Western Brooklyn

In Wake Of Shootings, Brooklyn Holds Interfaith Vigil For Stronger Police-Community Relations

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Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams stand with police and religious leaders to pray for shooting victims in Grand Army Plaza. (Elizabeth Elizalde / Sunset Park Voice)
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams stand with police and religious leaders to pray for shooting victims in Grand Army Plaza. (Elizabeth Elizalde / Sunset Park Voice)

People of different faiths held hands in prayer to honor victims of last week’s Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas shootings — as the community and religious leaders mourned with police officers in Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn Monday night.

“Brooklyn is a diverse community, where black, white, and many other people of color from different backgrounds can come together to show that we’re united,” Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio — who helped organized the vigil — told the Sunset Park Voice before prayers started.

In the wake of the Orlando massacre, where 49 people were gunned down at Pulse nightclub, a crowd of mourners gathered a month later in Brooklyn, this time chanting, “race and peace,” in hopes of mending police-community relations.

“Healing takes time,” DiMarzio said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Candles distributed to the public during Brooklyn vigil. (Elizabeth Elizalde / Sunset Park Voice)
Candles distributed to the public during Brooklyn vigil. (Elizabeth Elizalde / Sunset Park Voice)

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, a 22-year police veteran, spoke of his days in his NYPD blue uniform protecting children and families from violence in the city. “I know what it is to leave your home with the uncertainty of returning, not only as a police officer but as a young man who may be a victim of any overaggressive policing,” Adams told the crowd.

Two men fatally shot by police — Alton Sterling, 37, of Louisiana, and Philando Castile, 32, of Minnesota — sparked protests by the Black Lives Matter movement, and peaceful church demonstrations as the nation mourned together.

That same week, a Dallas gunman shot five police officers dead. It turned moments of prayer into a chaotic scene of despair. Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown identified the shooter as Micah Johnson, 25, an African-American Army veteran, who was triggered by the death of both black men to kill cops.

“The bad guys want us to be divided,” Adams said. “We need police, and police need the people of this city.”

He stated that picking sides to pursue justice is not the answer and whether a person wears a “blue uniform, blue jeans, or a blue suit,” hate should not be tolerated in America, especially in Brooklyn.

“If Brooklyn gets it right, the planet gets it right,” Adams said.

JoAnne Howell of Boerum Hill holds a candle during the vigil. (Elizabeth Elizalde / Sunset Park Voice)
JoAnne Howell of Boerum Hill holds a candle during the vigil. (Elizabeth Elizalde / Sunset Park Voice)

Boerum Hill resident JoAnne Howell said the vigil spread a blanket of hope amongst the crowd and was pleased to see everyone in peace. “With all the emotions we’ve been feeling, it’s good to feel the opposite instead of being angry,” Howell said.

20160711_202544Brooklyn residents, Pauline David-Sax, Marj Kleinman, Kylie Conner-Sax, stand united with the community. (Elizabeth Elizalde / Sunset Park Voice)

Brooklyn residents, Pauline David-Sax, Marj Kleinman, Kylie Conner-Sax, stood alongside community members and said they want to see more platforms, like Monday’s vigil, to discuss ways to end violence. “We’re looking for more ways to get involved,” Kleinman said. 

David-Sax said it’s unfortunate shootings across the nation happen often, and in spite of all the mayhem, she wished more victim’s names were read that night. “I found myself thinking of all the victims we’ve had in the past years, and I would’ve liked to have heard their names also,” she said.

Towards the end of the vigil, people harmonized, “let there be peace on Earth,” with lit candles as Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh leaders bowed their heads in solidarity.

“I think it’s important to recognize it’s not just race, but religion,” Conner-Sax said. “It all plays a factor. It makes us stronger and united.”

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