By David Brand
A coalition of criminal justice reform advocates from in and around Queens will rally near the Queens Criminal Courthouse on Monday to outline a list of policies and actions they demand from the next District Attorney.
The “Queens DA For Accountability Launch” will take place at 1 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day despite a potential snowstorm and temperatures predicted to be in the low teens, said the event organizers.
“Our country is waking up to the role prosecutors play in mass incarceration — that movement has come to Queens. We demand the Queens DA respond to community demands for decarceration,” the event website reads.
Five candidates have so far registered with the state Board of Elections to run in the Democratic primary for Queens DA. The candidates include public defender Tiffany Caban, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilmember Rory Lancman, former Judge Gregory Lasak and State Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Jose Nieves. Other likely candidates include Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas and Mina Malik, an attorney in the Washington D.C. Attorney General’s Office.
Some DA candidates are expected to attend the public event, but organizers said they are not invited to speak. Instead, the rally will focus on the experiences of low-income people of color who are most affected by prosecutorial policies. Speakers include individuals who were wrongfully convicted in Queens Criminal Court.
The coalition’s demands for the next DA include a commitment to resisting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in and around the courthouse. On Wednesday afternoon, ICE agents arrested a man outside the courthouse, one of several people picked up by ICE agents in recent months.
The coalition listed seven additional demands in a Gotham Gazette op-ed Wednesday. The demands include a plan to halve the number of Queens residents in jail within five years, end cash bail, introduce open discovery and draft a list of specific charges the next DA will decline to prosecute.
VOCAL-New York, one of the event organizers, previously held a demonstration against District Attorney Richard A. Brown outside the Queens Criminal Courthouse in October.
“District attorneys have tremendous power and discretion in the criminal legal system and too often those tools are used in service of criminalization and incarceration, targeting vulnerable people — people experiencing poverty, people of color, LGBTQ people and others — while powerful people are not being held accountable,” the coalition said in a joint statement ahead of the Oct. 31 rally.