Mothers Respond to Harlem Gang Raid With Both Anger and Relief

NEW YORK—Residents expressed mixed reactions after a massive police raid Wednesday morning in West Harlem. While some hope the over one hundred arrests will help stop the frequent shootings in the neighborhood, others despise the move as brutal and off the mark.

“It’s a good thing they got most of the dealers out of here, you know, and the people that were causing the problem,” said Ann Morris, president of the Resident Association at Manhattanville Houses, where some of the arrests took place. “At least it will be safe for a little bit around here.”

“That’s very nice what they did,” said a resident of Grant Houses, who refused to provide her name, as it would be “too dangerous.” “They should do it more often,” she said.

That’s not how Sonja Braswell sees it. Her son Marquis, 15, was one of the youngest arrested. But he wasn’t involved with gangs, as far as the mother knows. He studies at Promise Academy charter school and just came back from a college trip. “He needs to be in school, not in no jail,” Braswell said.

She agrees that the fights need to be stopped. Two years ago a feud was born when an 18-year-old girl from Grant Houses was shot by two men from Manhattanville Houses. According to multiple tenants, the girl was involved with a gang herself. Although two men were sentenced for the murder, the conflict is still going on with youth from both housing projects shooting in each others’ front yards.

Brute Force

The police should make sure they go for the right people, Braswell said. “They went a little bit too overboard. That’s not necessary.”

Darlene Laster was in her underwear when the police came, telling her to open her door. Before she could comply, the officers rammed in, pointing a gun at her face. Her son Jordan, 20, was taken away. 

Laster said Jordan was probably arrested for something he did years ago. For at least two years, she said, he couldn’t possibly have participated in much gang activity due to his medical condition. He has been hospitalized six times in the last two months, Laster said. “I’m just scared. I don’t know what’s … I don’t know what’s … I don’t know …,” her voice broke down.

Katherine Fort woke up hearing someone in her apartment. When she opened her bedroom door a police gun was pointed in her face. “Put your hands up,” she heard. When she asked for an arrest warrant, she was told there is one, but it was not presented to her. Her request to go tend to her 12-year-old grandson was denied. “All of these cops in my house, he’s scared to death,” she said. Her son Isaac, 20, was arrested at his friend’s house.

Part of the Solution

Jennifer Martinez, 27, lives at Grant Houses. Like many other locals, she didn’t think such police operations solve much, as many of the arrested will soon be back on the streets anyway. “And then a lot of people are taken by mistake,” she said.

That’s why she chose teaching as a profession, despite having a degree in criminal law. “You’re putting all the city’s money into fighting crime instead of deterring it, and educating, so that the little ones don’t become like that,” she said.

Now she teaches prekindergarten in P.S. 36 right across the street from the development.

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