By LOUIS FLORES
Several dozen Queens residents and police reform activists gathered at Corona Plaza in Queens Wednesday night to express solidarity with efforts to fight corruption and homicides committed by police forces from Mexico to the United States.
"Thousands in Mexico and throughout the United States are speaking out against police violence. In both Ayotzinapa, where 43 students were kidnapped by the police, and here in the United States, where the targeting and killing of Blacks and Latinos continues, families have been denied justice as police commit these crimes with impunity," the vigil's announcing statement indicated. The statement was issued by a local committee of the vigil's organiser, the International Socialist Organization. The statement continued, "This vigil is to honor the lives lost to state violence here and abroad and to demand justice. "
The vigil drew participants, who lived in neighborhoods ranging from Corona to Jackson Heights, some of the nearby Hispanic neighborhoods of Queens. Held principally to denounce the police-involved kidnapping, disappearance, and presumed murder of 43 college students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico, the vigil also expressed support to efforts to fight police corruption and homicide in Ferguson, Missouri, and here, in New York. The vigil participants were intermittently joined by passers-by, including people exiting the nearby 7 subway line station at 103rd Street and Corona Plaza.
Undeterred by the wet snow, freezing rain, and by the high winds, the vigil participants gathered in a circle around the Mexican flag and some protest signs. Some vigil participants held electronically-lit candles, which withstood the inclement weather.
Vigil participants denounced Enrique Peña Nieto, president of Mexico, under whose administration kidnappings reportedly tied to Mexican drug cartels, have soared. At times, the vigil participants chanted in Spanish, "Peña Nieto, escucha, escucha. Estamos en la lucha," which translates in English to, "Peña Nieto, listen, listen. We are in the struggle," invoking the growing grassroots effort for accountability for political and police corruption and misconduct.
Police reform activists have had an uneven record of exacting reform in the wake of mounting incidents of police corruption and misconduct.
In Mexico, the police-involved kidnapping and presumed murder of the 43 college students led to the resignation of the governor of the Mexican state, where the crimes were believed to have been committed, and conflicted police have even been forced to arrest the mayor of the town, where the college was located. The mayor's wife has also been arrested, according to a report published by The New York Times. There have even been calls for the resignation of Mexican President Peña Nieto.
However, in New York, activists and voters haven't been able to claim any change in political leadership that oversees the corrupt police department. All activists seem to be able to do is protest. Police reform activists have protested the appointment of William Bratton as police commissioner and have been calling for Commissioner Bratton's resignation since a police-involved homicide of an unarmed man last summer. In spite of the racial and brutal policing tactics used by the New York Police Department, or NYPD, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York) has steadfastly supported the NYPD's "Broken Windows" theory of policing that deliberately targets low-income and minority communities. Refusal to accept any accountability for the racial- and poverty-profiling by the NYPD extends to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Harlem), who claimed that a recent Broken Windows-related homicide by police had nothing to do with race.
Just as an entire social movement has arisen across the United States from a recent spree of police-involved homicides of unarmed men, such as of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on Staten Island, Mexico has been similarly rocked by protests and demands for reform over the disappearance of the 43 college students from Ayotzinapa.
Throughout the vigil, as well as afterwards, during a march down Roosevelt Ave., from 103rd Street to 90th Street, the vigil participants chanted other messages of reform, sometimes expressing solidarity with other, related causes.
"Ayotzinapa vive, vive. La lucha sigue, sigue," the participants chanted, which translates into, "Ayotzinapa lives, lives. The struggle continues, continues." Vigil participants alternated the names of Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner in place of Ayotzinapa, to express a universality in the social movement for police reform.
Other times, the vigil participants chanted, "La migra, la policía : la misma porquería," translating into, "Immigration, police : the same excrement," expressing parallel disgust with the lack of immigration and police reforms.
The vigil in Corona, Queens, took place against a backdrop of much larger demonstrations that have taken place daily across New York City after a Staten Island grand jury voted not to file criminal charges against NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo over the chokehold homicide of Mr. Garner. The Staten Island grand jury decision followed a St. Louis County grand jury decision in Missouri not to file criminal charges against Ferguson Police Department officer Darren Wilson in the shooting homicide of Mr. Brown. Public outrage have inspired protests across the United States, and the Corona vigil Wednesday night acted to make a united, international call for law enforcement and judicial system reform, given Mexico's problem with police corruption.