Black Activists, Electeds Weigh in On Police Reforms, Gun Violence
By Ariama C. Long, KCP
Gun violence in New York City shows no sign of slowing down with 28 shootings, 45 victims, and two deaths citywide this past weekend; and 41 shootings, 49 victims and 8 murders total in Brooklyn since July 4th, according to police records [this does not include last night’s shootings of 17 people].
Regardless of political party, residents are opposed to the substantial upswing in gun violence and crime for the past weeks and months that’s heavily plaguing neighborhoods, causing activists call for police abolishment to take a serious hit. A unified solution as to the root problem of the violence and its impact on police reforms and racial justice legislation has yet to be agreed on.
Still, the resounding call for structural changes to law enforcement hasn’t lessened, even amid battles between pro-Blue and Black Lives protests this past weekend. Instead, a serious look at both community-based accountability and reformed policing is becoming the norm across the board.
“It’s just so painful and it’s not acceptable. It’s not something we can ever look away from. It’s something we have to address and stop,” said Mayor Bill De Blasio on July 13 about the heartbreaking death of Davell Gardner Jr., the 1-year-old shot in the stomach at a park in Bedford-Stuy this weekend. “It’s never just about police. It has to be about community and police together.”
Among those weighing in on the issue was Constantin Jean-Pierre, the Republican candidate running against U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens, Park Slope) in the general election on Nov. 3.
Jean-Pierre lost a relative to gun violence this past Sunday when his 34-year-old pregnant ‘niece’ was shot in the head while outside an after-hours club in Schenectady, New York on July 9.
Jean-Pierre said he’s the first as a Black man to say there should be police reforms, but anti-police rhetoric can’t be allowed. He said defunding the police means to him abolishment and it can’t go to that extent because “we’re fighting too many battles at one time” including illegal guns in the local community and statewide.
“Somebody shot my niece in the head. Okay, I don’t care whether that person was Black or White. I don’t care if it was a man or woman, I want that person. I want the police to go find that person immediately and let them go die in jail. That’s how I feel about it,” said Pierre. “My son called me crying. My son is crying. My son is stressed and I’m not the only one feeling this. There’s a lot of families in this district feeling that.”
Pierre, who worked in the Department of Corrections’ Administration of Children’s Services, attributes the uptick in shootings to talk of defunding the police because they’ll be “nobody to check” criminals.
“I walk down the street, there’s graffiti all over the place. I feel like I’m back in the 80s,” said Pierre about the lack of order.
On the opposite side of the political spectrum is State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, Sunset Park), who was instrumental in proposing recent police reform legislation. He responded on Twitter on July 6 to the upticks in shootings, neighborhood violence, and policing.
“Think about the false choice law enforcement and others are presenting to the community: (a) Do not criticize us, our history, or our practices and we will keep you safe; OR (b) Criticize our structural failures and you will die from crime. We reject this choice. We do not deny the uptick. It’s alarming and we are fully against it. Same as we were last year pre-bail reform and pre- the current uptick,” said Myrie in the thread.
Black Lives Matter Brooklyn Branch President Anthony Beckford said, “It’s basically all the same messaging of the fact that it needs to stop and we need to provide more in regards to resources, community accountability. Also, finding out those who are bringing the guns into our community, because at the end of the day people are impoverished. They can’t really afford these high rent costs so you know they can’t afford these guns, but there is an iron pipeline in our community.”
He said conditions that create the element of crime, like lack of education and poverty, still need to be addressed.
Beckford, a U.S. Marine Corp veteran, said any roll back to police reform efforts would be protecting the status quo, and that not all policing is oppression. The NYPD has had a racist and toxic environment, he said, and that needs to be dismantled in order to usher in an era of community-focused safety.
Additionally, Beckford just released a list of Black Lives Matter demands for more law enforcement reforms Sunday that he plans to put before the Mayor and City Council.
The list contains eight points, such as the banning of any Blue Lives Matter or Punisher insignia/patches, civil lawsuits against the City due to police misconduct will use 45 percent of an officers pension to pay for the lawsuit, NYPD officers must live within city limits and within two miles of their command, no more transferring an officer with numerous misconduct complaints to another position or precinct, officers with connections to hate groups should be terminated, donations from corporations to the NYPD are to be returned and future donations banned, NYPD officers mandated to purchase liability insurance from one company, and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) Unions should be disbanded.