#HateFreeZone Comes to Brooklyn

4.jpegAfter Trump signs Muslim Bans, Border Walls, and Attacks on Sanctuary Cities, Communities Launch Hate-Free Zone in Brooklyn

January 25, 2017 – On Wednesday, January 25 at 5:00PM EST, community groups launched a community defense and “Hate-Free Zone” in Kensington, Brooklyn, as a part of a national movement to build a line of defense against the Trump administration’s policies of xenophobia, racism, and bigotry. The action appropriately coincided with the executive orders signed today and expected tomorrow which explicitly target low-income immigrant, refugee, and Muslim communities. His latest executive action set the national stage for normalization and proliferation of more Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies, which have already been pledged by his administration and would impact an even broader base of people.

Nearly 600 community members gathered for a press conference and march through Kensington, Brooklyn, home to working-class immigrant, Muslim, LGBTQ, Latino, South Asian communities, to stake out a line of defense and “form a network of interdependence”. Communities collectively refused to normalize and cede ground to the Trump administration’s latest executive orders, which ban individuals emigrating from certain Middle Eastern and North African countries and ramp up border security by building a wall at the Southwest border among other enforcement methods.

Immigrant, Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, Latino, South Asian, Filipino, Asian, Black organizations based in Brooklyn and across New York City, local elected officials, and community members, gathered in Avenue C Plaza in Kensington and spoke on the way different communities would be impacted by the policies of hate of the Trump administration, as well as their resolve to resist. Each one of the speakers pledged to building a “Hate Free Zone” in Brooklyn, and to build communities that “Love And Protect Each Other”.

DRUM board member Syeda Parvin Akter, a survivor of the last time the “Muslim Registry”, the NSEERS – National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, was in effect, refused to watch history repeat itself on her family and communities, “”My family escaped the last registration and we saw the consequences on those who did register. Will will not stand by and watch again. We will not allow another Muslim registration to happen in the first place. Our commitment in the Kensington Hate Free Zone is to make sure that is exactly what happens.

Mirna Haider, an activist with MASGD (Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity), welcomed the opportunity to organize and resist together,  “we have to remind ourselves that this is not new – this country is where it is today because of anti-Jewish, anti-black, anti-native, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies. The difference is that today it is more visible to all of us. This is a change that impacts our allies who can finally see what we have been going through and are yet to face. This is a change when fear is no longer something I alone bare but share with all of you. This is a change and an opportunity to hold each other closer, and being able resist together!”

DRUM youth member and DACA recipient Israt Audry linked the “Muslim Registry” to Trump’s proposed revocation of the DACA program that grants relief to millions of undocumented people in the US: “ So the situation for me and my family under this new administration is this: If DACA gets cancelled, my family will lose their main bread winner. If DACA is not cancelled, my family and I will have to face a Muslim registry. If DACA youth are exempt from the registry, my father and mother are not exempt, as they do not have the protections provided by DACA. And neither do millions of other undocumented, non-DACA youth across the city and country. The intent of the Trump administration to use Executive Action to ban immigrants, or to build a wall…are all a part of normalizing the blatant Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies and practices they are committed to pursuing. We cannot allow this to go unnoticed, unaccounted for, because policies such as these is the gateway to attacking the rights and lives of all marginalized communities.”

DRUM member Sohel Mahmud spoke from the perspective of an immigrant day-laborer, “Undocumented workers are on the frontlines of the attacks on immigrant communities. We need local business owners, workers, customers, and community members to commit to building Hate Free Zones in our neighborhood. These hands of mine are a part of building this neighborhood. It’s time for everyone to join them and build more bridges, relationships, love, and solidarity for all frontline communities.”

Abdul Rob Chowdhury, former president of the Church McDonald Bangladeshi Business Assocation and an owner of Spectrum Print Shop chimed in to support undocumented workers, “Small businesses know that we are successful only because of our workers, our customers, our communities. As a business owner I am proud to declare my business as a Hate Free Zone!”

Dania Rajendra, a member of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) and Kensington community member spoke as an ally to Muslim and immigrant communities: “We are ready to do our part to make Kensington a hate-free zone…We need all faith-based religious institutions to join us. Neutrality is compliance and complacency…Our decision on which side we are on will decide who gets to stay here tomorrow.”

Councilmember Brad Lander remarked on the hopefulness of the action,  “This is a dark day for our country, as xenophobia became the official policy of the White House. But it was still a beautiful night in Kensington, as we stood together behind DRUM and our Muslim neighbors, to help launch the Kensington Hate Free Zone. We pledge to love and protect our neighbors, to offer resources of comfort and support, and to put ourselves on the line to resist Trump’s policies of hatred.”

Following the press conference, groups marched from Avenue C Plaza to Church Ave and back, with banners displaying images of ants holding up hearts to represent the enormous collective power of small creatures acting in large and organized numbers. They cried chants in English, Bangla, and Spanish and that uplifted community power in the face of hatred, and a commitment to fight for and with each other: “Here To Stay, Here to Fight!” and “No Ban, No Wall, Our Cities Stand Tall!” Participants engaged passerbys in the march staying on the sidewalk and and handing out flyers which explained the intention behind the march and ways for  community members to get involved, including joining community organizations fighting for peoples’ rights and putting up “Hate-Free Zone” stickers in local businesses.

Over 125 New York City-based community organizations, faith-based groups, institutions and City Council Representatives co-sponsored and endorsed the Hate Free Zone action. As frontline communities who are looking for ways to come together to defend themselves and gain mutual support in light of increased racism, xenophobia, and bigotry ushered in by the incoming Trump administration, groups intend for this action to jumpstart similar efforts in immigrant neighborhoods across the city and nationwide to declare neighborhoods as “Hate-Free Zones”.

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