Aug. 17, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Hundreds of people are expected to come to Sunnyside on Saturday for a march to show their support for the officers of the NYPD 108th precinct, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City.
The march will kick off at 39th Street and Greenpoint Avenue at 11 a.m. and go to Sabba Park at 49-12 Queens Blvd., where organizers will speak to the crowd.
The event is being organized by the 108th Police Community Council, a resident group that works with the precinct to reduce crime in the area. The group wants to show solidarity with the precinct following a wave of protests against cops and the rise of the defund the police movement.
Diane Ballek, who is the president of the precinct council and is spearheading the march, said the group wants to show its support for officers during a difficult period.
She said that the reputation of cops has taken a battering this year after the killing of George Floyd– an African-American man killed at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer–and other incidents of police brutality.
Ballek, however, says that the vast majority of cops are honorable people who risk their lives every time they go to work– and are in need of support.
“Not all cops are bad…there are good cops and there are bad cops,” she said. “Now all the good cops are suffering.”
Ballek, who comes from a family of police, said she fears for the safety of police officers because there has been an uptick in murders and shootings while funding for the NYPD has been pared back.
The number of murders and shootings is up significantly across the city this year–however, crime overall for the year is down by about 3 percent, according to police data.
“I have two nephews currently serving in the NYPD and I worry sick about them because–the way things are going now–people are attacking the police,” she said.
The march, Balllek said, is also her way to honor her late brother Kevin Czartoryski who was an NYPD detective who died from a 9/11 related illness.
Ballek said that cops like her brother gave the ultimate sacrifice while trying to keep the public safe. She wants police protesters to remember that many cops have died in the line of duty.
The event this Saturday she says will be very low-key.
“It will be a peaceful march and anyone who wishes to take part is more than welcome to do so,” Ballek said.
The organizers are expecting a big turnout and around 200 people have already committed to attend. Ballek has not reached out to any local politicians but said they are welcome to take part.
The timing of the march in support of the precinct comes in the wake of hundreds of protests–several taking place within the confines of the 108 Police Precinct–calling for the NYPD to end police brutality particularly against people of color.
The Queens Post reached out last week to several local officials – whose district overlaps with the 108th precinct area– to ask whether they would be in attendance and supported the march.
Council Member Bob Holden, who has resisted calls to defund the police, said he supports the 108th precinct but did not say whether he would be attending.
“I support the NYPD and the dedicated men and women of the 108th Precinct under the exceptional leadership of Deputy Inspector Gibbs,” Holden said in a statement Friday.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who voted against the city budget arguing it didn’t cut the NYPD budget enough, has yet to respond as to whether he supports the march or would attend.
Van Bramer, in recent times, has been a big critic of the NYPD, pointing to incidents of police brutality against minorities. However, he has been supportive of the precinct in the past. In his 2015 personal report card, he viewed the city council funding of an additional 1,300 cops as a “victory” and celebrated the arrival of new recruits at the 108th precinct.
Assembly Member Cathy Nolan, in a Facebook post Friday, said she supports the precinct and will attend the march if it doesn’t conflict with a family event she has to attend.
“This march will underscore the community’s appreciation for the work of police officers,” she wrote.
Nolan, however, noted that she has also attended vigils and marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement– and is an advocate for racial equality.
“Throughout my career, I voted for reforms in our criminal justice system and will continue to advocate for racial equity and equal justice for all,” she wrote.
State Sen Mike Gianaris, who passed legislation that stopped the NYPD from shielding police misconduct records and has backed other NYPD reforms, has yet to comment as to whether he would attend.
Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, whose district also includes sections of the 108 Precinct, has yet to comment.
Barnwell, however, issued a statement following the killing of George Floyd in which he said people can support the police while condemn police brutality.