The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer has galvanized the nation and the world. His murder was only one of a long, long list of murders and lynchings over decades. But this was a perfect storm that made its heinousness obvious to all: this was not the instant firing of a gun in a moment of fear, but a tortuously long, drawn out 8 minutes, 46 seconds, during which three other police stood around, onlookers pleaded for mercy, and the whole thing captured on video shared over social media. So while there were other unprovoked killings – Breonna Taylor, shot in her own apartment in the dead of night after police invaded with a no-knock warrant – this one was undeniable in demonstrating the ingrained culture that dehumanizes in order for such violence to occur, and the smug security of police, given unparalleled power of a gun and a badge, that they would not be held accountable.
Enough is enough, protesters by the tens of thousands in hundreds of cities throughout the country and the world, chant, even putting their own lives at risk, not just from the baton-wielding, tear-gas throwing, flashbang grenade hurling, rubber-bullet firing police dressed as an invading army, but from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The protests have come to suburbia and our home town as well – most affectingly, one this weekend organized by Great Neck high school students which drew well over 500 people to Firefighters Park in Great Neck Plaza. (They withstood accusations on Facebook they were terrorists who had collected stones to throw at police. Meanwhile, county police closed off the main street to traffic so they could march a mile to the Village Green, and walked along side.)
They decried the structural racism at the heart of a police culture that has its origins in catching slaves, then, morphed into an enforcement mechanism for White Supremacy, along with so many other structural inequities that, by design, have kept African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities unequal in society.
While the elements of police brutality and criminal injustice are well known, they are kept in force year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation by supremely politically powerful police unions.
Indeed, the most dramatic “reform” is to completely rebuild police departments – there are 16,000 of them. Some police departments have actually done this – Camden, NJ, for example – and it may be the only way to really root out the structural inequities, bias. Now Minneapolis’ city council has voted to disband its $193 million police department. What that actually means is that, like Camden, it intends to rebuild it, in order to make it functional and appropriate in a country that supposedly is based on principles of “equal justice for all.”
They will likely scrutinize how police officers are recruited, hired, know if there is a record of police brutality (like Timothy Loehmann who murdered 12-year old Tamir Rice). How are officers trained and what they understand their “mission” to be? One trendy training program (as John Oliver disclosed on “Last Week Tonight”) is in the “art” of “Killology” where officers are instructed that if they are not predators prepared to kill, they have no business being police.
Not only are the problems well known, but the solutions have been methodically investigated, analyzed, quantified and put in the form of recommendations – by the Obama Administration after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots that followed Michael Brown’s unprovoked murder by police. The task force developed a template for 21st Century Policing, including ending militarizing police. His Department of Justice under Eric Holder obtained consent decrees from the most vile police forces. But, like the template to address a global pandemic handed to the Trump Administration, it was immediately discarded, and the consent decrees withdrawn.
But George Floyd has created the rarest opportunity for reform. With breathtaking speed for New York or any state government, major measures for a “Say Their Name” police reform agenda have already passed the Legislature: Allow for transparency of prior disciplinary records by reforming 50-a; ban chokeholds; prosecute for making a false race-based 911 report; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in cases involving death of unarmed civilian by law enforcement.
Cuomo wants to go further to “seize the momentum,” correctly seeing this time as transformational to “reinvent” policing..
“This is a long time coming,” Cuomo said. “It is time to reimagine and reinvent policing for 2020…Police are public servants for that community – if the community doesn’t trust, doesn’t respect police, police can’t do their job.”
Democrats in Congress have also seized on this transformational moment as well, introducing “Justice in Policing Act” which at the federal level would ban chokeholds; challenge “qualified immunity”; prohibit no-knock warrants; counter the trend toward militarization of police; require body and dashboard cameras; require independent prosecutors in cases of police brutality; establish a national database to track police misconduct; and (finally) make lynching a federal hate crime.
Others want more. There are calls to “defund police” – which like “They’re coming for your guns” and “Open Borders!” is a catchy slogan that fits on a sign that has been deliberately distorted by Trump and the Republicans and used to incite fear among (white suburban) voters who are being told their neighborhoods will be overrun by criminals, gangs and rapists.
What “defund police” means is reassessing what functions the police do. Do we want protectors or warriors? Are police the best ones to address situations involving mental health, drug overdoses, domestic violence or school discipline? More accurately, people are calling for “divest-reinvest”: take that money and invest in social workers, mental health professionals, and guidance counselors that police, themselves, have said they are not equipped to deal with.
And it means investing in community programs that in themselves reduce crime. That’s what Cuomo is proposing in a Justice Agenda to root out the causes of criminal injustice, all on view in conjunction with the coronavirus epidemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color: it goes to addressing the disparities in education, housing, health care, poverty.
“This is not just a moment for political protest,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not just a moment to express outrage. It’s a moment to do something about it, and to make real reform and real change. That’s the goal of the moment. I understand the emotion. I want people to know how upset I am. Good. Second step, what do we do about it? And let’s get it done here in the State of New York.
“When we talk about a Justice Agenda, we want to fight the systemic racism, inequality and injustice in our society. That is what the protesters are saying and I stand with the protesters in saying that because it’s very true. But in this moment of change, let’s make it real change and let’s get to the root of the issue. You want to talk about injustice and inequality in America. Well then it has to start with our education system. We do not educate all children the same. ‘Opportunity for all.’ No, opportunity for some, opportunity for people who grow up in a rich school district and a rich family with high property taxes and they go to great schools, but not for the children who grow up in poorer communities, who go to inferior schools. That is the reality today. That is the truth. I’m saying that as Governor of New York not as a protester on a street corner. It is a fact. Even in this state, we spent $36,000 per year, per student, in a wealthy school district, $13,000 per year in a poorer school district. How do you rationalize that? You can’t and say this is a system that provides equal opportunity for all.
“How do you still have children living in poverty? With all this wealth, with all this abundance, how do you tolerate a situation where some children to no fault of their own, you can’t blame them, they were born into one circumstance and they are living in poverty? You can’t justify it. The number of homeless, lack of affordable housing, you have a federal government that just went out of the housing business. I was the former housing secretary, worked in housing all my life. Housing was a federal responsibility, not state, not local. 1949 Housing Act, “for this nation, safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans.” 1949, it’s 2020, what are we doing? There’s no section eight, no section eight project base, no more public housing, and then we wonder why there is an affordable housing shortage.
“And yes, criminal justice reform, why do we lock up more people than any industrialized nation on the globe? That is a sign of success? …Why do we have racial disparity in the criminal justice system? How do you rationalize it? Unless it goes back to the other systemic injustices and inequality, if a person grows up in poverty, if a person doesn’t have education, if a person doesn’t have access to opportunity, then you see the result in the criminal justice system. This is how you get at injustice and inequality, and you can’t do it piecemeal, either attack it fully or you will never defeat it. That is the justice agenda. And this has to be done on the federal level and it should be done on the federal level because this is not a New York or California or Florida issue. It is an American issue. And you are in the middle of election season, stand up and say, ‘Here is my election reform agenda. You want my support and my vote? Here is my agenda. You are running for Congress, you’re running for Senate, or whatever you’re running for, you want my support? Here is my agenda.’ That is my opinion,” Cuomo said.
But none of this will happen as long as Trump and the Republicans are in power.
Amid national protests over police brutality and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Donald Trump calling out the military against peaceful protesters outside the White House, VP Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, declares, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.“
“We are a nation in pain,” Biden declared. “but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.
“As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.”
Here is a transcript of Vice President Joe Biden’s speech delivered from the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia City Hall in front of an audience that included Mayor Jim Kenney, Congressman Brendan Boyle, and state and local elected officials.:
“I can’t breathe.” “I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation.
They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk.
They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus – and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment – with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in black and brown communities.
And they speak to a nation where every day millions of people – not at the moment of losing their life – but in the course of living their life – are saying to themselves, “I can’t breathe.”
It’s a wake-up call for our nation. For all of us.
And I mean all of us. It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words – they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago.
But it’s time to listen to these words. Understand them. And respond to them – with real action.
The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that can bring us together. Leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for too long.
But there is no place for violence.
No place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by people of color who for the first time were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families.
Nor is it acceptable for our police — sworn to protect and serve all people — to escalate tensions or resort to excessive violence.
We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest — and opportunistic violent destruction.
And we must be vigilant about the violence that’s being done by the incumbent president to our democracy and to the pursuit of justice.
When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the President from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle.
More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care.
For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.
The President held up a bible at St. John’s church yesterday.
If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something: That we are all called to love one another as we love ourselves.
That’s hard work. But it’s the work of America.
Donald Trump isn’t interested in doing that work.
Instead he’s preening and sweeping away all the guardrails that have long protected our democracy.
Guardrails that have helped make possible this nation’s path to a more perfect union.
A union that constantly requires reform and rededication – and yes the protests from voices of those mistreated, ignored, left out and left behind.
But it’s a union worth fighting for and that’s why I’m running for President.
In addition to the Bible, he might also want to open the U.S. Constitution.
If he did, he’d find the First Amendment. It protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Mr. President: That is America.
Not horses rising up on their hind legs to push back a peaceful protest. Not using the American military to move against the American people. This nation is a nation of values. Our freedom to speak is the cherished knowledge that lives inside every American.
We will not allow any President to quiet our voice.
We won’t let those who see this as an opportunity to sow chaos throw up a smokescreen to distract us from the very real and legitimate grievances at the heart of these protests.
And we can’t leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away and do nothing. We can’t.
The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.
I’ve said from the outset of this election that we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. Who we are. What we believe. And maybe most important — who we want to be.
It’s all at stake. That is truer today than ever. And it’s in this urgency we can find the path forward.
The history of this nation teaches us that it’s in some of our darkest moments of despair that we’ve made some of our greatest progress.
The 13th and 14th and 15th Amendments followed the Civil War. The greatest economy in the history of the world grew out of the Great Depression. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 came in the tracks of Bull Connor’s vicious dogs.
To paraphrase Reverend Barber — it’s in the mourning we find hope.
It will take more than talk. We’ve had talk before. We’ve had protests before.
Let us vow to make this, at last, an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue and concrete changes.
That action will not be completed in the first 100 days of my Presidency — or even an entire term.
It is the work of a generation.
But if this agenda will take time to complete, it should not wait for the first 100 days of my Presidency to get started.
A down payment on what is long overdue should come now. Immediately.
I call on Congress to act this month on measures that would be a first step in this direction. Starting with real police reform.
Congressman Jeffries has a bill to outlaw choke holds. Congress should put it on President Trump’s desk in the next few days.
There are other measures: to stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, to improve oversight and accountability, to create a model use of force standard — that also should be made law this month.
No more excuses. No more delays.
If the Senate has time to confirm Trump’s unqualified judicial nominees who will run roughshod over our Constitution, it has time to pass legislation that will give true meaning to our Constitution’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.”
Looking ahead, in the first 100 days of my presidency, I have committed to creating a national police oversight commission.
I’ve long believed we need real community policing.
And we need each and every police department in the country to undertake a comprehensive review of their hiring, their training, and their de-escalation practices.
And the federal government should give them the tools and resources they need to implement reforms.
Most cops meet the highest standards of their profession. All the more reason that bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly. We all need to take a hard look at the culture that allows for these senseless tragedies to keep happening.
And we need to learn from the cities and precincts that are getting it right.
We know, though, that to have true justice in America, we need economic justice, too.
Here, too, there is much to be done.
As an immediate step, Congress should act to rectify racial inequities in the allocation of COVID-19 recovery funds.
I will be setting forth more of my agenda on economic justice and opportunity in the weeks and months ahead.
But it begins with health care. It should be a right not a privilege. The quickest route to universal coverage in this country is to expand Obamacare.
We could do it. We should do it.
But this president — even now — in the midst of a public health crisis with massive unemployment wants to destroy it.
He doesn’t care how many millions of Americans will be hurt— because he is consumed with his blinding ego when it comes to President Obama.
The President should withdraw his lawsuit to strike down Obamacare, and the Congress should prepare to act on my proposal to expand Obamacare to millions more.
These last few months we have seen America’s true heroes. The health care workers, the nurses, delivery truck drivers, grocery store workers.
We have a new phrase for them: Essential workers.
But we need to do more than praise them. We need to pay them.
Because if it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now. This country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers and CEOs. It was built by America’s great middle class — by our essential workers.
I know there is enormous fear and uncertainty and anger in the country. I understand.
And I know so many Americans are suffering. Suffering the loss of a loved one. Suffering economic hardships. Suffering under the weight of generation after generation after generation of hurt inflicted on people of color — and on black and Native communities in particular.
I know what it means to grieve. My losses are not the same as the losses felt by so many. But I know what it is to feel like you cannot go on.
I know what it means to have a black hole of grief sucking at your chest.
Just a few days ago marked the fifth anniversary of my son Beau’s passing from cancer. There are still moments when the pain is so great it feels no different from the day he died. But I also know that the best way to bear loss and pain is to turn all that anger and anguish to purpose.
And, Americans know what our purpose is as a nation. It has guided us from the very beginning.
It’s been reported. That on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, little Yolanda King came home from school in Atlanta and jumped in her father’s arms.
“Oh, Daddy,” she said, “now we will never get our freedom.”
Her daddy was reassuring, strong, and brave.
“Now don’t you worry, baby,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. “It’s going to be all right.”
Amid violence and fear, Dr. King persevered.
He was driven by his dream of a nation where “justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Then, in 1968 hate would cut him down in Memphis.
A few days before Dr. King was murdered, he gave a final Sunday sermon in Washington.
He told us that though the arc of a moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.
And we know we can bend it — because we have. We have to believe that still. That is our purpose. It’s been our purpose from the beginning.
To become the nation where all men and women are not only created equal — but treated equally.
To become the nation defined — in Dr. King’s words — not only by the absence of tension, but by the presence of justice.
Today in America it’s hard to keep faith that justice is at hand. I know that. You know that.
The pain is raw. The pain is real.
A president of the United States must be part of the solution, not the problem. But our president today is part of the problem.
When he tweeted the words “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” – those weren’t the words of a president. They were the words of a racist Miami police chief from the 1960s.
When he tweeted that protesters “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs … that’s when people would have been really badly hurt.” Those weren’t the words of a president — those were the kind of words a Bull Connor would have used unleashing his dogs.
The American story is about action and reaction. That’s the way history works. We can’t be naïve about that.
I wish I could say this hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn’t and it won’t. American history isn’t a fairytale with a guaranteed happy ending.
The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull for more than 240 years.
A tug of war between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. The honest truth is both elements are part of the American character.
At our best, the American ideal wins out.
It’s never a rout. It’s always a fight. And the battle is never finally won.
But we can’t ignore the truth that we are at our best when we open our hearts, not when we clench our fists. Donald Trump has turned our country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears.
He thinks division helps him.
His narcissism has become more important than the nation’s well-being he leads.
I ask every American to look at where we are now, and think anew: Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we pass on to our kids’ and grandkids’ lives? Fear and finger-pointing rather than hope and the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety? Self-absorption and selfishness?
Or do we want to be the America we know we can be. The America we know in our hearts we could be and should be.
Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won’t either.
But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate.
I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain.
I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me.
It’s about you.
And I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation. But to build it better than it was.
To build a better future. That’s what America does.
We build the future. It may in fact be the most American thing to do.
We hunger for liberty the way Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass did.
We thirst for the vote the way Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and John Lewis did. We strive to explore the stars, to cure disease, to make this imperfect Union as perfect as we can.
We may come up short — but at our best we try.
We are facing formidable enemies.
They include not only the coronavirus and its terrible impact on our lives and livelihoods, but also the selfishness and fear that have loomed over our national life for the last three years.
Defeating those enemies requires us to do our duty — and that duty includes remembering who we should be.
We should be the America of FDR and Eisenhower, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., of Jonas Salk and Neil Armstrong.
We should be the America that cherishes life and liberty and courage.
Above all, we should be the America that cherishes each other – each and every one.
We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.
As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.
So reach out to one another. Speak out for one another. And please, please take care of each other.
This is the United States of America. And there is nothing we can’t do. If we do it together.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a positive reform agenda to address systemic racism and police brutality amidst the ongoing protests across the state and nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. The reform agenda includes a national ban on excessive force and chokeholds by law enforcement officers; independent investigations of police brutality conducted by independent, outside agencies – not by local prosecutors; and disclosure of disciplinary records of police officers being investigated.
While standing firmly in support of the protests against police brutality, the Governor said that protest for its own sake would only work against the cause, but that there needs to be a clearly defined list of actions that need to be articulated.
“You want to make that moment work,” he declared. “Yes, you express the outrage. But then you say, ‘Here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.’ That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protesters are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse.”
And Cuomo also differentiated between the those who are exercising their Constitutional First Amendment right to protest against those who are taking advantage to loot and vandalize, giving Trump the opportunity to deflect and discount, and shift focus to himself as the “law-and-order” strongman. Indeed, there are reports that White Nationalist group is posing as Antifa on Twitter, calling for violence. Trump is proposing to designate Antifa a terrorist group, and is using them to justify calling out military against protesters – which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
“There’s no doubt that what the President’s trying to do here is turn the attention to the looters rather than the point of the protest, which is genuine outrage,” Cuomo said in an interview with Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “”You look at what happened with Mr. Floyd, you have to be outraged. It’s not just Mr. Floyd in an isolated situation, it’s been years and years of the same situation. You can go back to Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner – it’s a long list.
“They want to make this about looting and criminals rather than the killing. That’s what they’re trying to do. In New York, we did have large protests and we do have people who are, I think, exploiting the protest. There’s no doubt that there’s some people who came out and did looting and criminal activity. You have some disrupting organizations that are seizing upon the moment. We want to make sure that order is maintained and we’re putting in place a curfew.”
“Use this moment. You look in history, Nicolle, when did change come? Change came when the people insisted on change. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.”
Cuomo ordered a curfew of 11 pm in New York City, and doubled the number of police, from 4,000 to 8,000. However, that was not enough to stop a spate of acts of looting and vandalism.
The protests come just as New York City was hitting the milestones in the fight against COVID-19, which has taken more lives – and more disproportionately in communities of color – in the city and state than anywhere in the country or world. The Governor said that if there was any “silver” lining in the timing, the protests are happening when the infection rate has been cut from 20 percent to 2 percent but still raised concerns of reigniting the spread of the pandemic.
Here is a transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks:
We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City. Now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could, in fact, exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masked, socially distanced and then you turn on the TV and you see there’s mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people. After everything that we have done. We have to talk a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?
We have protests across the state that continued last night, they continued across the nation. Upstate we worked with the cities very closely. The State Police did a great job. We had, basically, a few scattered arrests, upstate New York. But the local governments did a great job, the people did a great job, law enforcement did a great job. The protestors were responsible. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either, upstate.
I said from day one, I share the outrage and I stand with the protestors. You look at that video of the killing of an unarmed man, Mr. Floyd, it is horrendous. Horrendous. It’s frightening. It perverts everything you believe about this country. It does and there’s no excuse for it. No right minded American would make an excuse for it. So, protest yes. Be frustrated, yes. Outraged, yes of course. Is there a larger problem? Of course. It’s not just Mr. Floyd, it goes back – there are 50 cases that are just like Mr. Floyd. We’ve them here in New York City. What’s the difference between Mr. Floyd and Amadou Diallo? Or Abner Louima? Or Eric Garner? What is the difference? What have we learned? Nothing?
So, yes, we should be outraged. And yes, there’s a bigger point to make. It is abuse by police. But it’s something worse. It is racism. It is discrimination. It is fundamental inequality and injustice. My father spoke about it in 1984. The speech called “The Tale of Two Cities.” People still talk about it. The point of the tale of two cities is there’s two Americas. Two sets of rules. Two sets of outcomes. Two sets of expectations. It’s true. It was true then, it’s true now. Look at our prisons and tell me there’s not inherit injustice in society. Look at public housing, tell me there’s not inherent injustice.
Look at what happened with this COVID infection rate nationwide. More African Americans infected, more African Americans dead proportionally than white Americans. Of course, there’s chronic institutionalized discrimination. There is no doubt. There is no doubt. And there’s no doubt that it’s been going on for a long time and people are frustrated, and it has to be corrected and it has to be corrected now. And there’s no doubt, that this nation as great as it is has had the continuing sin of discrimination. From before the nation was formed and it started with slavery. And it has had different faces over the decades, but it’s still the same sin. That is true. That is true. So let’s use this moment as a moment of change? Yes.
When does change come? When the stars align and society focuses and the people focus, and they focus to such an extent that the politicians follow the people. That’s when change comes. “Well, the leaders lead!” Baloney. The people lead. And then the politicians see the people moving, and the politicians run to catch up with the people. How did we pass marriage equality in this State, giving a new civil right to the LGBTQ community? Because the people said, “enough is enough. How can you say only heterosexual people can marry, but the LGBTQ people— they can’t marry? How is that constitutional? How is that legal?” You have your own preference— God bless you. But how in the law, do you discriminate between two classes of people. We passed marriage equality.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, after all those years we tried to pass common sense gun safety. Do you really need an assault weapon to kill a deer? But then the Sandy Hook massacre happened, and the people said, “enough. You’re killing children? Young children in schools with an assault weapon? In the Sandy Hook massacre. Enough.”
And in that moment, we passed common sense gun safety in the State of New York. Record income inequality? People said, “enough” and passed a real minimum wage in this State that went all across the nation. There’s a moment for change, and is there a moment here? Yes. If we’re constructive and if we’re smart, and if we know what were asking for! It’s not enough to come out and say, “I’m angry, I’m frustrated.” OK. And what? “Well, I don’t know, but I’m angry and frustrated.”
And you want what done? You need the answer. “Well, I want common sense gun reform.” OK, what does it look like? Here it is— three points. “Well I want to address income inequality.” Well, what do you want? “Here’s what I want. Minimum wage at $15. Free college tuition.” What do you want?
You want to make that moment work. Yes, you express the outrage! But then you say, “here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.” That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protestors are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse. When you have the local District Attorney doing the investigations— I don’t care how good they are— there is the suggestion of a conflict of interest. Why? Because that DA works with that police department every day and now that prosecutor is going to do the investigation of that police department that they work with every day? Conflict of interests can be real or perceived. How can people believe that the local prosecutor who works with that police department is going to be fair in the investigation? It shouldn’t be state by state. Minnesota Governor Walz put the attorney general in charge. Good. In this state, I put attorney general in charge of investigations where police kill an unarmed person. Good. But it shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. There is no self-policing. There’s an allegation, independent investigation. Give people comfort that the investigation is real.
If a police officer is being investigated, how is there disciplinary records not relevant? Once a police officer is being investigated, if they have disciplinary records that show this was a repeat pattern, how is that not relevant? By the way, the disciplinary records can also be used to exonerate. If they have disciplinary records that say he never, she never did anything like this before, fine. That’s relevant too.
We still have two education systems in this country. Everybody knows it. Your education is decided by your zip code. Poorer schools in poorer communities have a different level of funding than richer schools in this state. $36,000 per year we spend in a rich district. $13,000 in a poor district. How do you justify that? If anything, the children in a poorer community need more services in a school, not less. How do you justify that? You can’t. Do something about it. You still have children living in poverty in this nation? Well, when we had to, we found a trillion dollars to handle the COVID virus, but you can’t find funding to help children who live in poverty? No, you can find it, United States. You just don’t want to. It’s political will. When you need to find the money, you can find it. Let’s be honest, the federal government has a printing press in their basement. When they have the political will, they find the money.
The federal government went out of the housing business and never re-entered it. We have a national affordable housing crisis. Of course you do. You don’t fund affordable housing. I’m the former HUD secretary. I know better than anyone what the federal government used to do in terms of affordable housing with Section 8 and building new public housing. And we just stopped, and we left it to the market. Now you have an affordable housing plan. That’s what we should be addressing in this moment. And we should be saying to our federal officials, “There’s an election this year, a few months away. Here’s my agenda. Where do you stand?” Say to the congress, the House and Senate, “Where’s your bill on this?”
I heard some congressional people talking saying well maybe they’ll do a resolution. Yeah, resolutions are nice. Resolutions say in theory I support this. Pass a law, that’s what we want. A law that actually changes the reality, where something actually happens. That’s government’s job is to actually make change. Make change. You’re in a position to make change. Make change. Use this moment to galvanize public support. Use that outrage to actually make the change. And have the intelligence to say what changes you actually want. Otherwise, it’s just screaming into the wind if you don’t know exactly what changes we need to make.
And we have to be smart in this moment. The violence in these protests obscures the righteousness of the message. The people who are exploiting the situation, the looting, that’s not protesting. That’s not righteous indignation. That’s criminality and it plays into the hands of the people and the forces that don’t want to make the changes in the first place because then they get to dismiss the entire effort. I will tell you what they’re going to say. They’re going to say the first thing the President said when this happened. They’re going to say “These are looters.” Remember when the President put out that incendiary tweet? “We start shooting when they start looting or they start looting, we start shooting?” That’s an old ’60s call. The violence, the looting, the criminality plays right into those people who don’t want progressive change. And you mark my words, they’re going to say today, “Oh you see, they’re criminals. They’re looters. Did you see what they did breaking the store windows and going in and stealing?” And they’re going to try to paint this whole protest movement that they’re all criminals, they’re all looters. That’s what they’re going to do. Why? They don’t want to talk about Mr. Floyd’s death. They don’t want people seeing that video. They want people seeing the video of the looting. And when people see the video of the looting they say “Oh yeah, that’s scary. They’re criminals.” No, look at the video of the police officer killing Mr. Floyd. That’s the video we want people watching.
Now, I don’t even believe it’s the protesters. I believe there are people who are using this moment and using the protest for their own purpose. There are people who want to sow the seeds of anarchy, who want to disrupt. By the way, there are people who want to steal. And here’s a moment that you can use this moment to steal. You can use this moment to spread chaos. I hear the same thing from all the local officials. They have people in their communities who are there to quote unquote protest. They’re not from their community. They don’t know where they’re from, extremist groups, some people are going to blame the left, some people will blame the right. It will become politicized. But there is no doubt there are outside groups that come in to disrupt. There is no doubt that there are people who just use this moment to steal. What, it’s a coincidence they broke into a Rolex watch company? That was a coincidence? High end stores, Chanel. That was a coincidence? That was random? That was not random. So, can you have a legitimate protest movement hijacked? Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And there are people and forces who will exploit that moment and I believe that’s happening.
But we still have to be smart. And at the same time, we have a fundamental issue which is we just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed. People will have lost their jobs. People wiped out their savings. And now mass gatherings with thousands of people in close proximity one week before we’re going to reopen New York City? What sense does this make? Control the spread, control the spread, control the spread. We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings. We don’t even know. We won’t know possibly for weeks. It’s the nature of the virus. How many super-spreaders were in that crowd? “Well, they were mostly young people.” How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello or shook hands with their father or hugged their father or their grandfather or their brother or their mother or their sister and spread a virus?
New York City opens next week. Took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart? New York tough. We went from the worst situation to reopening. From the worst situation to 54 deaths in 50 days. We went from the worst situation to reopening in 93 days. We did that because we were New York tough. New York tough was smart. We were smart. We were smart for 93 days. We were united, we were respectful of each other. We were disciplined. Wearing the mask is just discipline, it’s just discipline. Remember to put it on, remember to pick it up, remembering to put it on when see someone, it’s just discipline.
It was also about love. We did it because we love one another. That’s what a community is. We love one another. And yes, you can be loving even in New York. Even with the New York toughness, even with a New York accent, even with a New York swagger. We’re loving. That’s what we’ve done for 93 days in a way we’ve never done it before. Never in my lifetime. Never in my lifetime has this city and this state come together in the way we have. I don’t think it ever will again, in my lifetime. Now you can say maybe it takes a global pandemic for it to happen. I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t know that the power of what it was like when it came together might not be so beautiful that people want to do it again.
Remember when we all acted together during coronavirus and we rallied and we knocked coronavirus on its rear end. Remember when we all wore masks and we had to have hand sanitizer? Remember what we did? Wow. When we come together, we can do anything and it’s true. It’s true for the state, it’s true for a nation. When you come together and you have one agenda you can do anything. You want to change society, you want to end the tale of two cities, you want to make it one America? You can do that, just the way you knocked coronavirus on its rear end.
People united can do anything. We showed that, we just showed that the past 93 days. We can end the injustice and the discrimination and the intolerance and the police abuse. We have to be smart. We have to be smart right now. Right now in this state. We have to be smart tonight in this city because this is not advancing a reform agenda. This is not persuading government officials to change. This is not helping end coronavirus. We have to be smart.
The Women’s Marches that took place across the country – some 250 of them including Washington DC and New York City – are the opening salvo to the 2020 Election. Make no mistake, this was about voting, realizing that all the issues that they care about hinge on the coming election and not on changing the minds of lawmakers who currently control the levers of power: reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to self-determination; access to the ballot and access to health care; climate action and environmental justice; gun safety and domestic violence; gender equity, sexism and misogyny; discrimination and sexual harassment; immigration reform and human rights. They are all on the ballot this November.
And the Supreme Court and all the courts now
dominated by radical right-wing judges that seek to roll back women’s rights,
civil rights, voting rights, health-care-is-a-human-right. “Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, hold on,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declared as the
march set off down Columbus Avenue, passed the Trump International Hotel, where
the most animated expressions of outrage against Trump and his administration
A singular, unifying message emerged: Dump Trump and
his henchmen and his enablers.
And a theme for the New York City march organized by Women’s March Alliance (womensmarchalliance.org): Rise & Roar.
I thought it was impressive when a couple of dozen elected officials from state, county and local government came to a Shabbat service at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck to show support for the Jewish community after horrific attacks at a Rabbi’s home in Monsey and a massacre at Jersey City kosher grocery. I was moved by the outpouring of 25,000 mostly Jewish (surprisingly few Orthodox) who marched as a demonstration of Jewish pride and resolution over the Brooklyn Bridge, led by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, and faith leaders. But what was truly awesome were the 2500 Long Islanders who marched in a show of solidarity to fight anti-Semitism and hate crimes at the county seat in Mineola, representing just about every aspect, community and culture across the length and breadth of Long Island. Marchers came from across the Island, representing more than 125 religious and community groups.
Nassau County Executive
Laura Curran organized the march and rally in solidarity with the Jewish
community and against Anti-Semitism in response to horrific attacks in Brookyn,
Monsey, and Jersey City, as well as incidents of Anti-Semitic graffiti at the Holocaust Memorial and
Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove. In December, Nassau and Suffolk Counties formed a bi-county coalition that
will identify and develop a plan of action to combat and report acts of hate
and bias incidents on Long Island. In conjunction with a number of
organizations, today’s march marked one of the task force’s inaugural
“We organized this march
to send a clear message in one voice: Long Islanders of all faiths and
backgrounds stand united with our Jewish community and against Anti-Semitism,”
said Nassau County Executive Laura
As Assemblyman Charles Lavine read off
the names of participating groups, closing out nearly two hours of speeches
(notably very short speeches, that’s how many speakers there were) included on
the list: Turkish, Chinese, Indian…
Many of the speakers spoke of bigotry
and anti-Semitism as being anathema to American values. But of course,
Americans have a Pollyannish notion of this country’s “tolerance,”
“acceptance.” The strain of bigotry, hatred and particularly anti-Semitism has
always been here, even during World War II. It was muted after the Holocaust,
after the US soldiers penetrated the concentration camps and saw, for the first
time, that it was not “propaganda” that millions and millions were caged for
extermination, that the Final Solution was real. But it was anti-Semitism that
kept America from accepting refugees before, during and after the Holocaust,
and no coincidence that the Palmer raids of the 1920s targeted Jewish labor
leaders and the McCarthy blacklist consisted mainly of Jewish writers and
The “popular” view is that anti-Semitism
is back on the rise because working people feel somehow disadvantaged, though
the connection eludes me. But here’s what I don’t get: in Nazi Germany, Jews
were a convenient scapegoat for the genuine suffering of Germans caught in a
Great Depression. That is not the case here in the United States. In fact, we
are constantly told that the economy is the strongest in history, unemployment
is at a 50-year low.
The rise in anti-Semitism – not just
vandalism and nasty remarks but physical violence like the massacres at the
Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, a synagogue in Poway, California, in
Jersey City and the attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey during a Chanukah
celebration, has been quite astonishing. Over 2,000 hate crimes against Jews in
2019. In New York City, according to the New York Police Department, hate
crimes against all other groups (Asian, Catholic, Hispanic, Black, Arab, Muslim,
LBGTQ) totaled 206; the number directed against Jews, just in the five
Speakers referred to the fear that Jews now
feel in their own neighborhood, community, college campus. Many
Holocaust survivors are being wracked with renewed PTSD, their terrors
Indeed, a study by the American Jewish
Committee in October found that 31% of Jews hide the fact they are Jewish; 25
percent avoid certain places, events, situations out of concern for their
safety. In America? “We must be proud
and not shy away,” said Eric Post, AJC NY Associate Director.
“Anti-Semitism is not solely a Jewish problem. It’s an American problem. If not
eradicated, it will corrode our fabric.”
There is a difference in today’s
anti-Semitism, in that individuals armed with social media or semi-automatic
weapons can do horrific damage that before would have required some
organization or government sanction. And even if the defense is some sort of
mental illness, as in the Monsey case, the question is why the voices compel them to strike out
against Jews, what is it in the culture that directs hatred in that way?
But such hate turns out not even to be
solely “organic” or a representation of “grassroots” disaffection. Foreign
governments, particularly Russia, as well as domestic political factions that
are using anti-Semitism, racism and fomenting hate in order to sow division,
disrupt and destabilize our society to tilt elections and take power – after
all, it worked so well during the 2016 campaign.
five of our region’s Congressional representatives – Suozzi, King, Rice, Meeks and Zeldin – are requesting FBI
Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Homeland Security acting
Secretary Chad Wolf and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper conduct an investigation into
potential campaigns sponsored by foreign adversaries to cause civil unrest on
“Whether anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, race
based or some other form of hate, internal divisions provide an opportunity for
our adversaries to exploit and further divide our nation,” the letter states.
“We must work together to combat those that exploit ignorance to sow division for
their strategic interest.”
The letter also cites a recent FBI study
that found the rate of hate crimes increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017
but the rate of anti-Semitic crimes increased by 37 percent in 2017 and attacks
motivated by racial or ethnical prejudice doubled. The timing since Trump’s
ascendancy is not coincidence; Trump has curried the support of racists and
bigots and basically green-lighted their activities. No longer is racism and
bigotry kept under wraps or in shadow; with Trump it is out in the open.
But to the extent America is a melting
pot, that melting pot is the New York metropolitan region – the city and suburbs,
especially Long Island. Which is why the dramatic escalation in anti-Semitic
hate crimes our area is all the more shocking and terrifying.
Rabbi Meir Feldman, who gave the sermon
at Temple Beth-el on that Friday night, had only 72 hours before been at Yad
Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
“Our question tonight is not why there
is anti-Semitism. It is simpler: what is this crazy evil thing, this abnormal
force of anti-Semitism?” He shows a cartoon that is displayed at the memorial,
an image of a parasite, an insect meant to be walked on but sits on top of the
world, in its right eye, a symbol of money, in its left eye a hammer and
sickle, the symbols of Capitalist and the communist seemingly
contradictory. That is anti-Semitism –
hated by both ends, a convenient scapegoat for anybody’s discontent and any
“Anti-Semitism is an impossible series
of contradictions,” he says. “What’s our response? How do we confront and fight
this scourge of contradictions?” He says with honesty, unity, solidarity and
“We must call out Anti-Semitism
wherever, whenever, reveal it for what it is: insane contradictions. Identify
the ideological source – right, left, White Nationalist, Black Nationalist.”
But this is the most
significant difference between Germany in the 1930s (where Jews had been living
for 1000 years) and now: the vast majority of elected officials are standing up
and calling out anti-Semitism, initiating new laws and calling for police enforcement,
as they did on Friday night at Temple Beth-el, in the March Against Hate in New
York last week, and in this weekend’s extraordinary march and rally on the
steps of the Theodore Roosevelt County Building.
it isn’t just speeches and marches, but actions. Senator Charles Schumer is
advocating $360 million more in spending to secure houses of worship and
federal assistance to localities to prosecute hate crimes; 298 Representatives
have signed on to sponsor the Never Again Education Act to authorize the Secretary of Education
to award grants to eligible entities to carry out educational programs about
the Holocaust. (It was introduced in the House in January 2019.)
Congressman Tom Suozzi attributed the
rise in anti-Semitism to social media which makes it easy to spread and magnify
hate, some of it promulgated by foreign adversaries trying to stir up civil
unrest. It works because “there is too much ignorance. How many deny the
Holocaust or don’t know about it? That is a recipe for disaster.” The US
soldiers, he said, who were just two or three months away from liberating the
concentration camps were still debating if the Holocaust was real or propaganda.
“We must educate.”
The state and county are stepping up
prosecution of hate crimes, as well. Governor Cuomo is proposing a domestic terrorism law that encompasses
hate crimes, and is seeking resources and security funding for law enforcement
and faith based institutions.
State Senator Anna
Kaplan has introduced four bills aimed at combating the rising tide of
anti-Semitism and hate in New York State, through education, awareness, and a
stronger hate crimes statute to ensure prosecutors have the tools necessary to
hold accountable those committing anti-Semitic and hate motivated crimes.
“As a Jewish
refugee who came to this country fleeing anti-Semitic violence in my homeland,
my heart aches over the out-of-control spree of anti-Semitic violence taking
place here in New York. I’ve been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with New
Yorkers of all faiths and backgrounds as we have marched in the streets and
loudly proclaimed that we will not allow anti-Semitism and hatred to take hold
in New York, and today, I’m proud to announce that I am taking concrete steps
to address this crisis from every direction.”
the first Persian-American elected State Senator: “We speak with one voice. We
are never going to accept anti-Semitism in our community or anywhere. Anti-Semitism
has been a plague on society for thousands of years. We have to be the
generation that stands up and takes decisive action.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline
Singas said, “We see thousands of you shoulder to shoulder, different colors,
creeds, faiths, standing with neighbors, community to say ‘Enough.’ Hate is
offensive to a nation born of tolerance, and it is criminal. We will work hard
to arrest, prosecute, hold offenders accountable. “ She has created a hate
crimes bureau. ‘We hope one day soon we won’t need it. We say no to
anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran,
who organized the massive display, said, “Hate has no place on our beautiful
island. We have got your back,” and introduced five Holocaust survivors.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone:
“this is the one nation on earth where every form of humanity is a citizen…
January 27 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
That date is a reminder, we must stand up, any time we see bias or hate in
words or actions.”
Senator Schumer, relating how his great
grandmother, along with 30 other
relatives aged 3 months to 85 years old, were machine gunned by Nazis in
Ukraine, said, “Unfortunately people there didn’t speak up.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James said, “As an African American, I know hate, know discrimination. An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us… During the civil rights movement, it was Jews who referred to blacks by their last name, not their first; who let Blacks enter the front door, not the back door, Jewish people who died for my people. Not just black blood but Jewish blood [was shed for civil rights]. Hate won’t be tolerated on Long Island or anywhere in the State.”
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
said it is hard to believe how the numbers of anti-Semitic incidents, of hate,
violence are going up in the New York metro area. “You being here show that we
will not accept this as the new normal. What we take from today, in our homes,
workplaces, houses of worship, neighborhoods, that’s where we must fight hate.”
Everyone, he said, should see the “Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away”
exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (extended until August 30, 2020). “Eli
Wiesel warned of the great peril of indifference in the face of hate.”
Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, which turned out in force for the march, said, ‘What I see today is a strong Long Island. As a Muslim, our moral obligation to stand by humanity suffering in pain, prosecution of hatred, discrimination. We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters in solidarity… Nassau is making history by this strong statement of solidarity of diverse communities.”
Kevin Thomas, the first Indian-American
elected State Senator, holding his 13-month old daughter: “My community stands
with the Jewish community” adding, we need to teach our children when they are
Assemblyman Tony D’Urso’s family is a
model of the courage that it takes. When he was just a boy, Nazis took over his
village in Italy. His father protected the only two Jewish families who lived
in the village, hiding them in the mountains when others would have happily
given them up for a little money or food.
Probably most touching was Linda Beigel
Schulman, whose son Scott was a teacher-coach when he was murdered in
the massacre at Parkland school in 2018. She noted that the target of his
killer was a history class teaching about the Holocaust.
“We held a celebration of his life at
the temple where Scott was bar mitzvahed. The rabbi asked if I wanted any
security. I said ‘Why?’ Six days later, a gunman massacred Jews at the Tree of
Life synagogue, simply because they were Jewish.”
Schulman’s father was a Holocaust
survivor and when she taught in Germany 1977-9, “I feared telling people I was
a Jew. But living in Louisiana, a woman asked me, ‘where do you hide your
horns.’ Her husband attended NYU; his roommate moved out when he discovered he
“I know why I am here today, why we all
must be here, to have our voices heard. Over 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents in
2019 – gestures, name-calling, painting swastikas, toppling headstones,
physical attacks and murder, merely because a person is Jewish or believed to
be. Anti-Semitism is like a virus infecting, sometimes killing its host. The
body tries to fight it off, but it lies dormant, and rears up again. If we
allow anti-Semtiism to take hold in the United States, it will destroy the
fiber that holds us together. E Plubus Unum – out of many, one. Without that
motto is tribalism and ‘me first’.
“We need to become the best society we
can. We the people are the antidote. It
doesn’t matter if Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or no religion, Asian
American, Hispanic, Italian, African American, whether citizen or immigrant, if
you came by airplane, ship or on foot. We are the antidote to wipe out
anti-Semitism once and for all. Our voices must be heard. Silence only brings
acceptance and gives anti-Semitism the fuel it needs to spread.”
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who served
as the emcee for the event, said, “For generations, tragedy after tragedy, Jews
have been saying “Am Yisrael Chai” – the people of Israel live. It is time for
us all Americans to stand together, united to say, Am America Chai. These are
Here is a list of the elected officials,
community and faith leaders who participated in Long Island’s march against
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County
Executive Steve Bellone
Chuck Schumer, Senator
Letitia James, State Attorney General
Tom Suozzi, Congressman
Peter King, Congressman
Kathleen Rice, Congresswoman
Tom Di Napoli, State Comptroller
Todd Kaminsky, State Senator
Kevin Thomas, State Senator
Anna Kaplan, State Senator
Jim Gaughran, State Senator
John Brooks, State Senator
Chuck Lavine, Assemblyman
Judy Griffin, Assemblywoman
Mike LiPetri, Assemblyman
Michelle Solages, Assemblywoman
Madeline Singas, NC Distirct Attorney
Jack Schnirman, NC Comptroller
Don Clavin, Town of Hempstead Supervisor
Anthony D’Esposito, TOH Councilman
Charles Berman, Town of North Hempstead Tax Reciever
Wayne Wink, ToNH
Peter Zuckerman, ToNH Councilman
Veronica Lurvey, ToNH
Viviana Russell, ToNH Councilwoman
Debra Mule, County Legislator
William Gaylor, County Legislator
Thomas Mckevitt, County Legislator
Delia Deriggi-Whitton, County
Ellen Birnbaum, County Legislator
Richard Nicolello, President Officer of County
What a difference 50 years makes – from the
Stonewall Uprising when the forces of government were marshaled against the gay
and lesbian community, to today, when government officials and even members of
New York City’s Police Department, flocked to take part in WorldPride NYC 2019,
the largest Pride event in history.
US State Senator Charles Schumer, with his familiar
bullhorn, declared,, “I was the first US Senator to march, and I won’t be the
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, revved up the crowd
to chant “ERA, ERA” and Congressmembers Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez joined
New York State officials were there in force,
including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appropriately crowed about the gains a
progressive legislature accomplished, NYS’s first black woman Attorney General
Leticia James, Comptroller Thom DiNapoli, and a score of state senators and
Governor Cuomo did not come empty-handed:
he used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge
to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State
of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019
Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the
Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative
session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly
failed to take up this year.
and trans panic defense is essentially a codification of homophobia
and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values of equality and
inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press
conference on the street before joining the parade. “This defense strategy
isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that violence toward
LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending this noxious
legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”
NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who is running for the
Democratic Nomination for president, marched with the city’s First Lady Chirlane McCray.There were also the
NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer with his family, Public Advocate Jumaane D.
Williams, members of the City Council including Speaker Corey Johnson,
There were contingents from just about every city agency, from Sanitation to Transportation, the Department of Social Services, to the Bar Association and teachers.
“In the month of June,
we celebrated 50 years of Pride here in New York State and around the
world,” stated New York’s Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. “We marched in
parades from Buffalo to Albany, and finished the month with World Pride in New
York City this past weekend.
“We celebrated how far
the LGBTQ+ community has come since the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, and
reflected on the progress we still have to make.
legislative session over the last six months, we made history. GENDA is now the
law of the land, ensuring permanent protections for transgender New Yorkers.
Young people are now protected from the barbaric practice of conversion
therapy. Finally, with the stroke of a pen, we ended the legalized hatred that
was once allowed by the gay and trans ‘panic’ defense.
“I am always proud to
stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and continue the fight for
They came together in celebration, not anger or fear. The common thread among the 150,000 who marched, coming from around the world and across the country, and the estimated 2.5 million who watched along the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade route: Free to be me.
The parade, which took eight hours to complete and was
estimated to be the largest Pride event in history, was particularly poignant,
honoring the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall Uprising, which
are considered the trigger to the modern LGBTQ movement.
Jim Foray, among the Grand Marshals at the parade, was there
that night. He was living just a block away and recalled the Stonewall as a
“sleazy bar where we were grateful and exploited.” The bar, reputedly owned by
the Mafia, was regularly raided by the police.
What a difference 50 years has made, noted Julian Sanjivan,
NYC Pride March Director. “They had no way of knowing what the next 50 years
would bring, no way to know they were starting a global movement, changing
hearts and minds everywhere.” And who could have expected an openly gay and
married man, a mayor from South Bend, Indiana, Peter Buttigieg, running for
Fear and loathing has given way to pride and joy.
Five Grand Marshals lead both the 50th NYC Pride March: the cast of POSE, represented by Dominique Jackson (Elektra), Indya Moore (Angel), and MJ Rodriguez (Blanca); Phyll Opoku-Gyimah; Gay Liberation Front; The Trevor Project and Monica Helms.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the nucleus of the award-winning
celebration and protest that is UK Black Pride. Widely known as Lady Phyll –
partly due to her decision to reject an MBE in the New Year’s Honours’ list, to
protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBTQ+ penal codes across its empire
– she is a senior official at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade
union as the Head of Equality and Learning. She’s a community builder and
organizer; a Kaleidoscope Trust Trustee; an Albert Kennedy Trust patron; Diva
Magazine columnist, and public speaker focusing on race, gender, sexuality and
Gay Liberation Front was the very first LGBTQ activist
organization formed after the Stonewall Rebellion. The courageous members of
GLF fought to give political shape and direction to a whole new generation of
LGBTQ militancy that spread with unprecedented vigor and impact across the
nation and the world.
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention
and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The organization works to save
young lives by providing support through free and confidential programs,
including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat. They also run
TrevorSpace, the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ
youth, and operate innovative education, research, and advocacy programs.
Monica Helms is a transgender activist, author, and veteran
of the United States Navy, having served on two submarines. She is also the
creator of the Transgender Pride Flag, in 1999, and subsequently donated the
original flag to the Smithsonian Institution in 2014.
It was indeed a demonstration of world pride – there were
marchers from Copenhagen, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Portugal,
Australia, Holland, and so many other places.
American cities and states were represented as well, from
coast to coast and in between – from Palm Beach and Orlando to Palm Springs,
San Francisco and Venice (California), Austin to Washington DC, Brooklyn,
Boston, even Native American tribes.
Here are highlights from the WorldPride NYC 2019:
A clear sign of the changing times was the outpouring of
elected and government officials who joined the march. New York State Governor
Andrew Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense, a key component of his 2019 Justice
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did
not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest
LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge
to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State
of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019
Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the
Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative
session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly
failed to take up this year.
“The gay and trans panic defense is essentially a
codification of homophobia and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values
of equality and inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press
conference on the street before joining the parade. “This
defense strategy isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that
violence toward LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending
this noxious legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”
At a press conference before joining the parade, Governor Cuomo said, “What a great, great day
this is. New York is so proud. New York is so, so, so proud to
“New Yorkers are just
New Yorkers. Look, all New Yorkers should be very proud because New York has
always been the home of the LGBTQ equality movement, always. It all started
here. It started at Stonewall, it started when we hosted the first Pride Day
ever. And we’ve kept that legacy alive. This is the leading State in the United
States of America for LGBTQ equality. And we don’t just say it, we do it. We
prove it here in New York.
“What was the first
state to address AIDS and announce the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic? New
York. What was the first state to end discrimination against transgender
people? New York. What was the first big state to pass marriage equality
and send a message across the nation? New York. What was the first state
to pass GENDA and end discrimination against transgender people? New York.
What was the first state to ban conversion therapy? New York.
“And today, we’re going
to sign a bill that ends the codification of homophobia. Because we have now as
a law in this state, something called the gay and trans panic
defense. That a person can argue – they were so emotionally disturbed when they
found out a person was gay or trans that that is actually a
justification or an excuse for murder. Not in this state. We are going to – not
in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in
this state. And we are going to end the gay and transpanic defense and we
are going to do it right now. I will sign this now and end this law. It is now
York. Let’s lead once again.”
The gay and trans panic defenses allow those accused of violent
crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases,
avoid conviction, by placing the blame on a victim’s sexual orientation or
gender identity. The passage of this bill would close a loophole in state law
that currently allows individuals to use the gay and trans panic
defenses after attacking another person based upon a perception, or discovery
of, that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Brad Hoylman said,”By banning the so-called gay and trans
panic defense, New York is sending a message to prosecutors, defense attorneys,
juries and judges that a victim’s LGBTQ identity shouldn’t be weaponized
against them. I’m proud to be a member of a legislature that protects the
rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers and thank Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins
and Assemblymember O’Donnell for their leadership on this critical
issue. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I am extremely
grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing this critical piece of legislation into
law and look forward to continuing to work with him to make New York a more
inclusive, equitable home for the LGBTQ community.”
“In 2013, my daughter Islan was killed in Harlem for being who she was.
Her attacker used the discriminatory ‘trans panic’ defense. I am so grateful
that New York is banning this legislation so that no mother has to go through
this again. We must keep fighting so that all trans people
can live free from violence and discrimination. Thank you to Governor
Cuomo for advocating tirelessly for this bill and for signing it into law
“Banning the “gay
and trans panic” defense in New York is an important and long
overdue step toward treating the LGBTQ community equitably,” Ethan Rice, Senior Attorney,
Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal. “LGBTQ people in New York should never have to experience
violence. When it happens, LGBTQ people certainly should not be faced with
blame for this violence. These “defenses” have no place in our
justice system. Lambda Legal commends the Governor for signing this bill
today and for his ongoing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.”
Executive Director of NYC’s LGBT Community Center said, “New York State government has
taken another great step in the right direction, legally halting some enduring
elements of homophobia and transphobia ingrained in our society. After
establishing marriage equality, passing GENDA and ending conversion therapy in
our state, Governor Cuomo showed that he is not done fighting for LGBTQ
equality, and neither are we. We thank him for taking the gay
and trans panic defense out of New York’s court system and for his
commitment to equal rights for all people.”
individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender as a defense for
violent behavior is abhorrent and will not stand in the State of New York,” Harlem Pride and The NYC Black and Latino
LGBTQ Coalition said. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership and
dedication to protecting the LGBTQ community and closing the legal loophole
keeping this archaic practice in place.”
Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of Hispanic
Health Network said,”As we celebrate LGBT Pride and the
50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising we recognize that outlawing the
gay and trans panic defense is long overdue in New York. We
appreciate that this legislation will be signed to ensure this can never happen
again and that people impacted by homophobia and transphobia are no longer
taking the blame for this antiquated loophole. We thank Governor Cuomo for
advancing this important issue and I look forward to him signing this law to
increase protections for the LGBTQ community.”
Rod Townsend, Community Leader said, “A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is never a justifiable reason for violent attack, and Governor Cuomo closes the loophole in state law that allowed for it in cases of first degree murder today. We look forward to seeing justice for individuals impacted by these crime and will fight to further limit the use of this appalling “blame the victim” strategy in cases of violence against LGBTQ people everywhere.”
Babine, Director of Policy & Programs at the New York Transgender
Advocacy Group said,”Banning the ‘gay
and trans panic’ defense was a huge win for the LGBTQI community,
especially for our Transgender, Gender-Non-Conforming, & Non-Binary
siblings. This year alone, ten Transgender women of color have been found
dead, one right here in New York. The New York Transgender Advocacy Group
stands with pride next to Governor Cuomo as he continues to be a champion for
the LGBTQI community here in New York State.”
Malloy, Executive Director, Rockland County Pride Center said, “New Yorkers do not tolerate hate. We are
a state of love and inclusion, and hold firm to our belief in equality for
every person. The fact that there ever was a legal defense for crimes committed
against the LGBTQ community, specifically based on their actual or perceived
gender identity or sexual orientation is disgusting. Thank you to Governor
Cuomo for his leadership in ending this abhorrent law, and for always speaking
up and protecting LGBTQ New Yorkers.”
Executive Director, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance said,”New York State prides itself on being an inclusive,
progressive state, where every person can feel safe and welcome. With
his work to end the gay and trans panic defense, Governor Cuomo
continues to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or
gender identity, receives equal protection under New York
State law. I wish to personally thank Governor Cuomo, on behalf
of residents in the Adirondack North Country for
his relentless work to defend the rights of all who call this
beautiful state our home.”
Christopher Goodwin, Supervisor of The MOCHA Center Rochester said, “We at The MOCHA Center and Trillium Health applaud Governor Cuomo for taking swift, progressive action to protect and uphold the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Thanks to his efforts, a dangerous loophole rooted in hate has been erased from our criminal justice system. The gay and trans panic defense should never have been allowed. LGBTQ New Yorkers are grateful that we can now feel safer knowing that we are one step closer to having our lives equally valued and represented under the law.”
Jeff Rindler, Executive Director, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center said, “This revision to our legal system has been long overdue. The human rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers are non-negotiable, and now this hateful excuse will no longer be a permissible defense for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, which are on the rise. For transgender women of color who experience higher rates of violence, this law is the next step in solidifying protections for our community. I applaud and thankGovernor Cuomo and all the advocates and legislators who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation.”
CEO, GMHC said, “The beginning of the Stonewall rebellion was in New York
City and it was in reaction to hate-fueled actions. Fifty years have passed
since the beginning of our LGBT rights movement and New York has been a model
for LGBT equality, setting a national standard that the rest of the country
must follow. We thank Governor Cuomo for closing a loophole which permitted the
murder of gay and trans New Yorkers due to their perceived sexual
orientation or gender identity. This ensures that justice will be served for LGBTQ
New Yorkers who are the victims of homophobia and transphobia.”
Kristen Prata Browde,
Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and
Co-Chair Board of Directors, National Trans Bar Association said,”This shows the kind of change that good government can and
should bring. Banning the trans and gay panic defense is a huge step
towards equality for LGBTQ New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo not only recognized the
absurdity of giving someone a lesser sentence or even a pass after murdering
someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, he fought hard
for the ban. As the Governor signs the bill he is once again showing that New
York truly is a beacon to the world and to every LGBTQ person.”
The Governor also released a new video for social media featuring
Delores Nettles, the mother of Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who
was brutally murdered in Harlem in 2013 and whose assailant used the gay
and trans panic legal defense in court. Watch the video here.
Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)
The marchers got particularly animated outside of
Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,”
extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”
The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights:
Women’s March Alliance, the official organizer of the March on NYC since 2017, will stage its third annual march on Saturday, January 19. Line up begins at 10 a.m. with the march kicking off at 11 a.m. on 61st Street and Central Park West (main entrance on 72nd and Columbus). The march, which is expected to draw 100,000 participants, will run along Central Park West south around Columbus Circle, east on 59th Street then south on 6th Avenue.
The theme for this year’s Woman’s March, taking place in New York City on Saturday Jan 19, could well be “I am woman. Hear me roar,” especially after the dramatic successes culminating in the 2018 elections that saw a record number of women running for office and elected – women now one-fourth of Congress, and there are four more women governors.
And in New York, the
successful takeover of the Senate gives new hope for a progressive agenda,
topped with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act.
But the Women’s March
Alliance organizers worry that sheer exhaustion and complacency might rightly
set in after all that happened to produce the success of 2018, but that there still so much work to be
done, not the least is: Now you have heard our roar, act.
“We want to make sure we don’t
stop fighting. We are half way there. We can’t stop now. We have to move
forward,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March
Alliance. “The theme for the march
is ‘Your Voice Your Power.’ We have seen what happened in 2018 Elections. New York cannot stand back. New
York leads nation in progress.” (The actual hashtag for the march is #YourVoiceYourPower)
Indeed, that there is still
so much work to be done is reflected in the cavalier attitude Trump and
Republicans have to shutting down government, with no clue and no care of the
ramifications on women and families that go beyond withholding pay to 800,000
federal workers as well as contractors,from food safety to food stamps, from
mortgages to small business loans, from housing vouchers to veterans benefits. They
even stood by while the Violence Against Women Act expired.
And then there is the
unbelievable cruelty being inflicted on millions of families across the nation
who may have an undocumented immigrant among them but American citizen spouse
or children, or the four million Dreamers whose lives are in limbo. Think of
the desperate migrants as the Trump Administration tries to overturn domestic
violence and gang violence as a basis for asylum; the forced separation of
families; the families of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees here for
decades under Temporary Protected Status who have been told they will be
deported. Think of the families ripped apart. That’s a woman’s issue, too.
Now Trump is threatening
to declare a national emergency in order to take funds allocated for rebuilding
communities devastated by climate disasters in Puerto Rico afflicted by Maria,
in California after the wildfires, in Florida and South Carolina after Michael.
And then there is the humanitarian crisis created by Trump’s anti-immigrant
policy that has led to two children dying while in US custody, and hundreds of
children rendered orphans, thousands more traumatized by their condition.
But this is New York
State, and thankfully, there is finally full control by Democrats. On January
22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the State Legislature is
expected to pass the Reproductive Health Act, strengthening abortion access by
codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade in state law, after 12
years of trying but failing. But this action cannot be taken for granted. There
is still need to push the politicians to act –and not take such landmark for
This is no time to be
complacent – the regressive forces are not complacent, they are seizing the opportunity of a hard-religious right
majority on the Supreme Court, to push through personhood amendments that
essentially give more rights to a fetus than the mother carrying it. Women have
actually been prosecuted for miscarrying and such laws could be applied to
punish women for behaviors that are deemed harmful to a fetus. Essentially,
women would become slaves of the state, not considered entitled to the same
right of self-determination as a man. Big Brother doesn’t begin to describe
So this year’s march has
its own urgency: to cement and recommit, to make sure that the electeds carry
out what could be called a woman’s agenda but encompasses so much because women’s
issues are so broad.
Here’s a partial list:
gun violence prevention, universal health care, universal pre-K, affordable
college, climate action and environmental justice, immigration reform, pay
equity, parental leave, criminal justice reform… Way too many to fit into a
soundbite, a poster or a tweet.
But if you still need a
motivation, consider this: the 2020 presidential election is already underway,
and the way women candidates for office are once again being evaluated
according to a different standard (“likeability,” “shrill”).
The danger of
complacency needs to be recalled: that’s what happened in 2016, when too many believed
that Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman to head a major party ticket
meant that America had entered a post-feminist era, just as Obama’s election
was supposedly a post-racist era. Okay to stay home out of some manufactured
outrage, just because you could; okay to throw a vote away on an independent
candidate, because of course the most qualified candidate, who stood for gender
rights, civil rights, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic
justice, would win. We saw how that went.
The march, which will
include opportunities to register to vote (and local elections in 2019 are
important), is a call to action to get things done while we have the
“honeymoon” of the new electeds and the fear of God in the incumbents – because
they think they can do anything they want and ignore the voices of 2018 because
the electorate won’t remember in 2020.
It is important, as
well, to keep the networks and the alliances intact, for the affirmation and
validation that the marchers give to one another. And because 2020 is right
around the corner.
Indeed, the greatest
threat to the Women’s movement is complacency (and fatigue) after the hard-won
victories of 2018.
“We must be fearful that
people have become comfortable, because that’s what happened in 2016 – we were
the popular vote, we still are the popular vote, we don’t want to get
comfortable and let the crazy seem like the status quo & normal,” said
Freedom Shannon, a member of the board of WMA which describes itself as “a nonprofit alliance of human rights
supporters who seek to close the social, political and economic gender divide.”
“We are changing what it
means to be a woman in our society. We have marched to being one in five in Congress,
but we need to come out January 19 to honor those who have come before us, to
show those in countries that cannot assemble, what democracy looks like, and
pave the way for future generations,” Shannon said. “On January 19, we will unify our voices so we amplify enough to be
heard by the people in power and soften their hearts so they can act without
The organizers at a
press conference introducing the event stressed that WMA is completely separate
from Womens March Inc. which organized the Washington March in 2017 and is
holding a rally in New York City also on January 19. That organization raised
controversy of being anti-Semitic when leaders expressed support for Louis
Siemionko noted “We
are a local grassroots team of volunteers hosting this event for the third year
in a row, and we do not have nor have we ever had an association with Women’s
March, Inc. or its founders.”
She continued, “Our mission is to include and advance women regardless of
faith, sexual identity and preference, race, cultural and religious background
or political affiliation.”
Siemionko was firm on
insisting that WMA is inclusive, and that like all the other sister marches
that took place in 2017 and 2018 in cities across the nation, all grew
organically, as local grassroots organizations reflecting their communities.
She stressed how WMA
went out of its way to accommodate the Jewish community, including organizing
the march so it would start within walking distance of a large segment of the community
on the Upper West Side. “We wanted to honor those Jews who want to honor Sabbath without taking public
transportation, but can march to support women’s rights.” In addition,
Siemionko will be participating in a panel on January 17 at the Stephen Wise
“The confusion happened
when Womens March Inc, the official march of DC, decided to break ground here
in NYC. Unfortunately that happened at time when irresponsible wording was used
to insult different communities.
“One of the reasons we
became part of WMA since its inception is that anti-Semitism, racial discrimination,
LGBT discrimination had no place here, especially in New York City, the most
diverse place in the nation, in the world,” said Debra Dixon Anderson, director
of operations of the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a WMA board
member, “and we appreciate all different walks of life.”
WMA is the only
organization that has a permit from New York City for a march on January 19.
Enter at 72nd
Street to Central Park West, or enter from Central Park. There will be a
15-minute kickoff at 11 am (not a rally), then the march will get underway at
11:15, go south past Columbus Circle, east on 59, then south to 44 Street.
Check the site for details.
There will be a female Indian chief to bless the march, female drum bands, brass bands, acrobats, DJs, and activists.
In conjunction with
the event, people will have a chance to see “Eyes of the World,” a giant, collaborative mosaic, 5 ft tall and
18 feet wide, produced by thousands of contributors since the first Women’s
March on New York City in 2017. that is on view at the Newburger Gallery in the
lobby of SUNY Optometry (33 West 42nd Street), across from Bryant
Park, noon to 9 pm.
“’Eyes of the World’ is
a tangible and permanent reminder to the United States government that our eyes
are constantly watching to ensure all policies embody human rights, advance
civil rights, and promote the highest degree of equality,” write Joanne and
Bruce Hunter, artists and creators of public art.
The message of the 2019 Women’s March should be: We won. Now act.