BAY RIDGE – Elected officials and community activists gathered on 87th Street yesterday to ride a bus in response to the viral video of a woman shouting hateful remarks to a Muslim lady on an S53 bus traveling to Staten Island on July 11.
“We will not remain silent whenever racism or hatred delivers or shows its face in this city,” Borough President Eric Adams said. “Today it was a person who wore a hijab. Tomorrow it’s a person who wears a yarmulke or a kufi or a person who’s merely trying to move from one place to the next.”
“What happened on that video was alarming and is setting a tone of a mean-spirited atmosphere that seems to have come out of Washington D.C. and found its way… in a place like Brooklyn where the overwhelming number of people come from some form of the immigration population.”
In the video, a woman who identifies herself as “Ashley” is shouting xenophobic remarks to a woman in a hijab. The video takes place inside an MTA bus traveling from Bay Ridge to Staten Island.
“I’m getting into a fight with some Muslim chick because she has an attitude because she thinks she has rights that she doesn’t have,” she says. “Immigration at the door. Oh, is that ICE?”
Nobody on the bus stood up for the Muslim woman, which is what embarrasses Council Member Justin Brannan.
“When I first saw the video of the incident, I was ashamed, disgusted, and embarrassed not only for the woman in the video who clearly has so much hate and fear in her heart but for the people on the bus who for whatever reason didn’t want to stand up. They didn’t want to say something.”
“You gotta stand up, you gotta say something and stick up for what’s right and make people feel safe and protected.”
In response to the hateful remarks by the women and bystanders not standing up, Adams’ office is reaching out to the MTA and “our counterparts in government” to implement “bystander intervention steps.”
There are four steps to bystander intervention: Notice the event, clearly identify the problem, assume personal responsibility, and act.
“It is time to empower everyday New Yorkers on what they should do and what they could do. We don’t want New Yorkers hurt. There’s a way to intervene without getting in the way of a police officer doing his or her job,” Adams said.
“‘See Something, Say Something’ is not only an explosive device that is planted, but it is an explosive activity that can hurt someone else,” he said. “It is extremely intimidating and frightening to have someone target you merely because of the way you dress, speak, or look. We don’t want that on our transportation system.”
Chair of the NY Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Joseph Potansik, spoke about Rosa Parks and the rescue of the children in Thailand.
“It was 63 years ago that Rosa Parks was told she couldn’t be on the bus. We shouldn’t be here 63 years later about a woman who was told she didn’t belong on a bus,” he said. “You know what bothers me? We just saw a dramatic rescue in Thailand. No one cared where the other person is from.”
“We saw the world come together and say ‘These are our kids, no matter if you’re from Thailand or from any other place.’ Well, these are our people. We belong to one another. We are not going to remain silent. We’re not going to simply turn our backs or eyes.”
Dr. Debbie Almontaser, a community activist and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group Inc., spoke directly to the Muslim women population, saying “they are not alone.”
“I can’t imagine what it felt like for the Muslim woman who was on that bus and being attacked in the way that she was, and only one person was able to take out their phone,” she said. “I want to send a message to her and all of the Muslim women that ride the bus that they are not alone, that people care about their issues”
“We need to develop moral courage. We will not let hate dictate how we live our lives in a country that should be embracing every ethnic, racial, and religious background for who they are.”
Candidate for State Senate Andrew Gounardes says his campaign will be sponsoring its own “bystander intervention training” so that people in the community know how to react “in these situations and [know] how to be not just a sympathetic person, but an ally fighting alongside preventing bigotry and hate.”
“What we saw happening here this past week is a stark reminder of how much work we have to do to eradicate hate, eradicate bigotry, and eradicate discrimination in our communities,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon all of us when we see these things happening to stand up and say ‘no, never again.'”
At the end of the gathering, the S53 was awaiting them ready to take Brooklynites to Staten Island.
“A trip across the Verrazano Bridge cannot destroy the bridges that we have created in this borough,” Adams said. “What happened on that bus cannot happen in a city as diverse as Brooklyn.”