I passed a black man on the streets of New York late Wednesday night. He was not carrying a sign, he was not holding his hands in the air, he was not yelling “no justice, no peace,” he did not seem to care that a grand jury had absolved a white cop in the death of an asthmatic black man.
As a matter of fact, he was absorbed in his phone. He nearly bumped into me.
There were very few protesters on Wednesday after the no indictment decision was announced, maybe a couple of hundred. Those swelled to a few thousand later that night and on Thursday as word got out that police were allowing them to blow off steam. Tens of thousands of people were inconvenienced waiting in traffic for hours as the steam bubbles floated up the East River.
The NYPD’s strange new policy of allowing protesters to “blow off steam” reminds me of a chassan I once saw covering his face with a tallis during his aufruf. He was obviously expecting a barrage of peklach. But when no sweet packages flew his way, a few people threw them just to take away the embarrassment.
As soon as the grand jury returned the no-indictment decision late Wednesday afternoon, New York’s media zoomed to the area where Eric Garner was killed to document the reportedly inevitable — or the inevitable reporting of — protests.
“A garbage can was thrown onto the street of Staten Island!” came the first breathless report. (In a city of 8 million people, how many garbage cans were thrown onto the street in New York on Wednesday afternoons?)
Word then arrived of a dozen people lying on the ground in Grand Central. The busybodies busied themselves snapping photos of the fallen braves, apparently awed at the sight of a person lying down in the subway.
If police are New York’s Finest, firefighters are the Bravest, teachers are the Smartest and sanitation workers the Strongest, we must tag the media as New York’s Busiest.
But that is their job. Matters become lamentable when those whose job it is to be the establishment shake themselves off into the antiestablishment. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s statement calling for protesters to engage in the “proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest” falls into that category.
Even worse, the mayor called the decision by a jury of peers “one that many in our city did not want.”
No Giuliani or Bloomberg here, this protégé of the Dinkins administration appeared to be agitating against the nation’s justice system, faith in which is already fragile for many of de Blasio’s intended audience. He also seemed to be heaping distrust on the police department — the department he was elected to lead, not to marginalize.
Where is the age-old undying respect for the judicial system professed by mayors throughout the era of the Republic? Has Mr. de Blasio an alternative to the jury system? Can he keep the city safe without the NYPD? Can he keep it safe with a demoralized NYPD? He is now the city’s boss, not a public advocate sniping from the sidelines. He is commander-in-chief of the police force, not a critic-in-chief a la Sharpton, who has become the city’s most famous resident during the mayor’s 11-month tenure.
Some have said police are out of control, and it is these periodic protests that keep them in line. Let me kill that straw argument. It is unlikely that the police department will ever turn into the Stasi or KGB. It won’t even become the FBI. Trust me. But unfettered permits to block main arteries and shout anti-American, anti-police epithets have reportedly caused morale to go down in the dumps among the rank and file officers.
Who would be willing to work at a job when the boss does little to defend you against professional agitators? Why should a young man considering a career in law enforcement follow up on his dream, if a nonpolitically-correct arrest ends him on the wrong side of the boss’s wrath?
Eric Garner is dead at a young age, leaving behind a grieving mother, wife and daughter. Regardless of the circumstances on that fateful July morning, the man described as a “gentle giant” did not deserve to die. But some would have us believe that anything less than the jailing of the unfortunate officer who tried to arrest him is a travesty.
Earlier this week, de Blasio held a news conference to herald new numbers of people stopped by police. As opposed to 2013’s number under Bloomberg of 191,558 stop-and-frisks, this year saw only 10,929 stops.
Left unsaid at the presser was the proportion of those stopped. In 2013, Bloomberg’s police stops included 56 percent blacks, 29 percent Hispanics and 11 percent whites. Of those stopped under de Blasio, 56 percent were black; 26 percent were Latino and 15 percent were white.
When the solutions are applied and the problem remains, it shows there are deeper social issues in play. The mayor’s universal prekindergarten initiative was a good start to help lift the African-American community out of the cycle of poverty and desperation, but more needs to be done.
Encouraging protests is not on the list. Twenty years of peace passed since Dinkins’s defeat in 1994 without any race riots. That was accomplished by sidelining agitators like Sharpton and seeking out real black leaders, not allowing blowing off steam.
Heads up, police!