Monica Shay, ¡Presente!
Published Jul 18, 2011 8:58 PM
Monica Shay and Paul Shay.
Monica Shay was a revolutionary who spent four decades fighting for poor
people. She was known as “Kathryn” to her neighbors and other
activists, including members of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police
Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Monica Shay died on July 7 after being shot five days earlier, along with four
other family members in Montgomery County, Pa. Her comrade and partner, Paul
Shay, was severely wounded. His nephew, Joseph Shay, was killed. Two-year-old
Gregory Erdman was killed, and his mother, Kathryn Erdman, was wounded. They
were all shot in the head by a gunman who was later killed in an alleged
shootout with police.
Steve Yip, Juanita Young, Nicholas Heyward Sr.,
and Margarita Rosario outside the Shay home
on July 5.
Photo: Jed Brandt
Many people were horrified by this bloodshed. Activists gathered at two vigils
on New York City’s Lower East Side to remember Monica Shay and the other
On July 5 people came to the Shays’ home on East 10th Street. Among those
who took part was Juanita Young, whose son, Malcolm Ferguson, was killed by a
police officer on March 1, 2000. Five days before his death, Ferguson had been
arrested for protesting the shocking acquittal of four cops who had shot
immigrant worker Amadou Diallo 41 times.
Nicholas Heyward Sr. came to the vigil. A cop killed his 13-year-old son,
Nicholas Heyward Jr., on Sept. 27, 1994, as he played with friends in a
stairwell in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Houses.
Allene Person was there. Police killed her 19-year-old son, Timur Person, on
Dec. 13, 2006. This was less than three weeks after cops fired 50 shots at Sean
Bell, killing him.
Margarita Rosario attended. Two New York City detectives, who had been
volunteer bodyguards for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1993 mayoral campaign,
killed her son, Anthony, and his cousin, Hilton Vega, on Jan. 12, 1995. Both
young Latinos were shot in the back 22 times while they were on the
Mourning loss of dedicated activist
These parents knew Monica Shay as someone who was always there for them,
whether it was on a picket line or in a courtroom. The parents and grandmother
of 11-year-old Briana Ojeda — who died from asthma on Aug. 27, 2010,
after a cop stopped her mother from rushing her to an emergency room —
never met Monica. But they too were choked up.
Monica was an organizer and writer. She directed the Arts and Cultural
Management Program at Pratt Institute.
On July 9 friends gathered at Tompkins Square Park. Activists recounted how
both Monica Shay and Paul Shay stood with homeless people as they fought
against being driven out of the neighborhood. They told of how Paul Shay, a
skilled plumber, helped squatters while giving jobs and skills to the
unemployed. Pratt students described how Monica Shay encouraged them. Everyone
marched around the park in their honor.
Steve Yip, October 22nd Coalition activist and supporter of the Revolutionary
Communist Party, spoke about his comrade:
“Raised in a progressive Quaker family in Pennsylvania, Monica traversed
the tumultuous 1960s participating in anti-war marches and supporting
liberation struggles. She visited then-revolutionary China in 1971 while still
a college sophomore. She witnessed the achievements of the Great Proletarian
Cultural Revolution, which was a watershed for her. She joined with peasants in
the fields, trained in acupuncture, and witnessed the political struggles there
over the correct road to build a socialist society.
“Monica was someone who had a big heart and big love for the people. She
dedicated her life to serving, and struggling with, the people to build
resistance against injustice and oppression. We have lost a precious comrade.
In this case, under tragic and senseless circumstances. And her loss is indeed
weighty and heavy. But the goals to which she dedicated her life remain more
urgent than ever. A void has been created, and the challenge is out there for
many to take up and to fill this void.”
Monica Shay, ¡Presente!
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