All photos by Jason Bergman.
It seemed like something so contrary to Adam Yauch, the Beastie Boy better known as "MCA," who passed away in 2012—swastikas and the message of "GO TRUMP," sprayed across the playground of the Brooklyn Heights park that was renamed after him on Friday. Not only was Yauch of Jewish heritage, but also, a well-known advocate of peaceful activism and non-violence. And on Sunday, it was clear the hateful graffiti had hit a nerve.
"Swastikas in a children's playground is a messed up thing to do," fellow Beastie Boy Ad-Rock said into a megaphone at a "Stand Up Against Hate" rally, which he helped organize with local elected officials, alongside his wife and Bikini Kill frontwoman, Kathleen Hanna. "And for many of us, it has a special meaning, because this park is named for Adam Yauch, who was my friend and bandmate for over thirty years."
Through blistering cold and wind, hundreds of Brooklynites streamed into Adam Yauch Park on Sunday to join Ad-Rock and others in calling for an end to the nationwide uptick of hate crimes in the wake of Donald J. Trump's electoral victory, particularly those in New York City. The rally doubled as a show of Brooklyn pride for one of the borough's most famous sons, as well as an angered sigh of dismay at the results of Election Day. Some attendees carried Beastie-based signs, like "No Sleep til' No Hate in Brooklyn," while others—"Not My President," "Stronger Together," and "2018"—were more politically direct; this park, of course, is the literal center of blue country, with Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters just down the block.
"Hatred has no place in our backyard, no place in our city, and no place in our country," New York State Senator Daniel Squadron said. "Anyone who thinks the current political climate will allow oppression to win in this country is wrong. The swastika represents genocide and monstrosities our nation came together to defeat. Brooklyn's diversity represents our country's great strengths, and we will stand up to any who want to undermine its values."
Given where it was, the audience was mostly composed of parents with their kids, who were just as likely to be seen holding signs, and many looked on from the monkey bars. By the time the rally began, children had already covered the hateful graffiti with flowers and chalk, and were continuing their work as the crowd heard speeches from Squadron, Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez, Councilman Brad Lander, and others. (The city had removed the tag on Friday night, and have been investigating the crime ever since. No suspects have been named yet.)
With his son on his shoulders, Max Flatow, 32, said he came to "teach his two-year-old a lesson of respect," in the park that he grew up in as a kid. "I'm here to support the community," he said, "and support everyone here." When asked if he was surprised about the swastika appearing in the ultra-liberal, wealthy neighborhood, Flatow said yes and no, referencing the racial tensions that boiled over in Brooklyn in the 1980s and 90s, a la Do the Right Thing.
"We all live in a bubble," he explained. "I knew not everyone here is as like-minded as we think they are."
For residents like Ben Bardim, 26, the reason he came out to show support on Sunday was simple: "I'm here to make sure that swastikas don't seem normal here."
Holding a banner for the organization Brooklyn for Peace, Tara Currie, who has lived in Brooklyn for 32 years, also expressed alarm in what she saw as the normalization of violence since the election. She mentioned an incident that occurred last Saturday, in nearby Boerum Hill, where a male Trump supporter reportedly sucker-punched a woman at a restaurant after an argument broke out.
"The train goes everywhere, so of course it's going to stop here," she said, voicing similar sentiments as Flatow. "But that type of behavior, it'll only get worse these next four years."
As for the swastikas here, in Adam Yauch Park: "They're just getting an early start."