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NYPD 108th Precinct Supporters March in Sunnyside Saturday, Protesters Confront Them

Approximately 100 protesters who were opposed to the pro-police rally in Sunnyside/Woodside Aug 22 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Aug. 22, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

More than 150 supporters of the NYPD 108 Precinct marched up Greenpoint Avenue into Sabba Park in Woodside Saturday as part of a pro-police rally.

The supporters– who were carrying signs that read “back the blue” and “who are you going to call? 911”– were greeted by about 100 protesters who were waiting for them at the 49-12 Queens Blvd. park. The park was where the pro-precinct rally ended and speeches took place.

The protesters – with signs that said: “defund the NYPD” and “white silence = violence” sat with raised fists along the main pathway inside Sabba Park.

The pro-108 Precinct supporters initially tried to use the pathway to get to the war monument where several speakers were lined up to speak. They were essentially blocked off and a brief but tense standoff ensued.

The pro-police supporters– accompanied by cops– then walked on the grass outskirts of the park to get to the monument.

Diane Ballek, who is the president of the 108th Pct. Community Council and the organizer, kicked off the speeches by thanking the police officers for protecting the people in the community.

“They go to work every day and give up their lives for strangers, complete strangers,” Ballek said.

“Behind that uniform is somebody’s brother, sister, mother, father, niece, nephew,” she said, while protesters held up signs and began to surround the pro-police supporters.

She also told the crowd that her late brother Kevin Czartoryski died from a 9/11 related illness which he caught while on the job and that her two nephews are NYPD cops.

Meanwhile, Phil Alvarez, whose brother was in the force and started his career in the 108th precinct, asked the crowd to view cops as people.

“My wish today is that you see some of these officers in blue…for who they are,” Alvarez said, as the protesters began hemming in the police supporters.

“They have families. They just want to make sure the laws are followed and that no one gets hurt– and that when someone gets in a situation … there is someone there for them.”

When Alvarez stopped speaking, Council Member Bob Holden took the microphone and was soon interrupted by a loud bullhorn siren set off by a protester.

“That’s what they try to do, stifle everyone, stifle the silent majority,” Holden said to loud cheers and applause from the cop supporters.

“They’re getting the kind of New York that they deserve and they’re going to be the first to squawk when the cops don’t arrive in time because they want to defund them,” Holden said.

Holden, who voted down the recent budget cuts to the NYPD, said the group’s message would be heard despite the protesters.

“They’re trying to silence us, we won’t be silenced,” he said to more cheers.

Holden, who was the only elected official to turn up at the march, said the community didn’t want to be under siege like other cities.

“The silent majority is stepping up now,” he said.

A protester then interfered with a “thin blue line” flag which was being held up behind Holden while another protester blasted out speeches by famous racial justice leaders over a bullhorn.

“This is what they try to do, we’re not falling for it guys. Let’s keep going and let’s get the city back on track,” he concluded.

Joseph Conley, the former Chairman of Community Board 2, then told the crowd that the 108th precinct had historically one of the lowest crime rates in the city because the community worked closely with the police.

He said that it was “lunacy and insane” to defund the police department and that the move would only send the city back to the high crime rates of the 70s and 80s.

“This is nonsense…we need to support the police department, god bless the men in blue,” Conley said as protesters with anti-cop signs like “blue lives don’t exist,” and “f**k the police” filled the space behind him.

Ballek then ended the speeches which had lasted around 10 minutes. She told the Queens Post that the 108 Precinct supporters – some of whom were elderly– felt intimidated so she cut the event short.

108 Pct. supporters, Aug 22 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

The Rally

The pro-108 Precinct rally started at 39th Street and Greenpoint Avenue shortly after 11 a.m.

The participants said the NYPD needed their support following a wave of protests against cops and the rise of the defund the police movement.

The pro-police marchers walked behind two men who carried a “Thin Blue Line” American flag – which represents law enforcement – and carried various signs in support of the precinct and the NYPD.

They carried signs that read “who are you going to call? 911,” “don’t like police? don’t call them” and “enough with the hate, respect goes both ways.”

The pro-police marchers were a mixture of of older people, boy scouts and some teenagers.

Pro Police rally Aug 22, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

The marchers were flanked by more than a dozen police officers on foot and several NYPD vehicles escorted the participants from the front and at the rear.

Some bystanders cheered and clapped the marchers along their route.

Meanwhile, the protesters had begun assembling at John Vincent Daniels Jr. Square in Woodside at 10 a.m. and consisted of a diverse group of individuals mainly aged in their 20s and early 30s.

Many of the protesters told the Queens Post that they turned out to express their outrage at the NYPD, saying that the police are killing and abusing people of color.

They said that the police abuse their power and minorities are the victims. They said they were upset by the rally– arguing that the participants were enabling the racist oppression to continue.

The protesters were highly organized and leaders wore handheld transceivers with earpieces. Many had traveled from various boroughs to attend the protest.

They also said that many of the pro-cop marchers had misunderstood the goals of the “defund the police” movement. They called for more money to be spent on education– as opposed to on cops–and carried signs calling for criminal justice reform.

Several of their leaders demanded that the NYPD be abolished completely.

Counter-protester signs (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

The Protesters

Grace Frutos, a Sunnyside resident who organized the protest, spoke to the crowd at Sabba Park after the pro-police rally ended.

She said that the black and brown kids she teaches as a speech therapist are constantly bullied because of their skin color– and that we lived in a racist system.

She said that the protesters are part of a youth-led revolution “who can see a new world.”

“We will continue to fight for prison reform because even if we get rid of police the system that we have in place for someone who has made a mistake is not working.”

“We need to give them transformative and restorative justice and rehabilitate them so that they can come back into the world and we won’t be scared,” she said. These systems, she added, often involve the victim and the offender meeting and reconciling with one another.

After the event, Frutos told the Queens Post that the protesters sat in the pathway space at Sabba Park in silence to convey their discipline.

She said that they did not intend to block the marchers from getting to the monument. Their goal, she said, was to force the marchers to read their signs as they walked through.

Frutos said that her group did not block the pro-police marchers from entering the park or from conducting their rally. She said that they had just taken up space in the park beforehand.

“We didn’t get in between them, we were already occupying the park so they got in our space,” she told the Queens Post.

Luis Galilei, an organizer who traveled from Harlem, also spoke to the crowd for around 10 minutes after the pro-police rally ended. He took issue with the large number of police who had remained at the park after the pro-police rally had left.

He was also upset that the cops were engaging and speaking to the pro-police supporters earlier.

“Why are you showing love to the people that support an oppressive system?” he asked.

“Let me remind every police officer here and every person here that we are here to abolish the NYPD,” he said to cheers and claps.

Several other speakers spoke out against racism, capitalism and called for reparations for black people. The group then marched back toward their starting point at John Vincent Daniels Jr. Square.

Supporters are stopped at Sabba Park (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

(Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Local residents supporting the 108th Precinct (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Pro-police rally Aug 22 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Defund the police, BLM signs (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

A sign reading “enough with the hate, respect goes both ways” at the pro-Police rally Aug 22, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

“Who are you going to call? 911” (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Counter-protesters were highly organized and wore handheld transceivers with earpieces (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

(Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Signs at John Vincent Daniels Jr. Square in Woodside (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

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