Bushwick residents are fed up with violence in their community and took to the streets to demonstrate against crime.
Block association captains, community board members, clergy leaders, local business people and two Girl Scout troops marched with Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council members down the heart of Wyckoff Avenue from Myrtle to Flushing avenues last Thursday to protest violent crime. A number of victims of spousal abuse and violence joined the march, which gave the spirited event some added poignancy.
“We set out to send a message and we did that today,” said Maritza Davilla, president of the Northern Bushwick Residents Association and a community organizer with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council who organized the demonstration. “I am very proud of this community.”
Davilla has been organizing events in Bushwick for the past 13 years, but this was her first anti-violence demonstration she has held in the neighborhood.
Although violent crime has decreased significantly in the precinct over the past decade, with a 35 percent decrease in rape, a 38 percent decrease in robbery, and 29 percent decrease in felony assault, the number of homicides of youth in the last year has shocked Davilla. There were 13 homicides in 2007 and already this year there have been four homicides recorded in the precinct.
“A lot of people are losing their lives over nonsense,” Davilla said during the 83rd Precinct's May Clergy Council meeting. “Usually rallies happen after the fact and we want to try to get information out about youth services and domestic violence to members of the community before an incident.”
The demonstrators shouted, “Stop the violence! Stop the crime! March together for peace of mind!” as they walked down Wyckoff Avenue towards the Jefferson L train stop, while crime prevention officers from the 83rd Precinct handed out Robbery Prevention flyers to local small businesses on the street.
“We gave out a list of useful hints on how to protect your business and keep your business safe,” Officer Kendall Stewart said. “Most criminals are lazy and are looking for easy targets.”
In attendance at the demonstration was also local Assemblymember Vito Lopez.
“Bushwick is coming back,” Lopez said. “We have to fight hard to make sure Bushwick comes back for the people here right now. I pledge I will do everything in my power to work with Maritza and you to make this community safer.”
Steve Levin, Lopez’s chief of staff and a candidate for City Council in Williamsburg, echoed Lopez’s sentiments.
“We are here today saying that we are united,” Levin said. “We know what we have to do and the challenge is there before us. I want to thank everyone here for this show of strength and community.”
The event was perhaps sweetest for residents who have lived in Bushwick for decades, raising their children and grandchildren in the community. Community Board 4 members Martha Brown, Barbara Smith, and District Manager Nadine Whitted have witnessed a number of changes in the community from arson and riots in the late 1970s to the steady influx of new immigrants, artists, and young professionals of this decade. Smith is clearly pleased with the progress that the community has made through the hard work of the 83rd Precinct and community organizations such as the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.
“Bushwick is back and on the map,” said Smith, president of the 83rd Precinct Community Council. “Once we stick together we have strength in numbers.”