The NLG-NYC Mass Defense Committee objects to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s April 14, 2015 statement regarding participants in that day’s march against police killings. The Mayor’s exaggerated allegations of attacks on NYPD officers by protesters, widely reported in media outlets, are a frightening and unnecessary threat to New Yorkers wishing to participate in Constitutionally-protected activity, and are a clear attempt to shift the conversation away from the primary issue driving these protests: the violence and lack of accountability of the NYPD’s actions in communities of color across New York City.
Mayor de Blasio’s statement characterizes protesters as “perpetrators,” implying that protesters would use “the right to peaceful protest” as some kind of “cover” for violent activity. This is especially vexing at a time when the NYPD continues to attack and abuse protesters without any repercussions or prosecution. We note that de Blasio’s promise of a “swift arrest and aggressive prosecution” for protesters has yet to be applied to any NYPD officer involved in attacks on protesters – even when their actions are caught on video.
For example, during Tuesday’s demonstration, acts of violence by NYPD officers against protesters were caught on video (see links here and here). The de Blasio administration has yet to issue a statement condemning and calling for the prosecution of the officers involved, despite video evidence of the officers’ violent actions.
Attempts to paint the NYPD as victims ring false. It is the ongoing and well-documented constitutional and human rights violations by the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies against communities of color that have helped spark this new generation of Black-led protest movements. If Mayor de Blasio is concerned about the “dignity of New York City” then his administration must immediately begin making demands for accountability of its own police department’s actions rather than demonizing those seeking justice.
The Mass Defense Committee of the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild was created in the spring of 1968 in response to Vietnam war protests and the Columbia University student demonstrations. Over the intervening decades, the MDC has provided Legal Observers at thousands of demonstrations and appeared in court for thousands arrested as they marched and rallied for civil rights, immigration rights, economic justice, and reproductive rights, and against police misconduct, environmental injustice and war. For more information on the Committee, click here.