By LOUIS FLORES
The suspense over whether Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) will be allowed to attend the police funerals of fallen officers Wenjian Lui and Rafael Ramos, who were killed Saturday in an unprovoked attacked in Brooklyn, is the latest sign that the mayor has lost control over the city he was elected to govern.
The mayor and his wife were set to attend Sunday mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan. Since passions are running high amongst civic leaders, police officers, police unions, and some police reform activists, the New York Police Department buffered St. Patrick's with metal barricades, anticipating the need for crowd control. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is downsizing, because people are turning away from religion, and fewer and fewer people are seeking to be ordained as priests, but the automatic default thinking by the NYPD is the instant need to erect barricades to control crowds, an obsolete mentality that both reveals the spread of irrational fear following Saturday's massacre and serves as a symbol for failed leadership in New York City.
Indeed, at Saturday night's press conference at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn, where the fallen officers were taken and later pronounced dead, in his brief remarks, Mayor de Blasio invoked a sense of fear to motivate New Yorkers into action, saying that, "every New Yorker should feel they, too, were attacked," that "our entire city was attacked," further requesting that New Yorkers should report any information about plans for attacks on police, a sense of fear that NYPD Commissioner William Bratton reaffirmed by saying that New Yorkers should consider this like the Homeland Security alert system, an alarum code that the Bush administration notoriously abused to keep Americans living in fear of terroristic attacks, so that the administration could keep pushing its political goals, as well as its agendas of war and surveillance.
Rather than inspire from a place of equality, justice, due process, and the rule of law, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton are resorting to invoking fear to frighten New Yorkers, moving them in a direction of hatred and suspicion.
The reply messages of violence were further fueled by Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, or PBA, who Saturday night laid blame for the officers' deaths before Mayor de Blasio and police reform activists, saying that, "There's blood on many hands tonight : Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest," later adding that police officials warned that large-scale, on-going protests demanding greater police accountability could not go on, before he further added, "That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor."
As if that wasn't enough, the PBA had reportedly issued a controversial statement, whose authenticity was later placed into question, in which the PBA asserted that, “The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words, actions and policies,” read the statement, according to an update published on the Web site of The New York Times. The statement further added, “and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.”
Police officers also literally turned their backs to Mayor de Blasio Saturday night in Woodhull Hospital in a remarkable display of willful disrespect.
And whilst City Hall has negotiated labour contracts with eight police unions, two police unions, the PBA and the Sergeants Benevolent Association are still holding out for better labour contract concessions from City Hall. It's expected that the PBA sill enter into binding arbitration over its labour contract.
The ratcheting up of inflammatory rhetoric and tensions comes at a time when the de Blasio administration had been trying to fluff its nominal accomplishments in its first year : for having rolled out pre-kinder programs to about 50,000 children, for having expanded a paid sick leave law that was originally passed in the final year of the Bloomberg administration, and for having ended the stop-and-frisk program that was originally ordered shut down by a federal court judge in a class-action lawsuit that was really won by police reform lawyers.
When the mayor tried to fluff his police reform credentials, he pointed to his success in dealing with his own lobbying firm, which for years duplicitously acted as the spokespeople for some police reform groups ; he met behind closed doors with other groups that had close ties to key political allies of the mayor's ; or he defended in Orwellian fashion the race- and class-baiting policing tactic known as "Broken Windows," even in the wake of homicides committed by police in the tactic's execution. Instead of having a mayor, who delivered on unity by making an honest overhaul of the troubled NYPD, New Yorkers have contended with an angry police force that simultaneously refused to be held accountable for a horrific spree of homicides and that laid blame for its troubles on an inept mayor. Even the mayor's own police commissioner, William Bratton, brazenly proclaimed that no real reforms will be had, and that activists calling for his resignation needed to "start pushing harder."
Mayor de Blasio heads a bi-racial household, yet he cannot unify a multi-cultural city.
In the latest opinion poll, a racial divide in the mayor's approval ratings exposes a racially-divided city, which the mayor, in spite of heading a bi-racial household, cannot unite.
Mayor de Blasio won last year's mayoral election on a platform of promises to end race-based policing tactics, which he is now resisting on fully delivering ; to stop hospital closings, which he failed to do in the case of Long Island College Hospital ; and to ban horse-drawn carriages, which is now encumbered by a federal corruption investigation. Meanwhile, the coalition that was key to Mayor de Balsio's win in the mayoral election, NYC Is Not For Sale, was revealed to be a front-group that violated campaign finance laws.
During his first year, Mayor de Blasio has sought to portray himself as providing the solution to the economic inequalities of the Bloomberg administration, which he compared to the Dickensian novel, A Tale of Two Cities, however, Mayor de Blasio has, amongst other things, appointed a Goldman Sachs executive to head real estate development, ensuring big business the primary seat at the table of zone-busting development, and boasted of his close ties to the real estate barons of New York City, casting doubts about his loyalty to the common man.
Against this backdrop, more protests are planned against the mayor and the NYPD by police reform activists still demanding an overhaul to the police department. Other notable advocates for government reform worry that a lack of demonstrative leadership will only let those recklessly waging a campaign of fear and intimidation to win.
At Saturday night's press conference at Woodhull Hospital, Commissioner Bratton said that the NYPD would investigate the social media postings of the suspected killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley. The double-homicide in Brooklyn Saturday followed the "lone wolf" hatchet attack on police officers in Queens last October, which was deemed an act of terrorism. Coupled with Mayor de Blasio's appeal Saturday night for any information about threats of violence on police, Commissioner Bratton's use of intelligence gathering techniques to follow political dissidents, whom he deems as "agitators," threatens to silence police reform activists, who are demanding an overhaul to an uncontrollable and unaccountable police force. Such monitoring by the NYPD of peaceful political activities of police reform activists violates the Handschu Agreement, a court-supervised consent decree that limits crackdowns by the NYPD of peaceful political activities by public intellectuals, protesters, and citizens.
Activists, who are calling for an end to discrimination, violence, and state-sponsored forms of oppression, are reaching for understanding and unity. However, elected officials and police union leaders remain entrenched in language of fear and suspicion.
This is how Mayor de Blasio's first year in office comes to a close.