In New York City, a group of around 30 people rallied outside a Manhattan courthouse Wednesday amid the beginning of the federal trial for “The Bronx 120″—120 young men from the Bronx who were arrested en masse on April 27 in what’s being described as the largest police raid in New York City history. Most of the protestors are family members of those charged.  The massive operation included at least 700 law enforcement agents, including SWAT teams, police helicopters, and federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Police say those arrested are part of two gangs that are linked to a number of murders. The young men have been charged with racketeering, as well as drug and firearm offenses. But family members and residents say the raids racially targeted young black men, many of whom, they say, were not part of the gangs.

The defendants were arrested during a massive early-morning sweep when over 700 NYPD and federal officers from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) raided homes in the Bronx on April 27 to arrest people believed to be members and associates of two rival gangs. Helicopters and armored vehicles were part of the raid in Eastchester Gardens in the Bronx.

More than 100 suspects were arrested in the blitz and charged in two separate indictments. The defendants, identified by their names and various street names, face charges of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, narcotics distribution and firearms offenses.

According to the indictment, the majority of the suspects are in their early 20s and early 30s. Prosecutors have alleged the gangs are connected to eight homicides that occurred in the area since 2009 including a 92-year-old woman shot in her home by a stray bullet. They said another incident involved a 15-year old boy who was “stabbed and left to die in the street.”

Officials said the alleged gangs are the Big Money Bosses, or BMB, and the 2Fly YGz, or 2Fly.  Authorities said 2Fly mainly operate in and around the Eastchester Gardens housing development, selling drugs including marijuana, crack cocaine and prescription pills and would store guns around playgrounds or in nearby apartments or cars.

BMB primarily operate on White Plains Road from 215th Street to 233rd Street, selling marijuana, crack cocaine and prescription pills while storing guns in abandoned homes and other places near their drug spots, authorities said.

Soon after the April 27th raids, prosecutors had announced there were charges against 120 people accused of being members of two gangs in the borough. They later announced that close to 90 of the defendants had been taken into federal custody; 30 others were still being sought.  Court papers say the gangs were responsible for at least eight murders.

The brazen gangs have even recruited new members via various social media outlets, including producing rap videos of their gang leaders and other high ranking members posted to YouTube which glamourize their life of violence and drug dealing.  Authorities had obtained search warrants for 100 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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