The Garifuna community rallied together on Wednesday to demand justice for Frankie Williams, a Garifuna man who was stabbed to death in Longwood last week.
Williams, 37, was stabbed at Robinson deli on Longwood Avenue and Kelly Street on Oct. 24 and later pronounced dead at Lincoln Hospital. Police arrested Ronny Torres, 27, and charged him with second-degree murder.
Torres is the son of the deli owner and according to ABC7 New York, he thought Williams was stealing from the deli which sparked an altercation and culminated in the brutal stabbing.
On Wednesday, during Torres’ first court appearance, more than 150 people gathered outside the Bronx County Hall of Justice on the Grand Concourse to express their anger through chants and songs and to demand a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Torres.
The protest turned tense when word got out that Torres’ family was exiting the court building. Demonstrators ran across the street to confront the family, screaming for justice. Police struggled to contain the crowd and some resorted to grabbing and shoving protesters as they converged on the building.
For many of the Garinagu (plural for Garifuna), an indigenous people originally from the Caribbean but who now mostly live in Honduras, Williams’ death was a shocking example of violence against their community, which some estimates say is close to 300,000 in the Bronx.
Pablo Blanco, 43, a Garifuna cultural advocate, said the large turnout on Wednesday was partly because people are enraged about violence that is commonly inflicted on the Garinagu.
“This is the community just showing their disgust for the act and for what’s going on with us right now as a community,” said Blanco.
Blanco said Williams’ killing echoes ongoing oppression and atrocities committed against the Garinagu in Honduras. Reports have detailed discriminatory violence in Garifuna communities and attacks over land ownership.
“This comes at a time when we’re being ethnically cleansed in Honduras,” said Blanco. “Everything has come to a standstill.”
At the front of the courthouse, protestors sang and drummed Wanaraugua, a traditional Garifuna genre of music that was historically played during war – a message of resistance along with the demands for justice.
For the victim’s family members, the outpouring of support represented the respect people had for Williams who was described by many as an inspired musician who gave back to his community through art.
Frankie Williams’ cousin Jasmine Williams, 25, said she felt support and love from the large turnout and that the protest made it clear how many people cared for her cousin. But the loss has damaged her family and the community as a whole.
“I’m hurt, my family is hurt, we all hurt,” said Williams. “We’re trying to stay strong.”
There was no sentencing for Torres, whose next court appearance has been scheduled for Nov. 13.