I need to tell you all the story of what this incredible advocate did last night. We marched to the front door of Gracie Mansion to deliver our "notice of transfer" to the Mayor. Advocates made the reasonable request that Harmonia resident Michael personally deliver it to Gracie.
Recap: The day started with painting "Stars of Hope" to hang at The Lucerne where homeless individuals were being displaced to 31st st, in turn displacing a specialized shelter serving disabled families. We marched to 86th and East End, rallied, then to @NYCMayor's front door.
There was a large crowd gathered at the barriers, at least 30 feet from the mansion. The police pushed the barriers against the crowds, and the crowd pushed back. Suddenly there were 20 cops facing us. Our Black march leader from UES BLM was at the front. We were scared.
A cry of "white bodies in the front" went out. I ran to the back repeating the call for allies--I couldn't see what was going, was deciding if we should get the crowd to turn around. Then someone told me: "Helen's at the front! She's at the barriers negotiating with the police!"
I climbed up on a bench to see, @HelenRosenthal pressed against the gates--She had put her body in between the police and the Black man leading the march. She and @BenKallos knew that the police would take a different approach with two council-members than with the protestors.
Helen was personally negotiating with the 20 cops and their three sergeants. She said the crowd had de-escalated, and now we needed something from their side. She argued for Michael's human dignity, saying he was the one impacted, so he should be the one to deliver the letter.
She repeatedly turned down offers from the police to take the letter to the Mayor. "How will we know he's seen it? Where is the human dignity?" she asked. She told the crowd to take ten steps back. @BenKallos was with her, and Michael, @lovingpawsmike, and the march leader.
We sat down on the ground: We're not a threat, we said, we just want a message to get to the mayor. They sent Andrew from community affairs to negotiate with us. It had gotten dark. I told him he needed to explain the situation to his boss.
After they repeatedly refused to let Michael take the letter, Helen had a new, brilliant ask: If he won't look a shelter resident in the face now, we want the Mayor to hit pause on these inhumane transfers until he has taken the time to actually understand what's going on.
The Mayor made an offer: The elected officials could come inside and sit down and talk. Other electeds were calling Helen, telling her they would join. *I* told Helen to go inside and talk to the mayor. She said No. She said, "He's told me no. He needs to say it to Michael."
The night wore on. We were hungry and exhausted, getting bitten by mosquitos. They Mayor's office gave us another concession: They opened the park bathrooms for weary protestor. Someone ordered pizza. We sat. We sang. Helen worked the phones and updated the crowd.
I was in awe of my city councilwoman. She had been with us since 2pm. A vegan, she couldn't eat the pizza. It was 10pm and she wasn't backing down. She repeatedly refused to meet the Mayor herself. She wasn't going in without Michael. So we waited for them to agree to the meeting
Finally she got the call: Marco Carrión, Commissioner of Community Affairs, would meet with residents and staff of BOTH affected shelters, Harmonia and Lucerne, before any more displacements happened. Helen MADE SURE the affected residents signed off on the deal before agreeing.
And at last, we all went home. And thanks to one elected official's bravery, and the many INCREDIBLE shelter residents who marched, chanted, and stood with us, we signed off on the night knowing that not only had we left Stars of Hope at The Lucerne, we'd left a hope for justice.
The story of last night in news form, if you prefer that! gothamist.com/news/hundreds-… Pictured is our incredible march leader Legacee Kia Medina telling a little girl she can grow up to lead crowds, too.

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