Mayor De Blasio is accused of soft-pedaling on police reforms. Photo: Gage Skidmore.
In the wake of the George Floyd murder while the country was experiencing an uprising Black Lives Matter Greater New York negotiated with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to have elements of our legislative package included in his “Say Their Names Act.” In addition to these elements the Governor’s office demanded that Mayor Bill De Blasio convene a commission to “Re-Imagine” policing in New York City.
Several weeks ago our organization released a statement demanding that the Mayor convene the commission composed of New York City grassroots activists, clergy, politicians, experts and the New York Police Department (NYPD). We had never agreed to an open discussion with the NYPD prior to that point.
Monday, the Mayor’s office convened the commission headed by the NYPD, the Robin Hood Foundation and the New York Urban League. With all due respect to these organizations they are not the ones who led the charge to force the impending changes. It was the Black Lives Matter activists in the streets being pepper-sprayed, tear gassed, beaten and arrested the last five years and particularly in the last five months who forced the changes. These organizations have working relationships with the Governor’s office and the Mayor’s office. They have achieved much, but phrases like “Defund The Police,” and “Abolish The Police” are not found on their websites.
The people on the streets and the organizations that have proposed their own legislation have been left out of the Governor’s and Mayor’s Commission. Thus, rendering it a political farce that will fail to bring about that radical change that the city and the country need.
The fact that this commission is announcing these arrangements so abruptly proves that they do not want true community participation. How can people prepare testimonies, and ensure that the community comes out in full force with such short notice? This is a trick that Mayor De Blasio employed when we forced them to convene a commission on the racist monuments in New York City. All of the community hearings were held at 9 am during the workweek. The commission submitted recommendations but the mayor had the final say. He chose to remove only one statue in 2018 and only recently agreed to remove another as a result of the pressure from this summer’s protests after the murder of George Floyd.
Our concern is that once again the commission will be devoid of meaningful community input and substantive community representation from the organizations who fight on the front line of this movement.
Why is this commission not investing in commercials and advertising that would render an adequate representation of our viewpoints? This is backroom politics at its best and it breeds distrust and that is why we have a disdain for the Democrats, as well as, the Republicans.
We understand that Democrats do not want true liberation of Black people and other oppressed groups and only seek to pacify us with cosmetic changes. This is why many activists and young Black people will not vote in the Presidential election. It is because the Democrats continuously give us the political switcheroo.
Hawk Newsome is Chairman and Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter Greater New York.
Chivona Newsome is Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter Greater New York