Brooklyn, NY – This week, one of the largest and most influential labor unions in this city said police brutality fears are making many of its Black and Brown members afraid to go to work. On Friday morning, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams revealed that officers within the NYPD have expressed those very same fears.
The public advocate, along with City Council Member Brad Lander [D-39th District] was speaking to reporters about Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s leadership failures and the stupidity of an 8 o’clock curfew when he made the disclosure.
“Let people protest and get their voices heard — if our biggest concern is blocking traffic — awesome,” Williams said. “What are we doing? This is silly. Don’t [create] additional tension spots and say, you gotta be home at this time — what do you think is going to happen? I also want to speak for officers who reach out to me because some of them are saying, we have to sit there, you know, for two or three or four hours and get the ire of the protesters — and they they have to take off their uniforms and try to get home. If they are Black and Brown, they are also concerned.”
The public advocate, along with Lander and other members of the City Council, have spent the better part of the week denouncing Mayor de Blasio’s overnight curfews, while trying to deescalate tensions on the streets as New Yorkers attempt to exercise their Constitutional right to protest police brutality and systemic racism following the death of George Floyd last month.
Lander, who sits on the Committee on Civil and Human Rights, said that “the mayor is gas lighting the people of New York City right now about what’s happening on our streets” — and that the way the NYPD has been enforcing de Blasio’s 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is dangerous to protesters and police officers alike.
“You never know when it’s coming,” the Brooklyn legislator said. “Then it’s arbitrary, capricious and random — and then it comes with violence. It can only serve to escalate that cycle of violence. It’s not only wrong and unconstitutional, it not only misunderstands the moment with people crying out for non-violent change to end abusive policing and systemic racism — it’s also just counterproductive. It forces conflict.”
Williams and Lander took part in a non-violent demonstration in and around the council member’s district on Thursday night. The roughly 1,000-strong march moved through the neighborhood streets peacefully for about two hours, according to Lander, until they reached the corner of Fulton Street and Washington Avenue.
“All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the cops just surged into the crowd and grabbed some protesters,” Lander said. “One grabbed a journalist. There was no threat of looting, no threat of violence. It’s very scary when that happens. A couple of people were on the ground roughed up. It was seconds from getting much more aggressive.”
The elected officials were ultimately able to diffuse the situation before it had a chance to further devolve.
“Same thing in the Bronx and Williamsburg were cops arbitrarily decided now’s the time,” Lander said. “I don’t know whether they agreed on a time that was gonna happen. I don’t know if they had agreed on a place that was gonna happen. I don’t know if the officers’ legs just got tired.”
Lander further stated, “If you impose an 8 p.m. curfew, you’re instructing people to go out and protest non-violently. This strategy has the clear function of amplifying conflict and just makes no sense.”
A frustrated Wiliams said it appears Hizzoner is operating out of the same playbook as former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani. Demonstrators who were out on the streets this week protesting police brutality reported cops yelling “Mayor’s Curfew” — a refrain that immediately invokes old memories of “Giuliani Time.”
And when it comes to Donald Trump and the way he’s mishandled the current protests, the public advocate, doesn’t see how either Cuomo or de Blasio are all that different.
“We’ve have the wrong leadership at every executive level — and not one of them is stepping up,” Williams said. “And all of them claim to be different. One clams to be progressive, a Democrat — the question is how is what you’re doing and its impact on the most vulnerable populations different than Donald Trump? It may not be as bombastic, it may not be as directly bigoted — but the impact is the same. So, if the impact is the same, what good is it you being there?
The mayor was soundly booed at this week’s George Floyd memorial held at Cadman Plaza and urged to resign.
“I’m not sure how much you even care at this point to put forth a plan [to defuse tensions],” Williams said. “I guess it’s good to attend a George Floyd Memorial. You can no longer hide behind your Black wife and children. Not anymore. You’re exposed now. We are at a time where we need your leadership, and it is not there.”