Jan. 6, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A GoFundMe has been launched for a well known Sunnyside business owner who was run down by a car during a protest last month.
Roque Rodriguez, who owns Suryaside Yoga at 49-06 Skillman Ave., had his leg broken when a car plowed through a group of demonstrators in Manhattan on Dec. 11. Rodriguez was struck from behind causing him to flip up onto the vehicle before he came crashing down onto the concrete.
Rodriguez has been unable to work since the incident due to his injuries and Grace Frutos, a local activist, set up the fundraiser to help cover his living expenses and rehabilitation bills.
The GoFundMe has raised nearly $15,000 since it was launched on Dec. 17 with more than 260 people chipping in so far. One donor contributed $1,000.
Rodriguez, 37, said he has been stunned by the outpouring of support that he has received and is proud of the community’s collective spirit.
“I am completely overwhelmed and extremely grateful to those who have donated,” Rodriguez said. “I have so much gratitude and love for Sunnyside and Woodside and it is more money than I ever expected.”
Rodriguez said that the money has provided him with much needed financial and mental relief. He said that without the donations he would have been forced to rush his rehabilitation in order to get back to work and pay for essential bills.
The yoga instructor is not expected to be medically cleared to return to work for another 8 more weeks – nearly 3 months after the incident took place.
Rodriguez said he was fortunate to survive the frightening incident which was captured on video.
“I’m grateful to be alive, alert, and have a functioning mind and spine,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez was injured while marching in support of a group of immigrants who were being detained at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey. The detainees were on their 28th day of a hunger strike protesting against conditions at the facility and their treatment by ICE agents, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez was walking on the roadway between 39th Street and Third Avenue at around 4 p.m. when a woman drove a BMW at speed through the crowd and injured a total of six people.
Dramatic video footage shows Rodriguez being struck by the car before being thrown into the air. He then hits the windshield and then the roof of the vehicle before being flung more than a dozen feet forward and then smashing onto the ground.
*Warning, graphic content* Rodriguez is wearing all black in the video.
Rodriguez said he never saw the car coming because he had his back turned to it. Another Sunnyside resident, Kayla Almanzar, was also hit by the car and suffered minor injuries.
Rodriguez was taken to Bellevue hospital and treated for his injuries which included a broken fibula in his right leg and other bumps and scratches. He is still on crutches and is having trouble sleeping due to the pain, he said.
Kathleen Casillo, a Rockaway Park resident, was arrested for allegedly driving the car through the crowd, according to police. The 52-year-old has been charged with reckless endangerment, police said.
Rodriguez said that the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis cop in May inspired him to participate in several protests in 2020 and help out the local community.
He traveled to Minneapolis days after Floyd’s death and raised funds for local food pantries there.
He said that he has also helped organize protests for residents of the Astoria Houses who were without cooking gas recently and he also cooked food for them. He has helped with the Queens Community Fridge and done other mutual aid work as well.
Rodriguez said that while Queens is a very diverse borough, more can be done to improve race relations in the community.
He said that his yoga studio will host a workshop about the history of racism next month to help people understand the realities of anti-Black racism. The session is being held in partnership with the African Diaspora Alliance which connects people of African descendants across the world.
“There is a time for a change in the nation and I will always follow my moral compass,” Rodriguez said.
Donations to the Rodriguez GoFundMe page can be made by clicking here.