OWS rallies Elmhurst, Jamaica for fight against city

Raymond Burke Jr. (l.) and fellow Occupy Wall Street protesters look out from the E train headed to Manhattan from Jamaica. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Although the crowds in Queens could not hold a flame to the thousands who were marching up and down the streets in Lower Manhattan Thursday, borough members of the Occupy Wall Street movement tried to rally more people to their cause.

Supporters gathered in downtown Jamaica, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights at 3 p.m. for small and peaceful demonstrations before they headed out to Foley Square in Manhattan for the culmination of a daylong protest against big business, Mayor Bloomberg and the police..

“It’s up for the 99 percent to throw these people out of office,” said Raymond Burke Jr. who held up a cardboard sign that chastised Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Roughly 15 protesters of all ages gathered at the Parsons Avenue/Archer Avenue subway stop, while more than 50 other members assembled at the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave. in Elmhurst. Protesters also convened at the Roosevelt Avenue subway stop in Jackson Heights.

At the Jamaica and Elmhurst locations they performed “mic check” speeches where one person would air out grievances with the rest of the group repeating his or her statement.

“We’re trying to send a message,” said York College freshman Janai Lassiter, 18, who protested the CUNY tuition hikes.

Mostly Spanish-speaking protesters congregated at Make the Road before heading to downtown Manhattan via the No. 7 train.

Daniel Puerto, an organizer with Make the Road, said the group was not sure if it wanted to participate at first, but many of its members began talking about it, and so the group decided to join in the citywide protest.

“It would be a great way to introduce our organization to the movement,” Puerto said.

He pointed out that the group had common goals with Occupy Wall Street, such as immigrant access to higher education, a higher minimum wage, passage of President Barack Obama’s Jobs plan and reinstating the millionaire’s tax.

Make the Road gave protesters, who ranged in age from 17 to 77, a blue “Make the Road New York” sticker, two MetroCards, a poncho, hot empanadas of many flavors, and a bag with a bottle of water and snacks. Protest members at all sites gave out fliers explaining in English and Spanish that the protest is peaceful and that confrontations with the NYPD were to be avoided. The leader at the Jamaica rally went told his group to be courteous to others as they traveled to Manhattan.

“We will not break any laws. We will not go through doors. We will not panhandle,” he said.

The Elmhurst group chanted “Si se puede!” a Spanish rallying call that translates to “Yes, we can.”

“I find it very exciting,” said Monica Jerez, 17, who said she was protesting for university access.

Officers from the 110th Precinct were posted outside Make the Road’s office, while members of Patrol Borough Queens South and the 103rd Precinct were on hand at Archer Avenue to make sure that nothing got out of hand.

There were no fights or arrests during the events.

Luis Martinez, 75, said through a Spanish-to-English translator in Elmhurst that Occupy Wall Street was not just a youth movement and that the protest could have benefits for older people who want to protect their social security, Medicare and healthcare.

“It’s important for everybody,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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