For months now I, along with leaders and staff from my organization, and other allies, have been part of the local and national BlackLivesMatters movement. We’ve, mobilized communities in demonstrations, advocated for police accountability legislation, conducted know-your-rights sessions, and led cop-watch trainings, among others things.
In every instance, we have explicitly fought against acts of violence in our communities, whether practiced by police or civilians. And over the years, we’ve protested gun trafficking and mourned neighbor-on-neighbor crime. Which is why, in the wake of the recent killing of two police officers just blocks away from my organization’s office, preceded by the shooting of a young woman in Baltimore, my organization has continued our social justice and community healing work, despite calls by Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and others to end it.
We fully appreciate the delicateness and solemnity of the moment. And we, of course, condemn Saturday’s shootings just like we do any other senseless violence in our neighborhoods. Our hearts go out to the families of Officers Liu and Ramos, as well as Shaneka Thompson, the woman who was shot by Ismaaiyl Brinsley. The coldhearted killings of officers Liu and Ramos are all the more shocking because these kinds of executions of police officers have become increasingly rare in New York City compared to twenty years ago, although they can never be rare enough. Gun play and the casual assaults of women, however, have unfortunately remained regular every day occurrences.
The actions of a lone, mentally ill man who shot loved ones as well as strangers, before committing suicide, operate in a different universe than the purposeful, nonviolent uprising I have joined. While I support my allies leading peace marches in the wake of the shootings, I won’t participate in any narrative that associates these killings with our movement or exploits this moment to vilify it.
Patrick Lynch’s recent claims that de Blasio is somehow to blame for the killing of Liu and Ramos, simply because the mayor acknowledged the need for police reform, is a new shameful low, even for Lynch. Lynch’s racist and twisted logic is that any attempt to dignify the experiences of black families and communities is somehow an incendiary slur against police. Nothing is as disrespectful to the legacies of Liu and Ramos as recklessly using the humanity of these slain police officers to deny that of others.
I’ve been organizing and building institutions in Central Brooklyn for almost thirty years now. The best way I know how to honor the memory of the victims of the Brinsley shootings is to continue to passionately decry chronic and, often times deadly, police abuse, and to continue my organization’s efforts to build a community that is truly safe, no matter what side of the blue line you may stand. Measures we are fighting for—like the Right to Know Act (a legislative package that would require NYPD officers to identify themselves and protect New Yorkers against unlawful searches), stricter gun control laws, the full accountability for the killing of Eric Garner, and the end of broken windows policy—would, inevitably do far more to bring this city together than my silence.
I will always work to end civilian violence in my community, but there is little I can do to stop the actions of a solitary gunman bent on destruction. What I can do in the meantime, however, in solidarity with others, is work to change police and justice system policies that enshrine harm and disrespect in my community.