NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and over a dozen elected officials gathered in Manhattan’s Foley Square this morning to address the murder of George Floyd last week, and to discuss new legislation that will hold police officers accountable for the killing of innocent black people. The legislation includes a bill that will criminalize a police officer’s use of any technique, such as a chokehold, that restricts breathing, along with a second bill requiring the NYPD to create guidelines for police discipline.
Along with guests like the Reverend Al Sharpton, who was born in Brownsville, and Midwood resident Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, several Brooklyn representatives stepped up with calls for justice, reform, and for concrete and immediate action on the part of Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and President Trump. Standing directly behind the podium throughout the duration of the conference was Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner who was killed by an officer on Staten Island.
NO RECONCILIATION WITHOUT LEGISLATION
“The chokehold, and any other tactic such as a knee to the neck, that is designed to alter one’s ability to breathe and results in strangulation or asphyxiation, is unacceptable, unconscionable, and un-American,” stated Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn, and who spoke first after Speaker Johnson. “We are going to make it unlawful – at every level of government.”
The person who first showed him the video of Floyd’s murder was not his Chief of Staff, nor a colleague in government, the Congressman said – but his 16-year-old son, who asked him, “It’s happened again. Dad, what are you going to do about it?”
“We’re here to do something about it,” the Congressman said.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams stepped up next to share his support of a piece of state legislation, commonly known as 50-a, that would repeal the law that currently shields police officers’ disciplinary records from being released to the public.
“It seems that everything is more important than black lives,” Public Advocate Williams stated. Instead of sending in more police to address protests against police brutality, he said, the mayor, governor, and the president should “should listen to the people who are most in pain about what it is that we need to do.”
“It is atrocious that is the city, that we’ve seen everything from Abner Louima all the way to Eric Garner, and we’ve not seen a change in policy,” the Reverend Al Sharpton stated. “Everybody wants to have reconciliation without first having legislation.” What our leaders want, Sharpton said, is not peace, but for black people “to shut up and suffer in silence.”
“If you want peace, you bring justice. If you want quiet, you bring curfew,” he said.
I CAN’T BREATHE
“It’s hard to describe the horrible and deadly chokehold that [Gwen Carr’s] son Eric Garner was subjected to, and was murdered by the hands of five New York City police officers six years ago,” Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park, Red Hook, and Bay Ridge, stated.
“We all vowed that such a tragedy must never occur again. But we know that it has – we know that it has many times. We know that it has in full view of the TV cameras just last week, with George Floyd in Minnesota. He even used the same fateful words as Eric Garner – ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’”
“We cannot wait for the next Eric Floyd or Eric Garner,” the Congressman said.
In the coming days and weeks, he said, he will be working with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, along with Reverend Al Sharpton, the Congressional Black Caucus, and various civil rights groups, to lay out a set of policies that will promote accountability, transparency, and public safety in interactions between police and civilians. In particular, they will be recommending Congressman Hakeem Jeffries’ bill, which would ban the use of chokeholds by the police across the country, not just in New York.
Another policy would ensure that “bad cops can’t be fired in one department and hired in another,” the Congressman said.” The policy would also ensure that police can’t use the legal doctrine of qualified immunity to avoid being sued for their actions.
TO THE BLACK MOTHERS
“I want the best for my son,” Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo said. “I love him very deeply. And I say that to say, there are individuals out here that don’t think that we have feelings. That we love deeply. That our children matter to us. That we cry, that we pain, when we see what happened to George Floyd. And I want to take a moment to talk to Ms. Gwen Carr. We were in the courtroom with her, and had to watch autopsy after autopsy of paid witnesses brought in by the police department from other states to try to convince us that what we saw – his death happened to be a coincidence of him dying at the same time as them choking him to death.”
The police are doing the exact same thing with George Floyd, Majority Leader Cumbo said. “The fact that we have spent any time discussing how he died, or what he died from, shows the ridiculousness of what they want us to buy into.”