It has been almost two years since Diana Allie's 26-year-old son was fatally stabbed during a brawl outside a Queens nightclub, but her wounds have not healed and her tears have not stopped.
"I will never be the same again," Allie, 48, of Franklin Square, said as she sobbed in front of more than 200 people gathered Saturday afternoon for a "Stop the Violence" rally in Hempstead Village.
Her son, Brahm Rishi Prasad, had been partying in November 2010 at Club Tropical on Northern Boulevard in Long Island City when he became embroiled in an argument with another clubgoer. During the exchange outside the club, Jose Soto, then 25, allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed Prasad in the chest.
Soto, who is serving a 2-to-7 year prison sentence for burglary in another case, was charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon. He is awaiting trial on the murder charge.
"He didn't have to stab my son in the heart," Allie said, crying.
She joined elected officials, school administrators, clergy, community leaders and residents from across Long Island who rallied outside Hempstead Village Hall to call for solidarity against violence.
"Please don't pick up a knife or a gun," said Allie, who is part of Hempstead's Save Our Children Committee and works in the Hempstead area as a family resource coordinator. "Try to reason it out. . . . Violence is not the way to go."
As the rally wound down, some children and adults took an oath to stop violence and hate, and to promote peace. The nonviolence event was also intended to encourage residents to report crime and suspicious activity in their neighborhoods, organizers said.
"The violence has to stop, starting with one house at a time," said the rally's keynote speaker, the Rev. William Watson, of St. John's Baptist Church in Westbury. "We no longer will tolerate those who break the law."
From January to Sept. 24, there were seven murders in Hempstead, equal to the number during the same period in 2010 and 2011, according to village police records. There were also 68 shots-fired incidents, 29 victims of gun violence and 40 guns recovered so far this year, records show.
Hempstead Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. said he's working toward the eradication of gun violence in the village of 54,000, which has one of the highest crime rates on Long Island. To help the police target crime, officials are installing ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection system enhanced by cameras that allows police to determine where shots are fired within seconds, Hall has said.
"We want residents to know it is time to stop this craziness," said Hall, adding officials and community leaders are looking to start neighborhood watch groups. "We have to send a message to people that we are tired of burying our young people."