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  • Ananya Patil Rao

Community Vigil Held in Utica for Nyah Mway

Utica, NY - Hundreds of people gathered at a Saturday, June 29th candlelight vigil for Nyah Mway, a thirteen-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police officers in Utica. Learn more about the shooting here.

“We are gathered here to honor and support our little brother Nyah Mway,” said Kay Klo, a member of the local community who is the Executive Director of the Midtown Utica Community Center and served as an emcee. “We are here because the stories don’t add up – the stories they told the families at the press conference, what the witnesses say they saw in the video, none of it adds up. The police officers need to be investigated and held accountable for their actions.”

Multiple religious speakers echoed Klo’s sentiment. A Buddhist monk offered a prayer and called for justice. Rev. Debbie Kelsey of the Tabernacle Baptist church questioned the circumstances of Nyah’s death, saying, “There is so much today that is unclear to us…the security of a son’s love, a brother’s love, and a friend’s love was taken in just a few seconds.”

Another Christian resident of Utica expressed to the community, “We are sending out our message today, that we do not stand for brutality. They continued, “we love one another, we are concerned about one another, and justice will prevail.”

Several of Nyah’s loved ones offered tributes and expressed their grief and anger at his death. One man, recalling his past with Nyah, said, “he would go to my house and hang out with my boys…it hurts so bad.”

Nyah’s older brother, Thoung Oo, broke down in tears, saying that he was devastated he would never see his little brother begin high school or watch him grow up. He added that, no matter what the police did, nothing would change the fact that they killed his little brother.

Nyah was a member of Utica’s Karen community, an ethnic group from Myanmar. Yadana Oo, a member of the community, referenced Nyah’s heritage, saying: “Our people ran from the Burmese, from persecution. Our people were killed, treated like animals. We had to cross the border into Thailand, to be put in refugee camps, to be living in tents. We saw America as a new opportunity, where we could feel safe, where we didn’t have to be treated like animals… What’s going on? Did we run from one persecution into another?” She added, “My question is, how are we supposed to trust the police?... Are we going to get killed next?”

Uticans came forward to show their solidarity with Nyah’s loved ones. “We’re going to bear down with all the resources we have to help this family,” One speaker said, “Their child is our child. This affects all of us.”

Common Council member Katie Aiello (D) called for a moment of silence in remembrance of Nyah’s life, while community equity advocate Hilda M. Jordan encouraged the crowd to attend two meetings after the vigil: the community meeting at the Tabernacle Baptist Church, and the next Common Council meeting on Monday, July 1st.

As the vigil came close to a close, people launched fireworks to celebrate Nyah’s life and to symbolize the strength of the community. They released silver balloons, including the numbers “1” and “3” to represent the middle-schooler’s age at the time of his death.

Watch the livestream of the event here:

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