Hundreds of borough residents and a crush of elected officials representing Queens and beyond marched down College Point Boulevard last weekend to speak out against hate crimes following the brutal beating of an openly gay College Point man earlier this month.
The march, which drew a number of high-profile office holders at the city, state and federal level, walked along the boulevard Saturday afternoon, prompting store owners and employees to step outside and cheer them on.
Queens Democratic District Leader Danny Dromm led more than 250 marchers, who wore “Stop the Hate” T-shirts, in a chant: “Jack Price is under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back.” Price’s family, including his brother, sister-in-law, cousins and nieces, walked at the front of the procession.
“Everyone in College Point knows my brother,” said Joseph Guarneri, Price’s brother. “He’d give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it. Nobody should have to walk around worrying that they’ll get beat up.”
Guarneri said his brother probably would be in the hospital for another week as he waited for one his lungs to heal.
Joanne Guarneri, Price’s sister-in-law, said Price, 49, was once again speaking and joking with family members.
“He’s holding his own,” she said. “He’s a fighter, he’s going to make it.”
On Oct. 13, Price was kicked and punched repeatedly in the middle of the street after buying cigarettes at a 24-hour deli on College Point Boulevard around 4:30 a.m., He suffered a fractured jaw and ribs, a damaged lung and a lacerated spleen.
Two College Point men — Danny Rodriguez, 21, and Daniel Aleman, 26 — have been arrested and charged with assault and robbery as a hate crime in the incident, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
During last weekend’s procession, the marchers stopped at College Point Boulevard and 18th Avenue, where Price was attacked, for a moment of silence.
“We are here today to say enough is enough,” said Dromm, who is also a gay rights activist. “Anytime anyone does this to a member of our community, we will fight back. Don’t you dare raise your hand to us.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who is openly gay, said she was glad to see the community united in support of Price.
“They didn’t beat him because they didn’t like Jack,” she said. “They beat him because of who he is.”
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he was pleased the march drew not only members of the borough’s various ethnic communities, but also elected officials from other boroughs and from differing political ideologies.
“I think it’s great that the people on this side of the microphone are just as diverse as the people on the other side of the microphone,” he told the crowd.
The marchers included U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), city Comptroller William Thompson, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assembly members Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) and Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck).
Also in attendance were Queens Borough President Helen Marshall; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; City Council members Quinn, Vallone, Tony Avella (D-Bayside), John Liu (D-Flushing) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows); as well as Democrat Kevin Kim and Republican Dan Halloran, who are candidates for Council District 19, which includes College Point.
A small group of supporters for Rodriguez shouted at the marchers from across the street, wearing stickers that read “Free Danny Rodriguez.”
“It wasn’t a hate crime,” said Marcel Gelmi, 26, of College Point. “Those cameras didn’t pick up sound. It was an assault but not a hate crime. Danny has gay friends. They’re blowing this out of proportion.”
One of Rodriguez’s supporters sported a large tattoo on his arm which read, “Thou shall not lie with a man as one does with a woman. It is an abomination: Leviticus 18:12.”
But Price’s family and supporters vowed they would be vigilant in preventing future attacks.
“We’ve been in the community for 23 years,” Joanne Guarneri said. “My brother got beat up for simply going out for a pack of cigarettes. We have to take back the streets.”
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2009 Community News Group
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