A Brooklyn city councilman refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance Wednesday in City Hall to protest unchecked police brutality, citing a camraderie with San Francisco 49ers playerColin Kaepernick, who kneeled during the national anthem.
CouncilmanJumaane D. Williams, D-Brooklyn, bowed his head and sat while the rest of the council stood for the pledge. He said Wednesday that frustrations over the NYPD have become overwhelming,citing news that Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, earned a raise of tens of thousands of dollars while on desk duty.
"This type of nonviolent protest is not disrespectful as some have suggested," Williams said in a statement. "[Kaepernick]deserves support, not criticism for his actions. What does it say about our country when there is a national outrage over an athlete sitting out the national anthem, but the sameoutrage isn't expressed when a young black man is killed for no reason?"
Officer Pantaleo, 29, earned $23,000 in overtime pay in the year ending this June, bringing his salary to $120,000. In 2015, he earned an additional $17,00 for extra hours doing unknown and undisclosed duties.
On Wednesday, incoming police commissioner James O’Neill said that the NYPD will conduct a review of its overtime policies for officers on modified duty.
On the one-year anniversary of Eric Garner's death, Williams told Metro that "New Yorkers are waiting for a full cultural-systemic shift within our police department, including accountability for officer actions, to best improve police-community relations."
"The day has to come when the public safety space is not only owned by law enforcement," he said.
Councilman Eric Ulrich, R-Queens, said Williams and Kaepernick's protests are "not appropriate."
"Why they feel the need to disrespect our country this way is beyond me,"Ulrich said at City Hall. "The pledge embodies “everything good that America represents, so I don’t know why he would choose to sit down. That’s his right to, I suppose."