2017-02-01 / Features

Van Bramer Leads MMI Protest Against Hate

BY THOMAS COGAN


Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer organized a rally with over 1,000 participants at the Museum of the Moving Image to “proclaim their #QueensValues of love, inclusion and acceptance.” Behind him is the exhibit of actor Shia LaBoeuf’s artwork, “He Will Not Divide Us,” designed to allow citizens to express unity, according to LaBoeuf, and have their words and faces streamed to an international website, www.hewillnotdivide.us. Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer organized a rally with over 1,000 participants at the Museum of the Moving Image to “proclaim their #QueensValues of love, inclusion and acceptance.” Behind him is the exhibit of actor Shia LaBoeuf’s artwork, “He Will Not Divide Us,” designed to allow citizens to express unity, according to LaBoeuf, and have their words and faces streamed to an international website, www.hewillnotdivide.us. City Council Majority Leader Member Jimmy Van Bramer held a rally attended by over 1,000 Queens residents at the Museum of the Moving Image to protest the act of alleged white supremacists that undermined the purpose of actor Shia LaBoeuf’s artwork, entitled “He Will Not Divide Us.”

The work consists of a camera, mounted under the title on an outside wall of the museum. All visitors are invited to face the camera in the wall and, if they wish to, register a reaction to President Donald Trump’s proposed restrictions against immigration, particularly as applied to Muslims from countries throughout the world, or perhaps say something about intolerance or the new administration in general.

Testimonials, which are recited into the camera’s microphone, are streamed to many international sites. Apparently some who are protesting the installation took advantage of the free opportunity and registered an acutely contrary testimony of their own. Van Bramer told a crowd that formed on the grounds of the museum on January 29th and spread to 37th Street, which was closed off by police, that he thought he’d never see what he saw them do to disrupt the purpose of the artwork.

Van Bramer stated, “While the project has attracted many people in line with its mission, as well as a number of peacefully dissenting voices, it has also become a rallying location for hate speech, hateful acts, and hate groups recognized by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.” He added, “Yesterday we gathered to say clearly to the world and our neighbors that we reject hatred, we stand against bigotry, and we embrace diversity. This will be a long struggle, but we will never get tired of fighting. This is Astoria, this is Queens, this is New York City. And this is still the United States of America. This is the land of Jews and black men and women, the land of Muslims and immigrants from all over the world, trans women from Mexico and feminists with great pink hats! We know that he will never divide us.”

Van Bramer began the rally by leading a chant of the artwork’s title. The crowd was all his, and immediately followed his lead with a loud “He will not divide us!” The councilman then hailed Queens as “the borough of immigrants” (though the irony is that the new and restrictive president is a Queens native) and asked them to chant several more declarations one of them being “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!”

Van Bramer then introduced a boy he had met just after the November election, when he and the boy were part of a large group that marched across the Queensborough Bridge to gather and demonstrate in front of Trump Tower, at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. The boy, whom he introduced as Omar and who looked about 10 years old, is the American-born son of Bangladeshi parents. For them, he said, he is willing to demonstrate, to show his unwillingness to allow President Trump to disparage his parents or him. Van Bramer then mentioned a recent discovery he had made, the Al-Amin Jame Masjid and Islamic Center, nearby at 35-19 36th Avenue.

Md. Joynal Abedin, also from Bangladesh, is its president, and he addressed the crowd. “No one can divide us,” he said, relying on what he characterized as the United States’ long record of respect for others.

As the council member led a counter-demonstration, prompted by white supremacists’ interception of the camera that was purported to be a way to protest President Trump’s alleged anti-immigration stance, other demonstrations were being held elsewhere in the city and throughout the entire nation, in response to the President’s Friday declaration of temporary bans on immigration from a certain list of predominantly Muslim countries. The cries emerging from Van Bramer’s rally sounded quite like those of the other demonstrations, and many of the signs toted looked the same, since the mood was bound to be similar. Van Bramer did say, however, that if President Trump’s supporters used the camera in the wall to leave messages favorable to him, that was, of course, allowable – but hate speech targeting ethnic and religious groups forced a reply. Part of that reply was the pro-Muslim and pro-immigrant support the day’s demonstrators at MMI were encouraged to line up to express, as they certainly did, into that same camera.

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