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.