Schneiderman, Sharpton, De Blasio and Rep. Charles Rangel
The Rev. Al Sharpton along with top New York City elected officials including Mayor Bill De Blasio made remarks that centered on equality for African-Americans, Gays, women as well as the latest video that shows an unarmed Black man being killed by a police officer in South Carolina when the 2015 National Action Network (NAN) Convention opened Wednesday in New York City.
The Rev. Al Sharpton stated that “there must be a national law on policing” because “it not only protects the citizens, it protects the police,” as Mayor De Blasio nodded in agreement.
Referring to a recent video from North Charleston, South Carolina that shows Walter Scott, an unarmed 50-year-old African-American man, fleeing from Michael T. Slager who still fired his gun eight times and killed Scott.
Rev. Sharpton said “The mayor and the police chief in Charleston, South Carolina did the right thing and we commend them. We cannot have a justice system with hopes that we have a mayor or police chief in the right city, we have to have one policy that is national.”
He added, “Imagine if the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s depended on ‘Well, we hope that we get a good police chief in Alabama…’ No, they fought for a National Civil Rights Act. It’s time for this nation to have national policing” laws.
Mayor Bill De Blasio also spoke about the Walter Scott video.
“Once again we’re watching a video that is so disturbing and so painful, you can’t watch that as a human being and not feel pain. It makes no sense according to what our core notions of humanity and decency and justice are. It is tempting, when you see something that painful to feel despair, not just pain but despair. We can’t let despair get the better of us,” he said.
Mayor De Blasio went on to say that “You can give the litany of pain, it’s always appropriate to do so but what really motivates people is when they see that door opening, that possibility beginning to take hold.”
He cited that “one example of progress” is the fact that the New York Police Department has dramatically reduced the number of “stop and frisk” incidents. And its height, the NYPD had 700,000 “stops and frisk” incidents in one year mainly stopping men of color. According to the Mayor, that number is down to 40,000 for this year. He also said that there were 65 percent fewer marijuana arrests in the city.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, the Mayor spoke to the press where he supported Rev. Sharpton’s call for a national law for the police: “We’ve got to figure out how to make the right relationship between the police and the community. The vast majority of police officer do their jobs well and want to do their job well and want to work more closely with community. Obviously community residents want to work more closely with the police but we’ve got to create more of a national standard that says we all have to be on the same page. There’s no specific legislation yet but it’s the right impulse.”
Rev. Sharpton also touched on the controversial “religious freedom” laws that were recently signed by Indiana and Arkansas governors. Critics say that the law creates a loophole for businesses to discriminate against the gay community.
“What happened in Indiana and Arkansas…is not a fight about gays. It’s a fight about discrimination and you cannot condone discrimination against anybody or you permit against everybody. Nobody asked you for your permission to live a life they have a right to live and if you can deny services to people because of their sexuality, you can deny it because of their race,” he said.
At the end of the convention, Rev. Sharpton said that he will announce plans to have gatherings with the gay and lesbian community and faith based leaders in states like Indiana.
Speaking on the importance of economic opportunities for Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Women, New York State Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli said: “How can we move a positive agenda forward? It’s what we try to do as controllers, Scott Stringer and I. Our role in this discussion is very much related to the issue of economic justice and economic empowerment. We will continue to work in collaboration and make sure–to provide opportunities for women owned and minorities owned firms to do business with public dollars.”
He was referring to Scott Stringer, the New York City controller.
The NAN Chairman of the Board W. Franklyn Richardson, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Stringer also spoke during the ribbon cutting ceremony. The 2015 Convention will end Saturday, April 11 and is taking place at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel.