NEW YORK—The wind carried the scent of citrus wax on the street corner by the memorial site. Over a hundred people gathered in Brooklyn for a candlelight vigil to honor the two cops slayed Saturday.
Saturday afternoon, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two officers who were still in their car in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in retaliation, he had posted on Instagram, for the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers. Brinsley, who had ridden a bus up from Baltimore, Maryland, then committed suicide in the subway.
Between Myrtle and Tompkins Avenue, close to the site of the tragedy, people gathered in freezing weather, forgetting their differences for one solemn hour. The crowd spilled into the street. Parked on the block were police emergency and FDNY vehicles.
Several council members spoke and police officers in blue and black uniforms came to pay their respects.
Even protesters against police brutality, who have marched for weeks, were there. The recent protests are in outrage over the Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer for placing Eric Garner, who was black, in a chokehold. An autopsy found Garner’s death was caused by the chokehold and other health issues.
People held signs that said “NYC Muslims Stand With NYPD.”
For the first half of the vigil, council members and officers huddled together and laid flowers and messages, and lit candles on the sidewalk against the wall. American flags and bows were also laid down.
Then, a lot of people sang gospel and holiday songs. One of the songs was “This Little Light of Mine,” a classic children’s gospel song.
Afterwards, when the crowds dispersed, people offered officers condolences. The site will be guarded by police overnight to prevent desecration.
Protesters Honor Cops
Irene Siegel heard about the shooting on television and was horrified to the point that she cried. She has also participated in the protests against police brutality but she came to pay her respects. The movement in solidarity with Eric Garner is very different from the violent act committed by Brinsley, she said.
She said of the shooter, “This man seems like he was emotionally disturbed. He seems like he is ill. He’s making connections that are not there and committed an atrocity.”
Nearby residents Marie Delus and John Philpott, who are also protesters, said out of respect, they weren’t going to march for Garner and Brown until the officers were laid to rest. Both do anti-gun violence work with a group called Moms Demand Action that involves volunteering and interacting with police.
Delus was concerned about the rhetoric coming from protest and union leaders lately, and she hopes things will work out.
Philpott added that “what I’ve seen is that police have been very restrained and actually very respectful.”
“Both things can be true. You can be outraged about what happened in Staten Island and horrified at the senseless taking of these lives,” said Philpott.