“This is what democracy looks like” was one of many chants heard in Bay Ridge on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as hundreds of people marched through the neighborhood in solidarity against racism, poverty and militarism.
The third annual march was held on Monday, January 15, and co-hosted by the Bay Ridge for Social Justice, an organization comprised of concerned residents of Southern Brooklyn who want to make a difference in the fight against discrimination, injustice, and racism, with Fight Back Bay Ridge, Arab American Association of New York, South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance and the Campaign to Take on Hate.
The group gathered at the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, 414 80th Street, was ready to stand up against an array of injustices.
“I think it’s a great way to bring the community together and to show that we are opposed to Trump’s policies on immigration and that we support our immigrants in our community,” said Bay Ridge resident Janet Malloy. “I think this big turnout shows how much we care and how upset we are with the way things are going in our country.”
Lisa Darling, a Carroll Gardens resident, held a sign that quoted King that read, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“I’m marching today because of this (sign)” she said. “We matter to each other and if we sit by, we aren’t doing what we can. No matter what our race or religion, we all have this connection that we want to share together in honor of each other. That’s a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of.”
Councilmember Justin Brannan was in attendance for the first time as an elected official.
“It’s great to see it get bigger every year,” he said. “It means more people are getting off the sidelines and getting involved. Martin Luther King gave us some plans we have to fight every day to see through. It’s up to us to carry that torch whether it’s through activism or political organizing or just making your voice heard. It’s all important right now so seeing people coming out in these numbers is very inspiring. Thankfully, change doesn’t come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up.”
Bay Ridge political activist Linda Sarsour addressed the marchers before they went outside.
“Often times, people say who they would have been 50 years ago during the civil rights movement,” she said. “I ask my neighbors in Bay Ridge, who are you today in 2018? Sisters and brothers, we have neighbors, undocumented people who are living in fear of deportation; 800,000 young people today who are DACA recipients literally are in fear of what comes when their DACA status expires. We have Muslims in this very community who are separated from their families by a Muslim ban because someone deems that one family is worthy and another is not. We have black and brown communities in our country who are living in poverty who have to experience discrimination every single day.”
During the march, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a group that supports people and communities working for social justice, performed as hundreds chanted sentences such as “No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”
The event also had Sunset Park representation. “I want to show some solidarity on Martin Luther King Day, especially with all this hatred and decomposition that is going on in this country,” Javier Nieves explained. “It’s a day not only to commemorate his legacy but to do something, go out and protest and raise your voice. This is just one way calling attention to injustice, discrimination, the outright racist presidency.”
“I’ve been politically involved my whole life, but I’ve never known a time in my 50-plus years when I felt it was as critical for Americans to protest the deeds of their government,” added marcher Matthew Goodman. “Day after day, there’s a new bit of injustice or craziness coming from the White House. I think there was a group of people who thought give [Trump] a chance; maybe being in office will make him more presidential. And I think it’s becoming clear to people that Trump isn’t being changed by the Oval Office, he’s changing it. Given the kind of things he said and did just this week, it’s incredibly important for Americans to stand up.”
The march ended at Beit El-Maqdis Islamic Center, 6206 Sixth Avenue, with a reception and speeches.