Since Brooklyn-born rapper Pop Smoke was murdered in February at his California home, the streets of his home borough have borne witness to a gang war, culminating in a summer of shootings that has shaken the community.
On Monday, residents gathered in Canarsie not only to unveil a new 12-foot-high mural of Pop Smoke by artist Kenny Altidor, but also to deliver a very public appeal urging street gang members to put the guns down and restore the peace.
Among those participating in the event was Terrence Floyd, brother of George Floyd, who was choked to death by a Minneapolis police officer in May in a videoed incident that set off protests across the country seeking an end to police brutality and racial injustice.
During Monday’s appearance in Brooklyn, Terrence Floyd appealed to those in attendance at the mural unveiling to “put down the guns.” He said “Black Lives Matter” means “all black lives.”
Knowing that some in attendance were with the notorious Crips gang who have been waging a shooting war throughout the city over the murder and over simple disrespect, Floyd played a message from his older brother about a nephew who was shot to death that he videoed before his death.
Here’s the message from George Floyd himself:
“If you never hear it from anyone else, I love you – put the guns down,” a tearful Terrence Floyd said after playing the video for the crowd. “Protecting your family is different than shooting your own people just to get a rep – it’s not cool. You know Pop, too young – they always say a parent should not bury their child, a child should always bury the parent. This is just not cool, we need to chill out. I’m not preaching here now that you are evil, no. Yo my young Kings, yo my young Queens – just think about what you all doing and change your ways.”
Sanford Rubenstein, famed police brutality attorney, decried the violence saying it was time for violent crime to come to an end.
“George Floyd died as a result of police violence and here we have Pop Smoke who died of gun violence – so this will be a memorial corner for all of the people in this city,” Rubenstein said. “What’s going on with gun violence, right here in Canarsie, a 25-year-old man was shot in the head, killed. Gun violence is up in this city 83 percent from last year for first six months of the year. Each of us here must pledge ourselves to stop gun violence – too many lives being taken, especially a life like Pop Smoke.”
Monique Waterman of the East Flatbush Village, who has been out at night trying to convince people to stop the shooting, offered her help to anyone who needs assistance with jobs, mental health or anything else.
“Given the proper education and opportunities we will have a community that will thrive, but we have an oppressive system,” Waterman said. “I’m not making excuses for our community members, but without the proper funds and resources we will continually see gun violence.”
Artist Kenny Altidor, who spent weeks painting the Pop Smoke mural and the one next to it of George Floyd, said “this mural was done to pay tribute to Pop Smoke, but at the same time to send a message to the community to stop the violence. We need to stop that guys – enough is enough. Black lives matter, like George’s brother says, we have to love each other guys.”
A blue tarp was pulled from the mural, unveiling the 12-foot-high mural of Pop Smoke. Numerous young people took photos, a few wore blue and black bandanas signifying membership in the Crips.
One man looking a little nervous, said he was proud to be at the mural unveiling. But he added, noticing about a dozen police officers and cruisers sat nearby, “I don’t really like being out in the open like this.”
Another young man who didn’t want to be identified said Pop Smoke was the reason why so many people come to Canarsie and show respect. But he said that despite speakers beseeching the crowd to put down the guns, “it won’t stop, and it will keep going.”
“It’s sad, it just still not real,” said one man in attendance wearing a picture of the rapper on t-shirt. “A lot of people are mad – we wanted more answers than they gave us (about the murder of Pop Smoke). They gonna get theirs. There’s a lot of controversy going on, but it’s never gonna end. It’s an ongoing cycle, like life. Is there a way to stop it? The cops ain’t the way because they only make it worse because they don’t do their job and then disrespect us.”