Brooklyn, NY – New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have both failed the people of New York and Organized Labor has a vital role in helping to fill the leadership vacuum, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said on Monday night.
Williams and eight other city and state elected officials defied New York’s first curfew in almost 80 years on June 1, outside of the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn to denounce both de Blasio and Cuomo’s bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic and their unhinged response to local protests against police brutality and the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month.
Williams, the highest ranking Black elected official in New York City, stopped short of calling for the mayor and governor to resign, but said they cannot continue in their present strategy of over-policing communities with curfews and flooding city streets with 4,000 additional highly-militarized cops.
“I just want the people who have the ability to stop this right now, to do it,” Williams told LaborPress. “And Labor has tremendous power right here to put pressure on these two men that they continue to support.”
The pubic advocate said Bill de Blasio’s legacy is now “tarnished” following a weekend that saw NYPD cops beat and run cruisers into protesters exercising their Constitutional rights of assembly and free speech.
“I hope we remember this come election time,” Williams said. “The legacy of this mayor is so tarnished right now — he ran as one person and is somebody completely different. But I am saying to the both of them — just for the sake of your legacy — listen to what we’re saying, and do it for the sake of the city and state.”
Word that de Blasio had already called for an nightly 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew following the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew enacted Monday night, further outraged city and state officials.
Earlier in the day, Donald Trump threatened to use the Insurrection Act to order the the U.S. military to put down ongoing protests against police brutality nationwide.
“The mayor and the governor have a choice to make,” Council Member Steve Levin [D-33rd District] said. “I don’ t have any hope for Donald Trump — today he said he was going to bring out the U.S military on the streets of America against Americans. He’s declared war on Black America. But the mayor and the governor, they know better.”
Williams said he wants real leadership in this time of crisis.
“I don’t care how I get it,” the public advocate said. “If the mayor wants to step up — step up. If the governor wants to step up — step up. You can’t do what you’re doing. We’re supposed to be the most progressive city in the nation — but we never are. We are always following other cities and other states The governor gets to sit there and pretend like he’s doing something that he’s not. He failed with COVID and everybody sees it. He’s failing now again and it is Black people who are suffering.”
Numerous New York unions have condemned the NYPD’s violent suppression of protesters throughout the city over the weekend.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum issued a statement following Monday night’s curfew saying “The Labor Movement must stand with the Black Lives Matter movement in demanding an end to police violence with the same commitment that we fight to improve workers’ rights for a just economy for all.”
“As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘A riot is the language of the unheard.’ It is time for us to come together as a nation to set a new course that acknowledges the problematic race relations in our country,” Appelbaum added. “We must tackle the systemic issues that continue to oppress black people and the economic, housing, healthcare, and societal discrimination that makes it more difficult for black people to be successful in this country.”
Williams further added, “It’s amazing how much we devalue Black lives that we will do anything not to respond to the problem at hand.”
“To the point where we’ll go back to something arcane — curfews and 4,000 additional cops — even though we’re saying that is the problem,” he said. “This always seems to happen when Black people say they simply have a right to live. All we have to say is, ‘We have a right.’ All we have to say is, ‘Black lives matter [and we get] a curfew [and] more cops. Anything that has to do with saying Black life is as important as anybody else — and this is what happens.”