Bay Ridge

VIDEO: Bay Ridge residents call for ‘solidarity, not borders’ at MLK Jr. Day march

January 22, 2019 By Liliana Bernal Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Demonstrators marched down Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge to stand for peace on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Eagle photos by Paul Frangipane
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Dozens of people braved the coldest day of the year on Monday to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by marching against racism through the streets of Bay Ridge.

The multiracial and interfaith group that included residents, community organizers and elected officials paraded from the Arab American Association building on 71st Street and 5th Avenue to Union Church on 80th Street and Ridge Boulevard.

Dozens of marchers braved the coldest day of the year to spread their message.
Dozens of marchers braved the coldest day of the year to spread their message.

Before marching, Rama Issa-Ibrahim, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, warmed up the crowd by recalling King’s words in a visit to the Berlin Wall a year before his assassination.

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“For here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact,” Issa-Ibrahim read.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Arab American Association of New York on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Arab American Association of New York on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge.

“We believe that borders that divide countries and separate families are inherently divisive and immoral,” said Alex Pellitteri of Bay Ridge for Social Justice, one of the groups that has organized the march since 2017. “We are fighting to abolish all borders and make sure that no families are separated and people can move freely within the world.”

Among the Palestinian flags and signs demanding social justice or the termination of white supremacy, Stephen Pickering pulled his 4- and 8-year-old sons behind him in a wagon while chanting for the end of walls, bans and xenophobia.

Members of the march carry a banner and Palestinian flags down Fifth Avenue.
Members of the march carry a banner and Palestinian flags down Fifth Avenue.

“It’s important to have the whole family involved in this … If we’re going to make a change, it can’t just be with a 42-year-old man — it has to be with the next generation,” Pickering said.

President Trump’s established anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies have led to increased activism in Bay Ridge due to the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity.

Young activists take part in the march.
Young activists take part in the march.

“I hate racism, I hate aggression, violence … I hate everything which is bad against humanity,” said Fatmacohla Feknoes, the first person to show up for the march.

Feknoes, 63, fled violence in her native Algeria in 1994 and came to the U.S with a green card she won with the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, also known as the green card lottery.

Activists march with Palestinian flags.
Activists march with Palestinian flags.

After the frigid march, hot coffee, food and speeches from local advocates and community organizers awaited the demonstrators at Union Church.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, representing the 43rd District that includes Bay Ridge, said he was attending the march not as an elected official, but as a resident that cares about King’s legacy.

“Look, these are your neighbors that are marching, these are people who live next door to you and shop with you, and these people feel very, very strongly, as I do, about keeping his [King’s] dream alive,” Brannan said. “It’s a very scary time for a lot of people in this country and the city, and it’s about flying our flag and showing our colors that everyone is welcome here. And it’s up to us to keep that flame alive.”

Holding Palestinian flags, demonstrators chanted, “From Palestine to Mexico, all these walls have got to go.”
Holding Palestinian flags, demonstrators chanted, “From Palestine to Mexico, all these walls have got to go.”

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