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Editorial: The 108 Pct. Police Rally Was a Deeply Troubling Event

Diane Ballek speaking at the pro-police rally on Aug. 22 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Aug. 24, 2020 Editorial: Queens Post

The pro-108 police rally in Sunnyside was a low point Saturday and showed how fractured our city and nation has become.

We were deeply saddened when we left the event—by the loss of humanity that became apparent. People have forgotten that good people can have differences of opinion and view the world differently. It made us feel like the great country we have immigrated to may have taken an ugly turn.

The organizers of the pro-police rally are people we have known for years and are active members of the Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island community. Many of them volunteer at food pantries, organize toy drives for children in shelters, form boys and girls clubs, clean up graffiti, raises funds for the less fortunate and more.

You may disagree with their rally—and their beliefs–but people have lost sight of the people involved. To us, it was sad to see these good people treated with contempt, disdain and disrespect. They may be misguided, in the eyes of many, but they are not awful racists as some would like to call them.

The Queens Post has covered western Queens for more than a decade and we have gone to more civic meetings, non-profit events and public meetings than we care to remember. Therefore, we know most of these people and what they have contributed.

Take the main rally organizers— Diane Ballek, Richard O’Connor and Mark Wilensky.

Ballek organizes a toy drive every holiday season, where the hundreds of items she collects are then distributed to children at shelters. She works with restaurants to make sure that low-income families receive free meals at a number of events during the year. Her brother—who was a detective in the NYPD– was killed as a result of 9/11. She has been on the community board for years.

Meanwhile, O’Conner has been a volunteer at the St Raphael’s food pantry in Long Island City for more than 20 years. He also works with a number of civic groups to make sure the less fortunate are cared for.

Then there is Wilensky who has been an active community member for decades. He was a co-founder of the Woodside Sunnyside Boys and Girls Club which provided after-school programming for young children while it existed. He has been a long-time member of the Woodside-Sunnyside Lions Club, which raises money for a number of charities. I’ve seen him organize Easter and Halloween Parties for children whose parents are of limited means.

There were many other long-time civic leaders at the rally too—all who have contributed a great deal over the years.

Yet these people were treated with such derision. They were unable to walk along the pathway in the park. People yelled over them. 

Yes, there is an argument as to why the rally should not have taken place. For instance, many protesters make a good case that the march represented an endorsement of a policing system where black and brown people are routinely beaten and killed. They argue–with evidence to back up their claims– that police officers often abuse their power.

But it’s not always so simple– especially if you know the people.

We saw a number of police officers at the rally that we have grown to appreciate over the years. These are officers we know our elected officials respect too.

For instance, the two community affairs officers—Marcos Torres and Luis Diaz– were there. We always see them at precinct meetings and they have worked with this publication organizing running events in the area, which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities. Those events would not have occurred without them.

They are always courteous and professional. They have families—we often inquire. They are good men—and represent the diversity of the force.

We saw some of the neighborhood police officers—Xiomara Ramizez and Kenneth McLoughlin, who we have got to know.

These are just some of the cops we saw at the event Saturday.

These pro-precinct supporters were not out there to say—police brutality is ok. They weren’t there to say that they agree with the blue wall of silence. They weren’t there to say police reform or justice reform is not needed.

No, they were out there to tell Diaz, Torres, Ramizez and McLoughlin that they support them and appreciate them.

They were there to say that they won’t turn their backs on them– even though it’s politically expedient to do so.

We were there on Saturday merely as observers—as publishers.

At the end of the event, Diaz turned to us and said: “Thanks for your support, guys.”

Neither one of us had the heart to tell him that we were there to cover it as media. As a result, we felt afterward like we had let down a friend– empty.

Czarinna Andres and Christian Murray, co-publishers of the Queens Post.

email the author: [email protected]

27 Comments

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Bill from Woodside

Saturday’s Rally for the NYPD sponsored by the 108 Precinct Council was a shame.
In the spirit of the organizers to have a pleasant and peaceful gathering in hope of improving relationships fizzled quickly. To say that this was a peaceful event is only based on violence not occurring.
As the small group of police supporters entered Sabba Park on Queens Boulevard, they were encountered by a large group of BLM/ Antifa demonstrators. This group came to intimidate and instigate trouble. They circled individual rally supporters in an attempt to start confrontations. They also crowded around the speakers to bully them as well as disrupt the event with bullhorns, whistles, and chanting. Why the police allowed this to happen to a registered permit holding event and stand mostly on the outside of the park showed a lack of law and order.
Thanks goes out to the 108 Pct. Community Council, Assembly Member Cathy Nolan’s Office in their valent attempt and to Councilmember Bob Holden who was brave enough to speak at the rally.

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COCED

and could you also provide some details of the reform you’re asking for? Because otherwise it sounds like an empty slogan (that’s what the left is known for, actually – throwing these meaningless slogans that are good for rhyming and nothings else). And it’s not that “there are good cops out there”, it’s the police force in general and in its absolute majority is good out there and there are some bad cops out there.

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b

Those few bad cops out there are ruining the country’s reputation (we already look like a joke to other countries). Those few bad cops either abuse their power, cover for other cops, profile blacks and Hispanics as criminals, use unnecessary violence that result in the person’s death, and let’s say they are being investigated, well they’re still in paid leave. Hmmmm something looks wrong here. The other 99% of cops I applaud you for doing your job and risking your lives everyday, thank you. But we can do so much better and fix our system. Or do we want to keep the same system as is and keep letting the 1% of cops make a bad name for police officers? There’s a reason why the black community feels scared to be stopped by a cop even for the most minor thing possible. They’re aware they’re seen as a threat to cops and will be shot. Like wtf?

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Gman

The anarchists in the park were despicable. They had no right to block the entrance and they wanted to shout down and disrupt the rally.
They used tactics such as sirens and bullhorns to try and drown out speakers who were there to peaceably support the police, the only protection many of us have available when we are victims of crime are the police.
If they are defunded, then there is no deterrent to the anarchy these malcontents will reign down on decent people, especially senior citizens.
They want the money presently allocated to police budgets to be used for social programs and education. Have they forgotten about the billions that were funneled into the Great Society in the 60’s and 70’s. What a waste of taxpayer dollars. I know since I worked for one of the community action programs funded this way. It did little to help the underserved designated poverty areas that should have been helped. I know since I lived in one of those areas. Instead, it led to fathers being ripped out of the homes and to many teenage pregnancies where 14 year olds were giving birth and produced children who were provided little guidance since there was usually only one parent present in the home. This has continued right up to today.
Some people took advantage of social action programs and worked hard to improve their lives through education but many sit home disgruntled.
What you saw in that park are people who feel disenfranchised but really have no reason to feel this way. They should go about trying to make their lives better but want things handed to them and think they are owed something. It’s time to grow up and become productive citizens instead of malcontents with little promise.
And for those white radicals, remember this, you are the pawns black jives matter will rid their ranks of if they achieve a position of power. Remember the book animal farm where George Orwell, an avowed socialist, tells a story where no matter how well intentioned, man is greedy and there will always be the haves and the have nots. Look at all the communist and socialist nations in the world. There are people who have everything and those who struggle to survive. The USA is a great country where anyone who works hard can get ahead. Who knows what the country will be like when black lives takes over or destroys everything we have. They only try to intimidate. They don’t want to work together.
One more fact you omitted is that so called peaceful protesters are being paid to destroy our nation.

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Douglas Kennedy

Seems like you nice normal people got a taste of the Crazed left We conservatives have been dealing with the last few years.
Sorry but they aren’t going away soon. And will likely geut worse.

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Bibi

I think most of us can agree that the police system needs a reform. I understand there’s good cops out there and they’re part of your families but they should also advocate for wanting change in the system. If we can all unite to push for reform instead of dividing ourselves….
We need our cops in our communities ~yes. But we also need reform!

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Kwame Ali

How sad that you could not be truthful with the organizers.

Racism, bigotry, stereotyping are all shameful. No matter what side you are on.

Thanks to this mayor, NYC is no longer a melting pot, but a burnt caldron in which individual points of view are not tolerated. Not only not tolerated, but the target of vile outrage. Out of the school of Khmer Rouge profiling.

Pathetic.

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Anita Brady

As long as the good cops cover and protect the bad cops, I have no sympathy for them and the community flake they incur.

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Dario pena

Well when you have other protest that day defend the police and its gets violent you can’t blame them for siding with officers, they want thier community safe and this is how they show it not by rallying against those sworn in to protect you

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Amy

This is irresponsible journalism, and I have to think you’re either being willfully ignorant, trying to generate clickbait, or both.

Your argument seems to be predicated on the idea that the people protesting the rally view the men and women of the 108th as “awful racists.” This is a strawman argument. Did you talk to any of the protesters about why they were there? I sincerely doubt you found anyone who painted the organizers or the NYPD officers with such a broad brush. Perhaps you believe that the only racists are “awful racists” whose actions are blatantly unjust even to the casual observer, but this is a vast oversimplification.

You also spend a lot of time describing how the rally’s organizers and NYPD officers engage in charitable works, as if these behaviors that vouch for their goodness are incompatible with racism. But people who are civically engaged can be racist. People who give to charity can be racist. People who love their families can be racist. Instances of prosocial behaviors don’t de facto make a person non-racist.

Furthermore, even supposing the individuals involved are people of spotless character, they can still uphold racist systems. A rally in support of these men and women as individuals is missing the point—as is this editorial.

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gil

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter for the Birmingham Jail. In this letter he outlined that there are a couple types of peace. Negative peace is realized when there is an absence of violence. A positive peace is created when there is a presence of justice.
In a separate sermon, MLK said that this absence of confrontation of oppressive forces and institutions is “the type of peace that stinks in the nostrils of the almighty God.”
King replies to claims that non-violent direct action further deepens the racial divides and problems of society, “Yes, it is true that if the Negro [accepts] his place, accepts exploitation, and injustice, there will be peace. But it would be an obnoxious peace.” This is the type of negative peace this editorial seems to be calling for. Somehow, because the organizers of this rally are generally good, community minded people, that enjoy helping people less fortunate then they are, they should not be confronted when they rally in support of institutions that are actively causing harm (the NYPD).
I would love to see an actual conversation, a debate, a town hall or some sort of meeting of the minds to discuss these things. But that isn’t happening, instead we have pro- and anti- groups organizing events and locking horns in the streets. It’s really just an extension of the toxic BS that got us here to begin with. Maybe one day we will learn, until then the real absence of justice in our entire justice system makes a positive form of peace impossible. This is what the slogan “No Justice, No Peace” means at it’s root. This is why, when one group of people rally in support of the NYPD, which provides violently oppressive solutions to protect and serve the interested of America (yes, this means responding to 911 calls, but it also means over policing gentrifying neighborhoods, deploying riot police to peaceful political protests, deploying counterintelligence agents to break up social movements meant to liberate peoples), there can be no peace. This leads to “troubling events” as the headline calls this one. They ended their pro-cop rally because they felt intimidated. If only black people could just change their skin color when they felt threatened or harassed in their own neighborhoods, or in the case of Breonna Taylor, murdered in their own bedroom. In reality this is the first time many of these pro-police supporters have been confronted by this lack of peace which black and brown and poor and houseless people have to live with every.single.day.
To be clear, the American values that the police protect and serve are the same ones that hand out money to bloated corporations which don’t even pay taxes (or police salaries) while taxing the poor so they can basically pay for their own harassment and incarceration.
This is a violent and suppressed existence. People of color must learn about the police state because it affect them regularly. But pro-police folks are making fallacious arguments based on appeals to emotion and kinship with officers, they are positioning uninformed opinion as facts (this is called appeal to ignorance) and using one-time traumatic events like 9/11 to deny daily traumatic events like homeless harassment (aka war on poverty) and harassment of black and brown people and youth (aka the drug war) which are equally traumatizing but not recognized by people of means who aren’t it’s victims. It is time to discuss and dialogue all sides with actual logic and deep listening.

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Gman

Girl you are ignorant if you think it only happens to black and brown youth. Growing up many times My friends and I were harassed constantly by the police during the 1960s. Our group of friends were comprised of people from all ethnic backgrounds. We had one thing in common, we were all poor. Many of my friends died of drug overdoses or automobile accidents. You either worked hard to educate yourself or you fell into the wrong situation. I just want to inform you and educate you that many of these young people who perished due to their lot in life weren’t brown or black. Some had vowels at the end of their names or Mc in front. People struggled to keep their heads above water back then but since the great society provided a means to improve oneself, black and. brown youth have no one to blame for their lot in life except themselves for not taking advantage of the jobs and training programs that Community Corporations such as Qualicap offered. Many of my black and brown friends who took advantage of these programs, got good jobs, moved out of Queensbridge and Astoria houses and bought homes, co-ops and condos. They used public housing as a steppingstone. They didn’t use the stairways and elevators as urinals. They respected where they lived. I don’t know if that’s true today. The city of New York is the biggest proponent of segregation. Just look at public housing today. Remember your life is what you make it even though there are bumps in the road. Hopefully these disgruntled protesters will realize this. They seem to think that if they continue to riot and loot, they will get something for nothing as long as they stop. Maybe they should look at Dr. Ben Carson as a role model since he grew up in a single parent home in the projects of Detroit.

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Henry

Having lived in the 108th Pct for many years, I have to say that my encounter with 108th Pct especially following a rape and robbery in my home was as bad as the event itself. As a gay man, I was accused of being the perpetrator of the crime not a victim of a criminal activity. I was not given any respect as a human being. I was treated with nothing but disrespect. The officers responding initially refused to file a report. There was never any follow up by the police once a report at my insistence, was filed. It took years of therapy to recover from this incident. While, this happened in the early 80’s perhaps things have changed. However, my casual recent encounters with members of the 108 when I visited Sunnyside, tells me it is just more of the same. No way would I give support to what the 108th does in the community. The police may be human beings with families but so am I. I have never been disrespectful of the police and I have no evidence of the police seeing me as a human being with a family.

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Cheryl

As a black person in America who has experienced racism and bias and had to deal with racist officers. You have no clue. Clearly, this editorial is biased. It doesn’t matter if they are people who appear to be outwardly good by serving food pantries. If they go to church and appear to be God fearing. The point you have missed that it is quite often where black and brown people have been severely mistreated by law enforcement in this country. While there are good officers that exist sadly the bad racist apples outweigh the good ones. If you wear a badge then you need to show “humanity” to all citizens of the community of all colors. There is no humanity when you feel someone is inferior to you due to the color of your skin. There is no humanity when you are gunned down like an animal when you are unarmed. There is no humanity when these “good” officers are part of white supremacists groups. Jesus said to love one another so when these “good” officers take a life recklessly and heinously, how does that show humanity? Doesn’t matter if you think you “know” someone. You don’t know what is in their hearts truly. And the fear that my people rightfully fear when dealing with the police. You have no idea. No one should have to fear for their lives when dealing with the police. You have no clue as to what that feels like. So this article is an attempt to for pro-police sympathy.

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Gman

The only people who should fear the police are people who are breaking the law. If you are someone who has done nothing wrong you should have no fear. You treat the police officer respectfully and they will usually treat you with respect.
Twice in my fifties I was stopped by cops and each was a different experience. One was totally respectful and the other was contentious.
Luckily for me, I had letters with me explaining my situation. The two black officers treated me with the utmost respect. The two white officers, one male and one female treated me as though I had committed a crime. In both cases I was just doing my job. As a young person living in a designated poverty area, I was stopped just about once a week. The cops tore my car apart looking for drugs but always found nothing. They had little respect for the young people in my neighborhood. This all took place in the 108th precinct.

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Leo

The opinion expressed here is well balanced in words, both for the police, and an understanding of the situation that the protestors are reacting to. However, the crux of the matter is that *any* pro-police march will be looked at with derision. This is not the time for those who are in an organization that is viewed as corrupt to be professing that they are not corrupt, even if there are multitudes of officers who are not racist, and do not go overboard, or are very fine people. The problem is, nobody sees them as individuals. Everyone who is on the receiving end of a policing system that has hurt black and brown people for generations will automatically rise up against any kind of show of solidarity from the police organizations, because what is publicly seen is the brutality, is the lack of caring, is the quiet repression, that colors all interactions, with some notable exceptions, rather than the other way around which would be to have most interactions be civil, without undue ordering about, and helpfulness. We call the police and automatically they go to the white guy we’re calling about to hear his side of the story first. Why? There is no overt racism there, but we know that they go to the white guy to hear his side because that is the instinct that they have been imbued with. And that right there is the problem. To disbelieve the black and brown and asian communities automatically and show body language and posturing that makes our communities rise up in anger at any show of police solidarity. If they want pity in this time, the majority of those being policed, are not ready to give it. They have had the power all this time, and the policing situation has gotten worse and worse, not better. If they wanted a community turnout in favor of the police, they should have gotten community members of the Black and Latinx and Asian and other minority groups to converse with them. They should have held a community outreach session, or multiple sessions, in which they *listen* to the community and though they hear anger, they should understand that responding with defensiveness will only drive the wedge in harder. When a dog has been beaten every day, by multiple masters, he is likely to growl and bite. Same for any animal. But once they are shown compassion, and there is no defensive response to the angry output, they become trusting. So it is for human beings as well. The police simply have not learned this lesson as an organization and that is a pity.

This is just one opinion, of course. I will be happy to read others’ but will not engage in online politics past expressing myself as I have here. I look forward to a day of better understanding among everyone. Thank you.

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ThisArticleWasLame

Just listing some good things that some cops do in their free time doesn’t erase all the abuse of power, murder and racism that the NYPD is part of. Do these cops stand up when a fellow cop abuses their power? Or do they fall in line and cover it up? What solutions did they give at this rally for the power the NYPD abuses? They’re playing the victims because people are saying mean things to to them and their feelings are hurt. Someone at the rally said the BLM protesters were the vocal minority, is he trying to downplay everything that the cops have done to people? Everything about this rally was pathetic. Stop trying to play middle of the road and support equal treatment of black lives.

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b

“But it’s not always so simple– especially if you know the people.”

might be worth spending some time getting to know the counter-protest organizers in the neighborhood so you can publish endearing profiles of them as well.

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Gman

Very few of the protesters if any at all actually live within the boundaries of the 108th Precint. In the words of Al Sharpton they were interlopers.

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Gman

None of those counter protesters actually live in this neighborhood. How do you get to know someone when They live in different boroughs and even different cities. these are paid protesters paid by the bogus 501(c)(3) foundations set up by George Soros and his cohorts. Their only intention is to destroy life as we know it in this country. We are the greatest country on the face of the earth. Some of these malcontents should try living someplace else and find out what it’s like. Racism works both ways. It seems people of color only See Racism from white people towards them but it also works in reverse. There are many black people in Positions of power who make judgments every day and some of those are based on race. I’ve been a victim of racism when it came time for a promotion. My bosses let race play a part in who got promoted and most times the squeaky wheel got the job even though it was undeserved. I worked with many people of color who were extremely competent and hard-working but didn’t use race as a way to Advance their careers and sometimes they suffered since other incompetent people of color were promoted who shouldn’t have been. Yes I’ve actually seen racism where one rowdy black person was promoted over a black person who was deserving of a promotion and was denied. As Dr. Harry Edwards said when he was hired by Major league baseball to help integrate their front offices he got many applications but was called all kinds of mean names because he said there were two requirements. One was you had to be black, the second was you have to be Competent. That’s the problem we have today someone should be judged by their talent and not simply by the the color of their skin.
One aside, I pray every day for the soul of a wonderful black woman named Sharon Johnson. She was an experienced manager who Shared her knowledge Of our position and took me under her wing to ensure that I a white man didn’t make stupid mistakes in how I went about doing my job. A better human being you will never find. She treated everyone with respect, kindness, good advice and support no matter what position you held but she did so in a way that told you she knew what she was doing and if you screwed up she would be on your case. If Everyone thought like her, There would be no reason for any marches.

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b

“None of those counter protesters actually live in this neighborhood.”

Unless you asked everyone at the march, there’s no way you can know that. Just because you wish for something to be true doesn’t make it so.

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Stay Loose

Oh, Puh-leeze. As media you should know what the issues were. If you consider yourselves to be conscientious journalists, why didn’t you interview and profile the protesters? We are your neighbors as well. We are active in politics and local government as well. We support and fundraise for the community the same as your pro-police organizers. Let’s call out racism for what it is. Your editorial is a travesty, uninformed by facts and dishonest.

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LongIslandCityResident

In other words, Mr. Diaz is not aware that representatives of the media by definition do not attend protest events to show support or antipathy but to cover the activity as objective as possible? Or, did the journalists not identify themselves as such before starting their coverage? Neither possibility indicates anything positive.

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