The New York I know and love is not represented by Pat Lynch, the president of the NYPD's largest police union, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA), and his angry words. It’s not a place lead by political rhetoric and division. The New York I know and love is a melting pot and a place of acceptance. In this city we join together in solidarity in the wake of tragedy, despite differences of political opinion.
I have never truly felt afraid in the city, even alone, even at times when and in places where I maybe should—until this past Saturday night. Allow me to explain:
Some astonishing hate aimed at largely peaceful protesters and Mayor Bill de Blasio coming from the PBA became public on Saturday night following the tragic murder of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn earlier that afternoon. This hate seems to have been bubbling for a while. It started to surface with de Blasio's support of #BlackLivesMatter protesters advocating for Eric Garner and Michael Brown over the past few weeks—as most have heard by now, unarmed black men killed by officers in New York and Ferguson whom grand juries failed to indict. Some very honest and true remarks the Mayor made regarding the coming-of-age need to coach his own black son on how to handle himself with police pushed it closer to the surface. And Saturday's execution of the two officers by a mentally unstable young man who shot his ex-girlfriend in Maryland before traveling to New York to "put wings on pigs" was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Here is a nice little rundown of the events as they'd unfolded by Sunday.
Here is where I am especially afraid:
On Saturday night, Lynch publicly placed the slain officers' "blood on the hands" of protesters and the Mayor. It didn't matter that the overwhelming majority of protesters have been impeccably peaceful for weeks, or that the individual who actually committed the crime was chased into a nearby subway station where he committed suicide—case closed. If that wasn't enough, Lynch also purportedly declared a police state of war and alluded to a work slow-down. Damaging though these comments have been, we can at least take comfort in the fact that he is apparently nuts.
If we want to get political here, and it appears Lynch does, then perhaps in addition to an honest, ongoing dialogue about police overreach, race and civil rights in America we should now include a dialogue about responsible treatment of the mentally ill, and a dialogue about gun control.
It is clear that the NYPD waging war on the citizens of New York City is the last thing anyone needs. And while it is undoubtedly true, Blue lives do matter, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is an important and necessary one that needs to be allowed to continue. Lynch's angry finger-pointing is frightening, just as anyone plotting to travel from another city to murder our police is frightening. I've never been so disheartened and sad for my city and for progress as I am right now.
As a citizen and New York City resident for the past ten years it was chilling to see the police turn their backs on the elected Mayor of my city the way they did on Saturday night at Woodhull Hospital. In doing so, their message seemed clear: Show unwavering and unquestioning support for us, or else.
We are all accountable for violence towards one another. Yes, that means even the police. Citizens should remember that police deserve respect and to be thanked for the job they do for us every day. Police should remember that the public is allowed to criticize peacefully. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has so eloquently written for The Atlantic, "We do not live in a military dictatorship, and police officers are not the representatives of an autarch, nor the enforcers of law handed down by decree."
The Mayor represents the civilian citizens of New York City, elected by a landslide. Mr. Lynch, when you attack the Mayor, you are also attacking us. Beyond that, you and the PBA officers are showing blatant insubordination—an act that would see most anyone in corporate America disciplined, up to and including termination of employment.
I love this city. I stand with the Mayor, and I stand with those calling for police reform. I sand with the families of the officers who were senselessly murdered. I also stand with all of the truly good police officers out there who risk their own lives to make ours safer.
And I’m hopeful.
I'm hopeful that the blaming and politicking will stop, and that citizens, police and elected officials will join together in the coming days to move forward in peace. I’m hopeful that we’ll see the New York I know and love stand together strong—protesters, police and elected officials—to warn outsiders with violent intentions not to enter our city, to warn citizens inside the city against any act of violence, and to work together to stamp out racism and corruption within the system and throughout our great city.