The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others are incomprehensible. These are more than just senseless deaths. They are the result of centuries of mistreatment of people of color – deliberate, institutional, and unconscious – that have stoked the outspoken expressions of rage and sorrow, again. It is also about police forces that must be entirely realigned with our better values and not our basest emotions.
I attended a vigil in Fort Tryon Park this past Sunday organized by State Senator Robert Jackson, along with the participation of Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and my Council Member, Mark Levine. We heard how the police and our communities must listen to each other better. Any police officers who engaged in violence must face charges, as should any protestors who attacked cops or caused property damage. The curfew is ineffective at best, and at worst it is having the opposite effect that was intended.
As a society, if we are going to progress to a higher level of experience, a fairer level of existence, we must take it upon ourselves to act – both now in moments of protest, but also in the months to come – by electing a new national government this year and a local one next year. Both matter. The national government sets a tone, enacts (or ignores) policies that have a material impact on people’s lives for the nation. The local one enforces (or resists) those policies at home.
Next year, virtually the entire city government is turning over – and as we have seen from overreaction by some police officers this week, it has long been time for a change of perspective at City Hall. Recent events have shown the need for elected leadership that will hold the police accountable for their actions, advocate for racial justice across the city, and protect communities and the most vulnerable among us.
These things alone are not enough, but they are a start toward moving in a better direction for us as a city and a country.
Stay safe. And if you protest, please do so with care.