NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- On December 28th, leaders of local black churches in New Rochelle held a rally which began at Memorial Plaza, then moved down to the Ruby Dee Library Green at the New Rochelle Public Library after a brief march down Memorial Highway. About 300 people attended.
Rev. DeQuincy Hentz of Shiloh Baptist Church served as the Master of Ceremonies. He began by making introductory remarks, saying that the purpose of the event was reconciliation and healing, stressing that "all lives matter" and acknowledging the half-dozen New Rochelle police officers who had taken up positions on the perimeter of the event.
"The police are here to protect us," said Hentz. "They are our friends."
Hentz expressed his dismay that such an event was necessary.
"It is sad that we have to be here in 2015", he said. "We are not anti-police, anti-New Rochelle but against a system that allows people to kill black men and walk away without suffering repercussions".
"If we are going to have a great country, a great state, a great city we need truth," said Hentz. "We want to bring healing to a broken situation".
Hentz led the group in a rendition of "We Shall Overcome".
Reverend Allen Paul Weaver, III of Bethesda Baptist Church and Arlene Francis, organizer of a rally at City Hall the week before that was cancelled after the deaths of NYPD officers Ramos and Liu, both addressed the crowd.
Reverend Allen Paul Weaver, Jr. of Bethesda Baptist Church addressed the crowd, saying "We are deeply grieving the two police officers," a reference to the pair of New York Police Department officers who were gunned down in their patrol car the week before.
"Our nation needs to heal, that whatever it is that separates us from each other needs to be taken away, the suspicion and distrust," said Weaver. "Let our message that all lives matter go forth."
Council Member Jared Rice struck a discordant note, focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement, and raising the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.
"This is just the beginning," said Rice.
Rice angered several of the police officers on duty at the event when he said there were "some" good officers in New Rochelle and proceeded to single out by name the five officers standing around him.
Dr. Hasna Muhammad, daughter of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, spoke about the 1963 March on Washington and tied the event into the civil rights movement.
Clarissa Sinceno gave a strong singing performance.
David Randolph Holder, Founder and Senior Pastor at New York Covenant Church referenced the book "The Cross and the Lynching Tree" and spoke about "all the people who have been slain unjustly".
David Peters of New Rochelle Against Racism spoke about "the movement" began with the first slave of the boat and how the DNA of racism is embedded in founding of the United States, what he called "the myth of superiority".
Guy Davis, the son of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, a noted blues musician sang "Black Boy Takes a Bullet" Davis asked "Why are the cops taught to fear us?" and closed by saying "we've forgotten how to sting, we're getting our sting back".
Pastor Hentz returned to the microphone to note that 87 people were arrested in a recent series of drug raids in New Rochelle and 56 of the people arrested were black (the correct figure is 64 arrests of which 56 were black or 88%). Hentz said it was not enough to indict low-level drug dealers, adding "we known who the big cats are".