June 11, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Rally-goers will march through the streets of Astoria Sunday to call for a free Palestine and the defunding of the NYPD.
Astoria Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani and several groups are organizing the rally to demand an end to “state-sanctioned violence domestically and abroad.” They are calling for the local divestment from the NYPD and for the federal government to stop funding the Israeli military.
The rally dubbed “From Steinway to Ferguson to Sheikh Jarrah: Defund State Violence Rally” will start at 1 p.m. at the South Hill of Astoria Park. Attendees will march toward Steinway Street.
Mamdani and Brooklyn State Sen. Jabari Brisport will be speaking at the rally along with Linda Sarsour and Zellie Imani. Sarsour is a well-known Palestinian-American activist and one of the founders of the Women’s March, while Imani is a Black Muslim “Black Lives Matter” organizer who has called for Black-Palestinian solidarity.
“We take to the streets to stand against the idea that violence against some creates security for others,” Mamdani said in a statement. “The calls to defund the NYPD and end military aid to Israel are rooted in the same belief that true safety comes from an investment in our communities.”
The two issues are related in a number of ways, he said. For instance, exchange programs between the U.S. and Israel bring together American police and Israeli soldiers to share policing methods and equipment.
“Our tax dollars are funding the brutalization and killing of our brothers, sisters, and family beyond the binary both here in New York City and abroad,” Mamdani said.
The U.S. gave $3.8 billion in aid to Israel last year, mostly for military assistance, according to the BBC while the city earmarks $6 billion a year for the NYPD — the biggest police budget in the country.
Mamdani told the Queens Post last month that the BLM movement has led to greater calls for Palestinian justice. He said more and more people are no longer afraid to speak out against the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians.
“As somebody who got into organizing because of the issue of Palestinian solidarity, this moment right now feels fundamentally different from any one that I have been a part of in the past,” he said ahead of a rally “to defend Palestine” in Sunnyside last month.
Several western Queens elected officials have been critical of Israel in recent times. The criticism followed the conflict last month between the Israeli government and Hamas when more than 230 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes and 12 Israelis were killed in rocket attacks launched by Hamas.
“For a long time Queens elected officials marched in lockstep with pro-Israel propaganda and that era is over,” Mamdani said last month. “It’s not because we have a new crop of legislators that have their own ideas — it’s because we have legislators who actually reflect the values of their constituencies.”
The rally this Sunday comes about three weeks after a pro-Palestinian rally was held in Sunnyside, which was attended by thousands or protesters.
The groups Adalah Justice Project, New York For Palestine Coalition, Scientists for the People, Jewish Voices for Peace-NYC, Democratic Socialists of America-NYC are organizing Sunday’s rally together with Mamdani’s office.
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It truly is sad that privileged white gentrifiers have forced such an extremist, unrepresentative elected official on this otherwise moderate, diverse area. Abolishing the police and abolish Israel are not positions that garner
widespread support anywhere. Also, a state assemblyman has no authority over the local policing budget.