounce ugly symbols of hate in a Brooklyn Heights playground named after one of music’s greats.

A crowd estimated to run upwards of 500 overflowed into the streets surrounding Adam Yauch Park and onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) entrance ramp for a rally spearheaded by state Sen. Daniel Squadron and joined by hip-hop group Beastie Boys member Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, along with numerous officials and religious leaders. 

The crowd became so large that police had to cut off access to the park, attendees said.

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The outrage began on Friday, when Squadron’s office received a call reporting spray-painted swastikas and the message “Go Trump” on the playground equipment in the park.

The graffiti was similar to other expressions of hate surfacing since the election of Donald Trump as president. But it was especially offensive to Brooklynites because Yauch, the founding member of the Beastie Boys, was known to be a humanitarian and activist who spoke out against prejudice targeting Muslims. Yauch died in 2012.

“Hatred has no place in our backyard, no place in our city and no place in our country,” Squadron, speaking through a megaphone, told the crowd.  “Anyone who thinks the current political climate will allow oppression to win in this country is wrong. [Swastikas represent] genocide and monstrosities our nation came together to defeat. Brooklyn’s diversity represents our country’s great strengths and we will stand up to any who want to undermine its values.”

“Spray painting swastikas in a children’s playground is a messed up thing to do,” said Ad-Rock. “And for many of us it has special meaning because this park is named for Adam Yauch, who was my friend and bandmate for over 30 years.”

He added, “But this is more about someone in New York City connecting Nazi Germany to Donald Trump in a ‘hell yeah!’ kind of way — in a park where children play.”

Ad-Rock listed a number of acts of violence since the election — including one in which a Hillary Clinton supporter was  punched in the face by a Trump supporter in a Boerum Hill restaurant — and urged listeners to get involved fighting the hate now, “because this is home-grown terrorism for real.”

Local resident Beverly Closs, attending the rally with her husband Bill, told the Brooklyn Eagle, “Being a child of a Holocaust survivor, I wanted to take a stand against bigotry and hatred, especially in my neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights.”

She added, “Also, because these hateful messages were written in a playground, it was so meaningful to see so many children at the rally.”

The Parks Department painted over the graffiti, and on Sunday the crowd piled flowers around the playground equipment. Children covered spots where the graffiti had been with colorful hearts.

Uptick in incidents

“Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in hate crimes following the election,” said Public Advocate Letitia James, “and I am calling for increased vigilance by New Yorkers to report hate crimes against any and all communities.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a speech Sunday that during the week after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 437 incidents of intimidation across the country.

In the ten days following the election, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) received 11 reports of bias or hate crimes against Muslims in New York City, according to Dr. Debbie Almontaser, founder of the Kahlil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn and president of the board of the Muslim Community Network. 

In addition, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Sunday said that the group has witnessed a wave of incidents targeting Jews and other minorities since the election.

Borough President Eric Adams said there must be “zero tolerance for anyone seeking to divide, intimidate, or scare our neighbors through their destructive displays of cruelty.” 

Councilmember Brad Lander saw something positive in the ugly incidents.

“If the forces of hate and division succeed in bringing us together across lines of difference — even here in our own Brooklyn neighborhoods — then I believe we can build something powerful and compassionate and beautiful that will make us stronger for years to come,” he said. 

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