Following brutality allegations brought against the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) unanimously voted to support a community demonstration to "address Public Safety Concerns".The RIRA sponsored Public Safety Demonstration took place noontime today at Good Shepherd Plaza with a brief rally
which was soon moved inside to the Good Shepherd Community Center
where a full house crowd heard testimony about instances of Public Safety abusive behavior.
ABC Channel 7 news reported on the protest.
The demonstration began with this outdoor rally
and went inside Good Shepherd. RIRA Public Safety Committee Chair Erin Feeley - Nahem was the first speaker.
Ms. Feeley-Nahme's prepared text is below:
Good Afternoon. I'd like to thank you for coming out in support of this event. My name is Erin Feely-Nahem and as the elected chair of the Roosevelt Island Resident Association 's Public Safety Committee I will be Chairing today's rally.Ms Nahem was followed by Roosevelt Island teenagers and young adults who allege they were victims of Public Safety Department brutality.
As the Chair of the RIRA Public Safety Committee it is my responsibility to document and research reports or patterns of Public Safety Officer misconduct, when brought to the committee members' attention by residents of our community. We consider this the most important aspect of the Committee's mission.
Anyone who has lived on this Island for a couple of years is aware of the variety of resident accounts alleging arrogant and unacceptable behavior on the part of various officers under the command of the Director of the Public Safety Department, Keith Guerra. The stories we have brought to the attention of Director Guerra over the years are diversified: blatant rude disrespect and arrogance, profiling and on-going harassment, aggressive and brutal handling of residents during questioning or arrest, along with the more common place violation on a daily basis of our Constitutional Rights. These repeated occurrences, in their various forms, represent a pattern, a culture of abuse and an incompetence that has worsened over time, despite a supposedly open dialogue with Director Guerra.
Director Guerra's arrogant mentality does not allow him to be open to our feedback. He cannot hear our concerns. His leadership and policing strategy continue to be focused on the reinforcement of his "zero tolerance" "maximum enforcement" approach, which our community does not feel is warranted. By exaggerating in conversations, and in meetings, the presence of gang related activity, poorly documented with Face book photos of "posing" individuals, for us, his argument falls short on proof when our community's crime statistics are reviewed.
Yesterday an anonymous counter-campaign of character assassination was launched against Anthony Jones. A primitive flyer, similar to information disseminated by Director Guerra in the past, which encourages fear within the community under the illusion of "gang" activity and danger, was utilized to discredit Anthony Jones. This technique of blaming the victim is common place for Director Guerra; seen in his manipulation of facts in Neal Stueber's case and in many others. The flyer was an obvious attempt to divert our attention away from the brutality of Anthony's encounter with the PSO; the fact that he was beaten within inches of his life, and that his constitutional rights were violated. These are the facts clear and simple. These are the issues that we are protesting today. The "gang" smoke screen isnt going to work this time. We cannot lose sight of our demands. After all, This is Roosevelt Island, not South Central LA, or Tony Sopranoland, in NJ.
We are here today because our patience has worn thin and we are now ready to demand change. Our meetings with Director Guerra and our letters to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) requesting investigations have been in vain, failing to result in change. This lack of change confirms and perpetuates our committee's belief that resident concerns are not falling on deaf ears but instead on ears that support unconditionally the brutality of the PSD and the violation of our rights. The fact that the Director of Public Safety is fully aware of these events, and does nothing to change the pattern, supports our belief that in fact he maliciously encourages these abusive behaviors. The brutality and excessive force, documented by many residents over the years, continues, despite our protests .
We believe that only a public airing of grievances and increased community control can overcome the isolation and intimidation individuals can and do feel in pursuing accountability and a change in law officer's behavior. We believe that Assembly Member Micah Kellner's Bill A00956 is the first step in institutionalizing the type of oversight required toward this end.
For this community Anthony Jones's story has been the catalyst for change. For too long many of us have been intimidated and remained silent, fearful of retaliation or slander. Monica Vega, Anthony's mothers has given us all courage. We are no longer isolated; rather we are building a movement, across race, gender, age, and social class lines. We are no longer in supplicant or pleading mode. WE ARE IN A FIGHTING MODE! We are not pleading or requesting; We are Demanding:
Today and for our future WE DEMAND A FEDERAL INVESTIGATION INTO the VIOLATION OF OUR CONSTTITUTIONAL RIGHTS by the PSD
WE DEMAND OVERSIGHT OF THE PSD, through the passing of the Assembly Bill A00956.
WE DEMAND the removal of the PSD Leadership, Guerra, Bryan and Yee, as well as the REMOVAL of Officer Ralph Torrens, the Officer who brutalized Mr. Jones and who still patrols our children today.
We have put together a powerful and inspiring program. You will hear firsthand accounts, from our friends and neighbors, of the injustices done to them, and you will feel their courage, which has inspired us to bring this action in protest, today.
Let me say at the outset this is a peaceful and legal protest. We have organized our own security made up of community volunteers. We want everyone here to freely express your determination, your love for our youth, our sisters and brothers who have come forward to testify, and, yes, even your ANGER at the longstanding pattern of abuse and injustice we are going to expose and highlight today.... but keep it peaceful. Keep it respectful and dignified in the spirit of our witnesses. Our security -- which is wearing name tags -- will tolerate no illegalities and no disruption. If that is your purpose or intention, then please leave our gathering now.
Thank you so much for coming.
Michael Lamanosoff, the attorney for Anthony Jones and his mother Monica Vega, spoke next. Mr. Lamonsoff reported that as of yesterday, the Anthony Jones incident is being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney's office and also called for a federal investigation by the US Attorneys office.
Ms Vega then spoke about the incident involving her son Anthony
followed by Adib Mansour and Ike Nahem with their testimony of abusive behavior by Public Safety Officers.
Will have more video from the demonstration soon.