President Leroy Gadsden of the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP plans to intervene, as an advocate, in the incident where Queens resident, van driver and motorcycle aficionado Hassan Hall was allegedly stuck by a local police vehicle, as he rode a motorcycle between 116th Avenue and Linden Boulevard on 234th Street in Cambria Heights, NY.
“I want to speak with the family of Hassan Hall,” Gadsden had expressed, as he currently combats police stop-and-frisk in communities in Southeast Queens. “We have undercover plainclothes officers roaming our neighborhoods preying on people by stopping them and provoking them without wearing any type of policy-required police insignia shirts or jacket,” stated President Gadsden in a prepared report following a Clergy Meeting with a representative from New York City Commissioner Ray Kelly’s office. “Unless this practice cease we are going to have another type of mistaken identity police killing like we saw in the Sean Bell shooting,” added the community leader.
Clearly, the expected vigilance, protest or constructive physical dialogue between police and van drivers has not erupted in the Hassan Hall matter, in Queens –one of the most ethnically-diverse county in the country – following the untimely passing of 27-year-old Hall.
Even absent are widely anticipated visible protest signs along the bustling Linden Boulevard at 234th Street in Cambria Heights, Queens – near where the late seasoned van driver Hall was allegedly pursued, hit and killed by police officers, as he briefly rode a blue motorcycle he considered purchasing – as an addition to his motorcycle collection.
Surprising to longtime residents is the admirable stellar grace and reservation by van drivers who knew and worked with Hall beginning with his early years as a neophyte driver. More pronounced among these ambitious and hardworking predominantly male commuter drivers is an eerie quietness by simply settling for a memorial for Hassan Hall. A standing floral arrangement over Linden Boulevard with a colorful eye-catching bouquet of flowers- prepared by a local florist Inspirational Floral & Gifts -ironically, or by choice, mimics the color of the motorcycle bearing a causal connection to the collapsing of Hall’s early life.
Even the removal of the original Hall memorial of traditional candles on Linden Boulevard, a spot van drivers converge, did not spark the drivers of commuter vans to retaliate.
“The police treat van drivers like criminals,” said one van driver speaking on condition of anonymity. “They do not respect us,” he added. Although steeled by the police preoccupation with their presence, the majority of commuter van drivers deemed their work a vital institution in residential Queens with one-family homes. To them, they provide convenient and expeditious service, therefore, accommodating the needs of residents and workers in this neighborhood.
Therefore, the unifying of a group of ethnically-diverse drivers to attend Hall’s burial was paramount. “From 40 to 50 van drivers stop traffic on Linden Boulevard going to Hassan Hall’s memorial service; it was a sight to see,” said one business owner with noticeable shock and amazement in her voice.
“He got a proper send off,” said one driver reflecting on the number of his colleagues lining Linden Boulevard on the final day Hall was remembered. “People came together to help out,” he added. Sadness enters his voice. “We are a family,” said the veteran van driver, affectionately describing the close and lengthy relationship between the Queens community and van drivers who are often pressed to shuttle a steady group of passengers to and from work to fill in for delayed or absent public transportation.
In view of the increased and lengthy police presence in the area following the death of Hall, the van drivers managed to navigate a collective, harmonious and optimistic commuter van driver voice then it drifts as he turns his full attention to Hassan Hall.
“He was a changed guy with his child; because he loved his daughter very much,” he disclosed. “He came to a point in his life he did not want to go down a road.”
Clearly, Hassan Hall’s suspicious death is a cloud of uncertainty van drivers as well as the community is waiting to see properly handled.
When asked in an interview what should be done, the authorized community van driver without hesitation replied, “We, van drivers, believe the police should be prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law.” He added, “That is, if the police hit the bike deliberately” Hassan Hall was riding.
Unwilling to vary treatment between civilians and police, the driver noted, “The police are no different than anyone else.”
“Van drivers are shocked by the Hassan Hall tragic situation but we have to let the system take its course in the investigation.” Lastly, this driver expressing the opinion of his colleagues added, “I hope Hassan Hall’s family gets justice.”