New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is wrong to call for a moratorium on protests.
De Blasio made the plea during a speech at the Police Athletic League in the wake of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos being ambushed and shot to death in Brooklyn by lone gunman Ishmaaiyl Brinsley, who fatally shot himself in the head.
“I think it’s a time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in all due time,” said de Blasio.
The mayor asked that all protests be put on hold until after the funeral services for the two officers. In recent weeks, numerous small and large scale protests have been launched in New York and other cities across the country in response to the grand jury verdicts in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases. Both men were killed by on-duty police officers.
The mayor is wrong to ask that these largely peaceful protests be put on hold. There is no better time than right now to have substantive conversations about the very important issue of justice and the basic human right to live. Additionally, calling for a moratorium on these protests implies that the protests are in any way in line with the sentiment of or the horrendous crime committed by Brinsley.
The protests are not anti-police. The protests are anti-police brutality. The protests are peaceful, intelligent, affirmative displays of = the fact that #BlackLivesMatter. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in New York and Washington DC to peacefully but firmly confront injustice.
Right now is always the time to demand justice.
In Ava DuVernay’s film Selma, there’s a scene where President Lyndon B. Johnson tells Martin Luther King, Jr. that he simply could not be bothered with the issue of voting rights for Black people at that time. It would have to wait. There were other more pressing and less controversial matters at hand.
Sound familiar? As history tells us, MLK did not wait. The Civil Rights Movement continued on full throttle, and eventually, LBJ’s hand was forced, laws were changed and today we can all exercise our right to vote.
Though we have certainly progressed in many ways since the 1960s, we are not in an ideal state right now. Here we are again in a similar position asking (no, demanding) that we be afforded the same rights and protections as every other American citizen.
Full of grace and dignity, Eric Garner’s daughter visited the memorial for slain officers Liu and Ramos, and she offered words of support to their families. That epitomizes the sentiment of this movement. She and the activists who have tirelessly marched in these past weeks understand that everyone’s life is valuable. When we say #BlackLivesMatter, that is not to exclude the value of other lives.
It is a reminder to those whose words and actions show us that they do not believe that Black lives matter. When unarmed American citizens are shot to death, choked to death, beaten and berated by police officers, there is a problem, and that problem begins festering long before the bullet the leaves the chamber or the billy club cracks a skull. We have work to do on the most basic of human behaviors. There’s no pause button on a movement.
These protests are not for meant to just be a headache for local police departments. There is a mission there to dismantle systemic injustice. There is no “good time” to do that work. The right time is always right now.