APRIL 2002
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La Pena del Bronx Closed

From Noticias del Mundo
March 4 2002

The Bronx Community Center, La Pena del Bronx, known for its pro-immigrant activism, was shut down by police in early March. The center has served Latinos for the last 15 years.

Victor Toro, one of its founders, said police from the 40th precinct have repeatedly harassed La Pena members throughout the years. Police shut down the center after finding people were selling alcohol within the premises.

Nieves Ayress, the president of the organization, said that on Friday, March 1, a 40th precinct sergeant along with three other people, including a lawyer, went to the center to evict program directors, Joel Perez and Victor Toro. In the past, she added, other members have been tossed to the ground and frisked.

LA Pena offered English classes, silkscreen workshops and lent its space to theater and folkloric dance groups, Perez said. Over the years, its members have supported a various number of human rights and workers rights campaigns in New York and Latin America.

Ayress said that in the last month, the organization received at least 30 fines. On March 1 they received another.

"People who come to our center are hardworking and peaceful," she added.

Since the closure, members of the center have sent letters to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Governor George Pataki and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In early March, Ayress, Perez and Toro were scheduled to appeal their case in the Bronx Supreme Court.


Translated from Spanish by Angelica Medaglia.


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