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Reform crowd comes away inspired by Brooklyn DA candidates

June 7, 2017 By Paul Frangipane Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
More than 150 people, mostly from one of the 14 local Democratic groups, packed the First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn Heights to hear the seven candidates running for Brooklyn DA on Monday night. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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There were more than 150 people representing 14 of Brooklyn’s diverse grass-roots Democratic Clubs that came together ready with questions and emotion to check which candidate is the right pick to serve the people as Brooklyn district attorney.

The seven candidates sat in front of rows of filled-pews at the First Unitarian Church on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights Monday night, sandwiching in two moderators of the town hall sponsored by the Brooklyn Reform Coalition. The crowd brought applause, bouts of silence and occasional boos.

“Tonight’s event was actually inspiring,” audience member Malynda Rascoe said. “I learned a lot about the candidates that I did not know prior to coming to today’s event aside from what I researched.”

The late District Attorney Ken Thompson was a common theme of the event, as his legacy provided a trail for current candidates to follow or diverge from. 

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“A lot of people, they want to align with what Ken Thompson has done in the past, but a lot of these candidates, they kind of want to separate themselves, so I can respect that,” Rascoe said.

Some of the most popular questions were about bail reform and fixing the issue of racial disparity in the criminal justice system. While most of the candidates were taking what they might have considered a progressive approach to the issues, John Gangemi received a wave of boos after he disagreed with classifying certain crimes as “low-level,” such as marijuana possession. 

The crowd was filled with young activists who knew what they wanted from the candidates, and were disappointed when they didn’t get the right answers.

“We’re really hoping candidates are going to stand out and talk about what they’re going to do to get New Yorkers off Rikers,” Nate Schuster from the Democratic Socialists of America said. “I didn’t hear much of anything from these candidates that would actually reflect real progress towards that.”

At one point, Rascoe stood up and lobbed a sensitive statement to Patricia Gatling. “She is not from Brooklyn,” Rascoe said. “She just moved here in December of 2016 and her husband still resides in Manhattan.” 

Gatling fired back and cited her decades of work in the borough and told Rascoe, while raising her voice, “Google me!” 

Acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez was calm throughout the event and assured the crowd that progress in Brooklyn has been underway for some time and will continue on track. 

Rascoe, who had faith in Gonzalez, got a chance to change her mind after hearing all the candidates speak. “I’ve been sort of biased toward Eric Gonzalez because I felt like if he was Ken Thompson’s No. 2, then he needs to be my number one; but hearing Ama Dwimoh speak — her passion, her knowledge, her competence as far as what’s going on in Brooklyn — she stood out to me.”

“I like Eric Gonzalez, I think he’s a nice guy, I think he’s a professional, but I just get the feeling from what I’ve seen that people want to see something else,” Zoltan Boka said after the event.

Candidate Marc Fliedner fired up the crowd with loud and passionate responses to questions, standing firm in his belief that he was the outsider on the panel. 

“[Mark Fliedner] is on the outside of the tent, throwing bombs in,” Boka said. “So, it’s always better to hear that than to be inside the tent.”


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