BAY RIDGE/DYKER HEIGHTS – On Sunday, dozens of people decided to march for Blue Lives Matter in Bay Ridge in support of the NYPD.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who was leading Saturday’s protest, told the Staten Island Advance “I think it’s important for our police department to know that there are elected officials in this city who support them, who appreciate them, and who have their back. We can’t continue as the city and state to tie their hands and then take away their tools. We are less safe, everyone is less safe, and there’s been a lot of anti-police rhetoric.”
Rose responded back saying, “Nicole praised the Black Lives Matter protests, calling them ‘an example for the nation’, but now she’s pretending that never happened. Unlike her, I understand the life and death decisions that our cops make every day—and I have great respect and the deepest of gratitude for their service and sacrifice. So I’m not going to bother with nonsense from a fraud politician like her on how to support our courageous men and women in blue because she wouldn’t know what courage was if her life depended on it.”
They were met with hundreds of Black Lives Matter counter-protesters who marched against police brutality. On Fourth Avenue at around 66th Street, both groups clashed. People were pushed. Some were maced. One was tased by a cop. And some were punched in the face. NYPD tells us that five people were arrested over the weekend at both the Dyker Heights/Bay Ridge protests.
On Saturday, only about two dozen Black Lives Matter protestors showed up to counter a pro NYPD protest in Dyker Heights, including Abdullah Younus, 29, from Bay Ridge, who is the Director of Political Engagement at the New York Immigration Coalition. It was an aggressive scene in which the “pro-NYPD rally devolved into physical attacks and racist, sexist language used against a group of counter-protesters,” Gothamist reported.
On Sunday, the situation reversed – Black Lives Matter counter-protesters significantly outnumbered the pro NYPD protesters. Younus was out in Bay Ridge counter-protesting saying he could not stay at home– this was his neighborhood.
Jordan Rathkopf, 40, a photographer, had followed the Saturday protest online and felt the one on Sunday needed more counter-protestors and he wanted to document it all – images in this story capture some of the sentiments.
As he was walking around 68th Street, documenting everything, Rathkopf saw a small group of people tousling. All of a sudden, he remembers cops running into the counter-protestors and pushing them. It seemed as if they were pushing them into the sidewalk, but Rathkopf didn’t have time to think. “At first I thought it was water,” he said. “It was wet and hit my face and chest. And then a second or two later, it started to burn like crazy.”
“A lot of cops were doing a good job of de-escalating the situation, but the incidents that I saw were examples of cops not doing anything,” he said. “All they were trying to do was create a barrier, but if the Blue Lives people broke the barrier, they didn’t do anything. If the Black Lives people broke the barrier, they were being forceful. That kind of instigated it a lot because it created this feeling that they were picking sides; that they were there to defend and support the Blue Lives people regardless of their behavior.”
Both Rathkopf and Younus agree that there is no such thing as “blue life.”
“There are people who wear a blue suit, but that’s not blue life,” Rathkopf said. “Police is a job. It’s a job to protect and serve. And to protect and serve everyone. Black and Brown people are disproportionately subjected to different treatment and that is why the Black Lives Matter movement has to exist.”
Rathkopf believes that what is happening in Bay Ridge is a front. He said, “It’s an excuse for white nationalists to congregate and show their power. This is not about the police or defending the police. This is about defending themselves.”
But David, one of the Blue Lives Matter protestors, doesn’t feel the same.
“Everyone always says ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Well, all cop lives matter, too,” David (who did not want to give his last name), said. “Sure, some of my people got aggressive yesterday. But, let’s not move away from the fact that cops work to defend us every day and don’t get the respect they deserve.” He was protesting because “Cops deserve respect,” he said.
David, a proud Trump supporter who is “not afraid to say that” is proud of the outcome of the protest.
“It made me proud to see so many American flags in Bay Ridge; so many Blue Lives Matter flags. I am sure there are more people in this neighborhood that support our cops, but they are just afraid to come out because of how these people would treat them.”
We asked him if he believed Black lives matter.
“Of course, I do. But do so white lives. So does every other life,” he said. “White people are killed, too. Why doesn’t that make the news? White cops are killed, too. Why don’t people show up on the streets then?”
Neither Younus nor Rathkopf were surprised such hate took place in Bay Ridge. In fact, what surprised Rathkopf was that there were more Black Lives Matter protesters than there were for Blue Lives.
“This is my neighborhood. These are my people. For 15 to 20 years, people like the pro-NYPD protestors in Dyker Heights and in Bay Ridge made us feel afraid,” Younus said. “At one point we woke up and said enough is enough and we are not going to be scared of you anymore. We’re not going to be scared of a Muslim kid saying the wrong thing and the NYPD, the FBI, somebody showing up because they expressed a complicated political thought. We’re not afraid anymore.”
Yesterday, State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Council Member Justin Brannan released a joint statement.
“We’ve seen videos and read eyewitness accounts of this evening’s demonstrations in Bay Ridge. What we saw and read is deeply troubling and disturbing. Violence initiated by both protestors and counter-protestors, eggs thrown at police officers, people being pepper-sprayed, American flags burning, and inflammatory and hateful rhetoric spewed venomously. We personally know individuals on each side of the demonstrations who were assaulted.
As we have done consistently when violence has erupted at protests across the city, we forcefully condemn this unacceptable behavior. All of it. We support everyone’s right to demonstrate for what they believe in, but will not stand for instigating violence.
We also saw a disturbing video of a protestor being knocked down and tased by a police officer. We have asked for a full investigation and are awaiting further details.
We have also been in touch with the 68th Precinct throughout the weekend and will be reaching out to Captain Tolson to have a full briefing to review what occurred during both events.
We want to be clear that this turn of events is entirely on the hands of the local organizers, elected officials, and candidates that planned and supported this weekend’s marches and did not forcefully denounce the violence, racism, and misogyny of yesterday’s protest in Dyker Heights. Your continued failure to deescalate the tensions you’ve stoked will only lead to more pain for our community.
The events of this weekend do not represent the neighborhood we know. We are better than this. All of us.”
Younus believes this was a cowardly statement. He said it sounded like Gounardes was saying “Both sides did wrong.”
“Then you have Justin Brannan, our dear Council Member who just voted to not defund the police. He knows full well what Bay Ridge and the Muslim community have experienced here,” he said. “I’ve seen our community destroyed, ripped apart. And then we have Max Rose who calls for the National Guard… Then you have Nicole Malliotakis… she’s at the front of the [pro-cops- rally] in Dyker Heights. That’s our failure. I don’t wanna call it leadership.”
“I know what leadership looks like. Leadership looks like all of the people in all of the groups that have formed in Bay Ridge, in Southern Brooklyn. We’ve got Fight Back Bay Ridge, Bay Ridge for Social Justice, South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance, Yalla Brooklyn, South Brooklyn DSA,” he continued.
Rathkopf is Jewish. He remembers growing up thinking, “How was the Holocaust able to happen? How did Hitler get to power? Why didn’t the people stop him? Why didn’t anyone stand up?”
“I remember thinking that couldn’t happen here,” he said. But the last four years changed him. It was the first time where he started to feel it could.
“You see these outwardly racist policies… banning Muslims from flying here, putting children in cages, calling Mexicans rapists,” he said. “As a Jewish person, I feel like it’s our responsibility to fight against this. I wish more people had stood up for my family.”
All of the photos were taken by Rathkopf Photography. You can view more of their photos from the Bay Ridge protest/counter-protest on their website here.