BY JANIE ROSMAN
What began as a peaceful rally against the East Ramapo school board last Saturday erupted into a heated cursing argument involving police.
Advocacy group Get Up, Stand Up: East Ramapo and their children were demonstrating at Spring Valley Memorial Park, calling for school board member Bernard Charles to resign. When he and his wife, councilwoman Brendel Charles, left the park for the Town of Ramapo Cultural Arts Center, the group followed.
“As we were leaving the Center he (Bernard) came out and started the altercation,” group co-founder Eric Grossfeld said. Two police cars — one from Spring Valley and one from Ramapo police departments — arrived at the scene.
“Get that camera out of my face before I rip it out,” Bernard Charles was heard saying on a video clip. ”You have no right to be taking my picture. Don’t take my picture.”
The councilwoman was heard cursing, “I’m not taking that (s-word expletive) from you,” at one of the protesters in the same video.
Denise DelValle, her nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son were among those who felt scared and intimated by their behavior.
“I myself feared for my children as they were there witnessing the whole tirade by Charles and his wife,” DelValle told the Rockland County Times. “My daughter said, ‘Why is he acting like that? My son said he had a good time until that man started screaming.”
Brendel Charles “was angry and frustrated at the fact that the reverend (Weldon McWilliams IV) was laughing and cursing at the man who was cursing at me, and I said, ‘I’m not taking your bull**it any more,’” she said.
McWilliams felt the situation “is no laughing matter, and there was no point at which I was laughing,” he said. When he saw John Miles and Brendel Charles yelling through an open window (Charles was inside the building, and Miles was on the street), McWilliams said, “I told John to go back with the other protesters.”
He said no matter what the situation, “People always see me as a leader and organizer.”
“There was only one megaphone, and I was walking away from the Center carrying it,” Grossfeld said. “This is corroborated by surveillance camera footage from a business across the street.”
Detective Robert Bookstein of the Spring Valley PD said he could not confirm information relating to the case, which is under investigation. Ramapo PD said it was unable to dispense information.
The councilwoman filed a full stay away Order of Protection against Miles, who is expected to receive an appearance ticket for Spring Valley court.
“I went to the (Spring Valley) police department to get a copy of the police report and was told I need to fill out a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) form,” Miles said. “They told me it would take five days after I fill out the form to get the report.”
Spring Valley PD Records Department confirmed it takes one week or more to fulfill a FOIL request, depending upon the number of pages (volume of information) in the specific case.
“I’ve been trying to get a group of people together for three years and have a sit-down with the NAACP and Willie Trotman (president of the Spring Valley NAACP),” Charles said. “We can agree to disagree. We’ve made several attempts to meet with Reverend McWilliams’ father and include people in the process. When you serve the public, that’s what you do.”
Ramapo councilman Daniel Friedman, who is running against the councilwoman, issued a statement calling her behavior “an incredible disgrace.”
“It’s disheartening that we have elected officials who disrespect the people they are in office to serve in both words and deeds,” Friedman said. “Our residents deserve better than a councilwoman who ignores their concerns and responds in such a vulgar, threatening, and offensive manner.”
None of the protesters was involved in the verbal assault, Grossfeld said.
Charles was later served the same legal papers other school board members were served last Tuesday prior to the school board meeting.