Thousands Gather To Close Rikers Island Down For Good

National

For decades, Rikers Island has been plagued with scandals, and now, following many petitions and complaints, thousands of activists, celebrities, and former prisoners rallied together in New York City on Saturday (Sept. 24), to call for the closure the of the Rikers Island prison complex.

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The peaceful protest drew nearly 500 demonstrators, according to NY Daily News. Russell Simons and Orange is the New Black star, Emily Althaus also joined the march. They gathered near the bridge leading to Queens and marched to the island’s entrance, where many shared their stories about the conditions and treatment at the detention center.

“It’s a six-by-nine-foot cell,” former inmate Johnny Perez, said of the solitary confinement rooms at Rikers. “People have died from heat exhaustion. It gets so cold that it’s hard for you to sleep because you have limited blankets and clothes.”

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The latest event, which was led by the #CLOSERikers campaign, was announced via Facebook. The campaign leaders also released a statement, explaining the motive for the movement. “For decades, the notorious Rikers Island Jail Complex has been marked by violence and corruption and impervious to substantive reform,” the statement read. “The #CLOSErikers campaign was formed in 2016 to break the political gridlock and achieve real solutions that are guided by directly impacted communities.”

See more videos and photos from the New York event below.