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Young Brooklyn activist says Ferguson decision hits close to home

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EAST NEW YORK, Brooklyn (PIX11) -- As the fallout from the Michael Brown decision continues to ripple across the country, protesters here in New York are grappling with their own relationships with law enforcement.

"When I heard this case, it hit me hard because that could have been me," said 15-year-old Gramal Ralph of East New York.

Ralph is worried that the men and women sworn to protect him could take his life at any moment simply because he's black.

"It hasn't been one time. This happens all the time. It's happened close to home, so it is a legitimate fear."

Whether it's Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner on Staten Island, or Akai Gurley in Ralph's own neighborhood of East New York, he says it's hard not to picture himself as the next victim.

"I don't feel comfortable around police officers because of these repeated cases."

Which is why Ralph decided to skip school to participate in the National Action Network's rally Tuesday.

After the grand jury's decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson, Ralph says he felt he had no choice but to get involved.

"Our law enforcement is supposed to protect us, those are rights given by us, and they don't."

The young activist lives just blocks away from the Pink Houses in East New York where the 28-year-old Gurley was shot and killed by an officer last week.

Police have called the incident an accidental shooting of an innocent man.

But Ralph says that's not enough.

"This is murder. This is not something you can just brush under a rug and say OK it was an accident or it was a mistake."

While the recent tragedies pushed him to participate in his first rally, he says he understands the line between action and anarchy. Which is why he condemned the arson and violence in Ferguson even though he knows the frustration.

"Violence is definitely not the answer, but I can understand where that anger is coming from."

Ralph says he feels it's only a matter of time before there's another black victim of the men in blue. But he hopes the outrage across the country will help change the black and blue relationship between his community and police officers.

"I just hope moving forward when these cases happen again, which I can guarantee you they will, the black community finally gets justice and we finally feel like we are able to have the same rights as anybody else in this country," Ralph says.

He says for him, and so many others, that just means being able to walk down the street without fearing for his life.