Support the NYPD Message Flies Above Rockaway

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 “Rockaway and Breezy Pt. Support the NYPD.” That was the message that flew high in the sky above Rockaway’s beaches on Sunday, July 5, from a plane banner made possible by a community fundraising effort.

When Rockaway resident Claire Conti saw a plane banner fly by on June 21, carrying the message, #PoliceFreeSchools Now!, she was inspired to share a message of her own. That plane was made possible by the Urban Youth Collaborative, a group that includes the Rockaway Youth Task Force, as a way to encourage Mayor de Blasio to remove police from public schools as part of the NYC budget vote. After the plane flew, UYC tweeted, “We want #PoliceFreeSchools Now! NYCMayor the answer is literally all around you now sooo can you stop pretending like it’s not obvious. Think of what else we can do if you don’t give us what we want. #youthpower.”

The message did not go over well for some. “It really was that plane that flew by,” Conti said of her decision to fly a message supporting the NYPD. “We were all upset and all tired of the ways police are being treated all over the country right now, so we wanted to get together and let our police know that we support them, we love them, we need them, we’re thankful for them and we want them to be able to do their jobs,” Conti said.

Conti, the wife of a retired police detective, decided to organize a plane message of her own. After doing research on prices for flying such a message, Conti found that it would cost about $1,200. “I thought, if I can get 50 families to donate $20 each, I could raise $1,000 and come up with the rest myself,” she said.

Through word of mouth, mass group texts and some social media alerts, Conti sent out the call for her effort. However, it wasn’t just 50 families that donated. “It went from 50 families to 700,” she said, with some donating more or less than the suggested $20 donation. And donations came from near and far. “People donated money from upstate New York. I even got money from as far as Seattle,” she said. With more than enough donations, Conti plans to run the plane message every weekend throughout the summer, depending on the weather and company’s schedule.

“I think it showed that everyone is sick and tired of this. The media is telling everyone else’s side. All you hear about is what the media shows and defunding the police. It’s a disgrace. Police are getting bottles thrown at them, being screamed at and they’re being treated like garbage, but what would we do without them? It’s time for our side to be heard now.”

As some beachgoers stood and applauded as the plane went by multiple times on Sunday, it seems the message was heard loud and clear. The message was also shared on social media. The NYPD Cadets posted a photo of the plane to Twitter saying, “Thank you to our friends in the Rockaways and Breezy Point for flying this sky banner in support of the NYPD.” Joe Fox, retired NYPD Chief of Transit, shared a video of the plane on Twitter saying, “Thank you to the person who started this drive and for all of the people who chipped in for this important message. Finally, little by little, people are finding the courage to speak over the noise of the intimidating groupthink.” Fox’s video was “liked” more than 660 times and shared by NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea who said, “Thank you for sharing Joe. New Yorkers all over the five boroughs support and appreciate the Finest.”

However, not everyone appreciated the message. Some beachgoers took to social media to express anger over the message. “This was disgusting. No. Not everyone in Rockaway supports the NYPD! Don’t f**** include me in your conservative white supremacy Rockaway views,” one user wrote on Twitter. Another group called Rockaway Revolution posted, “This divisive banner says very little, but it says a lot. This banner is an extreme measure to point out that some Rockaway folks believe their lives are more valuable than others. We don’t agree. #BlackLivesMatter.”

Asked if the message was anti-Black Lives Matter, Conti said, “This has nothing to do with color at all. This is about police officers and our support for them. It has nothing to do with race and I feel sorry for the people that say that. It’s really sad.”

Conti says she was, however, overwhelmed by the amount of support she got for the idea. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of doing this because of such a positive response. The support has just been incredible and I’m so grateful to everybody who donated because they are the ones who made this possible. Rockaway is the best,” she said.

Conti is one of several neighbors who have also organized a march to support the NYPD on Saturday, July 11. The march will take place starting on the Beach 121st Street boardwalk after 11:30 a.m. and will continue along the boardwalk to the 100th Precinct on Beach 94th Street. With some of the donations raised for the plane effort, Conti says they’ll be providing the officers with lunch at the end of the march. “This isn’t a protest,” Conti said. “It’s a friendly walk. We were nervous to do this, but we have to stand up for this. It’s necessary.” All are welcome to attend the march on Saturday. (As Saturday’s forecast calls for a chance of rain, it is not clear if the march will be postponed.)

 By Katie McFadden

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