BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Hundreds of churchgoers and community residents called for a new year with less violence during a Brooklyn prayer vigil Sunday.
“Bed-Stuy United” brought congregants together from dozens of neighborhood churches and a mosque as faith leaders and elected officials addressed the deaths of the two NYPD officers killed in late December.
As gospel songs resounded through Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Restoration Plaza, participants marched down the blocks chanting, “Black lives matter” while holding signs that read, “I can’t breathe.”
“There have been some recent incidents within our community both on a local and national scale, and we want the world to know there is prayer in the midst of tension,” said Pastor Shaun J. Lee of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church.
“Prayer changes things and changes people. We are here to pray for peace and justice, to pray for healing and our community. There is too much at stake for us to lose sight of what is important.”
Members of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the first on scene after the Dec. 20 deadly shootings of Dets. Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, bowed their heads in prayer alongside local police officers and the 79th Precinct's Deputy Inspector John Chell.
Eric Garner’s sister, Ellisha Flagg, who attends Greater Cross Road Baptist Church on Tompkins Avenue, asked attendees to continue to pray for peace as she thanked the community for its support following the death of her brother.
“Nobody deserves to lose their life in the disrespectful manner that’s been going on these days," she said.
"We are somebody, we are all somebody, we belong to somebody, we belong to a family whether we’re a cop or just a regular civilian.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, and Public Advocate Letitia James stood among faith leaders during the event.
“It is my absolute pleasure to stand in solidarity with so many elected officials who want to see justice served, and who don’t believe it’s mutually exclusive to call for police reform and also to support our police department simultaneously,” councilman Robert Cornegy said.
The event followed a December ceremony, also spearheaded by Cornegy's office, that pledged to help reduce the number of lives lost in Bedford-Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights. On Sunday, a life-sized, wooden silhouette, similar to those used in December’s tribute, showcased the names of the murdered officers and other gun violence victims.
Tears flowed as the names were read out for more than a dozen people who lost their lives in the 36th council district last year. One by one, Cornegy released white balloons for each individual.
NYPD officers Ramos and Liu, along with shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley, became the 16th, 17th, and 18th deaths from gun violence in the area, according to the councilman’s office.