Two months after joining Queens Borough President Donovan Richards on the steps of Queens Borough Hall to condemn hate in New York City, another rally was held this past Sunday morning addressing the recent rise in anti-Asian and anti-Semitic attacks. These acts are rooted in racist and xenophobic sentiments where the aggressors generally have little concern for age or gender and aim to instill terror.
The rally, with the participation of City Council Member Robert Holden, was hosted by City Council Candidate for District 29 Avi Cyperstein, District Leader Ethan Felder, and me. The program noted how New York City has stalled in its recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic’s limitations. It pinpointed the persistence of uncontrollable lawlessness in the City where random attacks against minorities have become part of the norm, forcing everyday folks to be fearful of falling victim to erratic harm.
Under the banner for Queens Coalition for Solidarity, a brainchild of Felder and Mazeda Uddin, speakers took the floor to shed light on recent attacks and called for a plan of action to end unprovoked hatred against race and ethnic backgrounds.
Holden said, “The slogans like ‘Stop The Hate’ are great, but they have to be backed up, especially with regard to mental health. This hits home; my wife was born in Japan and is an Asian American. I witnessed the hate against her when someone called her an Asian slur. It’s been constant for my over 47 years of marriage; if anyone says the hate is recent, it’s really just being publicized more, and we are still not dealing with it. It is paramount that we take care of the mental health issues.” Holden called for making the state’s Kendra’s Law permanent, where court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment is given to certain people with mental illness who, in view of their treatment history and present circumstances, are unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision. The law put in place after Kendra Webdale died in January 1999 after being pushed in front of a Glendale subway car by a mentally unstable person.
“Hate against one community is an attack against all communities,” said Cyperstein as he called for an end to the spread of the virus of hate. “None of us should ever have to fear for our safety, especially in our own neighborhood. There is no excuse for violence against a Jew, just for being a Jew, or against an Asian for being an Asian, or against a Black person, just for being a Black person, or a person just for being a person.”
Felder took on the fear on a communal level. “So many in our community are living in a state of fear walking on our streets by themselves without a family member to look over them, and that is just not a tolerable situation to be in. It is not something we can accept; it’s not who we are in the most diverse borough in the world. Our diversity here in Queens is our strength.”
When any of us gets attacked, it is an attack on each one of us. Often, a bout of violence is not a target on an individual; rather, it is statement against an ethnicity or religion. But the need to be vigilant is important, as what today is a push or a shove, or maybe a slap or even glob of spit in the face, can tomorrow be much worse.
The rally also saw unity amongst some City Council District 29 candidates – Michael Conigliaro, Avi Cyperstein, Edwin Wong, and Donghui Zang – who all stood together and spoke out. Also present was an aide from Assembly Member David Weprin’s office, Queens judicial candidate Michael Goldman, and George Onuorah, a City Council District 21 candidate
At a Main Street and Jewel Avenue bus stop this past week, there was a man clad in what appeared to be construction clothing holding signage stating, “Jews pay police to murder children.” The man eventually boarded a bus, but tomorrow he can be back with a knife or gun. As a community, we must always be cautious and call on law enforcement if we see something unusual.
By Shabsie Saphirstein