2016-09-21 / Front Page

Marchers Rally In Astoria To Close Rikers Island

By Liz Goff

Dozens of people marched through the streets of Astoria on September 24, waving signs and posters and shouting, “Shut Down Rikers Island.”
“Hey, hey, Ho, Ho, Rikers Gotta Go,” shouted filmmaker Spike Lee, who joined organizers from Just Leadership USA in their call to Mayor Bill de Blasio to shutter the island prison.
Glen Martin, President of Just Leadership USA said the protestors are calling for a more humane and smaller city jail system.
“No matter what issue you’re working on, if you care about social justice, Rikers Island is the belly of the beast,” Martin said.
The de Blasio administration has been considering the possibility of closing all or a portion of Rikers Island since this spring, and has been eyeing several locations throughout the five boroughs to house prisoners.
The march began at 1 p.m. on Saturday at 30th Avenue and Steinway Street, and continued to 19th Avenue and Hazen Street, where the crowd gathered for a rally led by Martin, along with lawmakers and activists from the Bronx. Police at the 114th Precinct maintained order throughout the march, as the crowd made its way along the busy Steinway Street corridor to the rally site.
Rikers Island is actually located in the Bronx, but police, fire and ambulance service to and from the prison falls on first responders from Astoria, because the only bridge on and off Rikers Island is located at Hazen Street.
Martin said organizers would continue to rally at the entrance to the bridge until the city closes the prison.
“For years, Rikers Island has served as a repository for New Yorkers who have failed out of all other possibilities,” Martin said

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