City refusing to grant activist group permits for anti-gentrification, police reform march in Brooklyn

By LOUIS FLORES

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York Police Department are reportedly attempting to deny permits sought by a group of police and government reform activists to hold an omnibus political march in Brooklyn.

Progress Queens has learned that the group, Equality for Flatbush, had sought permits from each of the Parks Department and the NYPD to, respectively, use a plaza in Prospect Park and use amplified sound. The permits were applied for within the respective 21- and 30-day advance notices required by each agency, according to a press release issued by the group.

After Equality for Flatbush followed the application protocol required by City agencies, the Parks Department has refused to accommodate the date of the march, and the NYPD have yet to respond to the application for a sound permit, according to the press release issued by Equality for Flatbush.

Progress Queens left messages with each of Nicole Phillip, the event permit coördinator for the Prospect Park Alliance, the group that administers the park on behalf of the Parks Department ; and the community affairs officer of the 87th Precinct station house of the NYPD. Neither office returned messages requesting comment for this report.

The march being planned by Equality for Flatbush, described as the first of its kind, is named the March Against Gentrification, Racisim, and Police Violence, and the march has been scheduled to begin at noon, Saturday, 13 August, at the plaza at Prospect Park near the intersection of Empire Blvd. and Flatbush Ave., according to the group's press release.

The alleged efforts by City agencies to undermine the march were derided by members of Equality for Flatbush.

“This is an outrage. In the midst of a devastating housing crisis where rents in the borough of Brooklyn are surpassing some Manhattan neighborhoods, this is a slap in the face to the Flatbush and East Flatbush neighborhoods that are being destroyed by the callousness of our public servants who are in bed with the real estate developers," said Mia Anderson, an activist with Equality for Flatbush.

Members of the group called on the public and on progressive-identified, elected officials to pressure the City agencies to issue the permits.

On the Twitter social media network, several activists answered the call by tweeting messages in support of Equality for Flatbush.

It is not known how elected officials are reacting to the call for support issued by Equality for Flatbush. Progress Queens contacted Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (D-Flatbush) for his response to the challenges his constituents were having to hold the march. However, Councilmember Eugene did not respond to the request.

Neither the City Hall press office nor the office of the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information answered requests for interviews made by Progress Queens for this report.

The challenges faced by Equality for Flatbush to obtain permits for a political demonstration follow the widely-reported challenges faced by the political campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to initially obtain permits to hold a rally in Washington Square Park in April.

America Rising PAC, a group aligned with the Republican Party, filed a request under the State's Freedom of Information Law to determine whether political motivations played a role in the initial difficulty experienced by the Sanders campaign to first obtain the rally permits and then, later, the reported ease with which Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) offered to change the date of the rally permit.

The challenges faced by Equality for Flatbush also follow comments made by outgoing NYPD Commissioner William Bratton in which he admitted that he does not consider any advocacy group credible if their political demands were, in his view, "unrealistic."

Appearing for an interview on the NY1 cable news network program, Inside City Hall, Commissioner Bratton disparaged one police reform activist group leader by name, lumped many police and government reform activists under the single rubric of a "fringe group," and added that he would only consider groups to be legitimate if their political demands for reform had "the ability to be met," raising the spectre that the police department discriminated against activists groups solely based on their ideology.

In the press release issued by Equality for Brooklyn, it was noted that over fifty community groups, churches, small businesses, and tenant associations had endorsed the march — indication that the march was not a fringe event.

The administration of Mayor de Blasio is reportedly the subject of several corruption investigations being conducted by Federal, State, and City prosecutors. Some of these reported investigations are probing whether the de Blasio administration granted official acts to real estate developers, who have also acted as campaign contributors. Some of the real estate developers, who have acted as campaign contributors, have been awarded City permission to construct zone-busting projects in Brooklyn, which threaten to spread gentrification within Brooklyn neighborhoods formerly known for offering affordable housing, a situation opposed by members of Equality for Flatbush.

Since the march being planned by Equality for Flatbush is slated to address social, economic, and legal issues that are considered politically-sensitive to the mayor in the lead-up to what may be a difficult reëlection next year — should he survive the reported, multiple corruption investigations — City agencies may be attempting to quash political dissent on behalf of the mayor.

In 2014, when police reform activists were demanding each of an increased accountability at the NYPD for officer-involved homicides, including that of Eric Garner, and an end to race-based policing policies, Mayor de Blasio personally demanded that police reform activists suspend large-scale protests during a period of time when he faced a spike in criticism of his handling of policing policies.