Families of NYPD victims criticize mayor press sec's comments on 'fringe' activists
To the families of the victims, the comments were a racist erasure of the NYPD reforms needed for communities of color.
The families of Eric Garner and Delrawn Small — two New Yorkers killed by NYPD officers — are calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary Eric Phillips to apologize after he called those pushing for police reforms “fringe” activists.
“Those on the fringes either think the mayor hates cops or that the mayor protects cops at all costs," Phillips said in an emailed statement to Politico. "Neither of these views is unbiased observation. They are painfully predictable activist positions trying to bend the Mayor’s approach to their fringe views. The Mayor will continue to focus on what matters, make decisions based on facts, and institute accountability reforms that make sense."
The Politico article explored how those on the left feel dismayed at how the mayor has been reluctant to criticise the NYPD. Most recently, de Blasio faced criticism for his response to the video of Jazmine Headley, a Brooklyn mother whose forceful arrest was caught on video and included police officers yanking her 1-year-old out of her arms.
Phillips made additional comments on Twitter, sharing the Politico article and writing that “there’s no world where advocates will stop advocating. An advocate will never say, ‘I’m actually pretty satisfied.’”
To Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, and Victoria Davis, the sister of Delrawn Small, the comments were a racist erasure of police violence.
“We both lost loved ones to police murder and misconduct while Mayor de Blasio has been in office and have yet to see any justice or accountability. We must deal with the pain of that loss every day,” they said in a joint statement. “It’s frankly vile and racist for anyone to call police reform advocates like us ‘fringe activists.’ Eric Phillips and the entire de Blasio administration owe us, our families, and all police accountability advocates an immediate apology today.”
They are not “fringe” activists, they continued, but are at the center of a push for more police accountability to communities of color, and for NYPD officers who do commit misconduct acts to “face real disciplinary consequences.”
"We suspect Eric Phillips, a white man, has spent zero time with any grieving black women and grieving families of color like ours, and has never met with a police accountability advocate or activist,” they said. “We encourage him to do some deep reflection about why his rhetoric is racist and wrong, and to choose his words much more carefully the next time he speaks about critics of the NYPD.”
On WNYC on Friday, de Blasio touched on the critiques he’s getting from some who say he’s not as progressive as he should be.
“Do I think the political landscape is becoming more progressive? Yes, and I think it’s a fantastic thing,” he said. “Do I think that advocates and activists are never going to be satisfied by definition? Yes, and I understand that, and in many ways I honor that.”
But de Blasio said he has been making progress in terms of the NYPD, and it’s been ignored.
“We retrained the entire police force in de-escalation. We’re putting body cameras on all officers. I hope it would be done by early next year. … 10,000 officers have been trained on how to deal with folks with mental health challenges. Eventually the entire force is going to be trained on that,” he said. “Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of New York City. And this is how you make change.”
“How is no one talking about 100,000 fewer arrests in 2017 than 2013?” he added. “I don’t see front page stories about that... and, you know – how is the fact that we’re getting off Rikers Island and ending mass incarceration not front page news?”
The mayor said that there have been “some inappropriate incidents” like the fatal shooting of Deborah Danner, but he added in that instance that “the Police Commissioner of New York City and the Mayor of New York City said immediately that was not what was supposed to happen, we do not believe that’s what we should have happening in New York City.”