Black and Blue: Clashes in Brooklyn reveal the state of NYC
Stephon Johnson | 7/16/2020, midnight
They’re not a race, but have established themselves as one.
“Blue Lives Matter” protesters took to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to announce their support of police and their alleged mistreatment by the public, the mayor and specifically Black Lives Matter protesters. The scene turned chaotic quickly.
Physical altercations, violence, foul language of all kinds was spewed on both sides.
As seen in several online videos, Blue Lives Matter protesters hurled racial and sexist epithets at Black Lives Matter protesters.
It all began on Saturday, July 11, at an event where video shows New York State Assembly Woman Nicole Malliotakis marching with a group in Dyker Heights chanting “USA!” while holding an American flag. The assemblywoman had recently announced a Goya canned food drive for local pantries after its CEO Robert Unanue declared his loyalty to Pres. Donald Trump. Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairwoman Fran Vella-Marrone was also in attendance.
But things took a violent turn on Sunday with other Blue Lives protesters.
Several dozen Black Lives Matter protesters showed up to counter-protest a Blue Lives rally whose head count amounted to several hundred. Guarded by the police Blue Lives protesters hurled insults and other choice words at Black Lives protesters leading to a violent clash. Black Lives protesters accused the police of being extra aggressive towards them to protect the Blue Lives protest attendees.
“The Trump/pro-cop rally/white supremacist ralliers ((sic) inflicted violence and brutalized counter protestors while the NYPD turned a blind eye,” said Bay Ridge resident Abdullah Yonus, who helped organize the counter-protest, to the AmNews. “At both rallies, unlike the horrific violence the NYPD has inflicted on Black Lives Matter protestors since the George Floyd uprisings, the NYPD white supremacists were treated with care and support, and not arrested. But, multiple and violent arrests were made against counter protestors.”
Yonus said he left the protest with a busted lip after allegedly being assaulted by a Blue Lives protester.
New York City Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Dyker Heights, didn’t respond to AmNews’ requests for comment, but did take to social media to express his disappointment over Sunday’s events.
“I am disturbed by the violence tonight in #BayRidge,” wrote Brannan. “The blame falls equally at the feet of elected official & leaders who refused to take responsibility for the vitriol and hatred displayed at yesterday’s protest.”
In the very next tweet Brannan called for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York Police Department (NYPD) to investigate after a video clip showed an officer tasing a counter-protester.
Last week, with the help of de Blasio, a “Black Lives Matter” sign was painted on the street in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. between 56th and 57th Streets. The gesture is supposed to signal the city’s alignment and commitment to social justice and anti-police brutality. The painting has been praised in some outlets as a shot at Pres. Donald Trump (who called the painting a sign of hate) that solidifies the city’s liberal bonafides.
Activist Josmar Trujillo told the AmNews that New York City’s left-wing reputation is unfounded.
“NYC is seen as some progressive city, but everyone knows there’s neighborhoods in this city so racist that they’ll give cities down south a run for their money: Howard Beach, the south shore of Staten Island, the west end of the Rockaways. Dyker Heights in Brooklyn is definitely one of those neighborhoods and so it’s no surprise that they’d rally to support police as well as respond like a bunch of slack-jawed maniacs at the insinuation that Black lives should matter,” Trujillo said.
Invoking the words Bensonhurst and Howard Beach produces a specific feeling in Black people of a certain age.
In the late evening/early morning of Dec. 20, 1986, a white mob chased Michael Griffith and his mother’s boyfriend out of their neighborhood after they had stopped at New Park Pizza on Cross Bay Boulevard to grab something to eat. They got into an argument with some teenager, including one with a baseball bat. During the ensuing chase, Griffith made his way onto the Belt Parkway where he was eventually hit by a car going westbound on the parkway and killed.
Jon Lester (who passed away in 2017), Scott Kern and Jason Ladone did time for their contributions to Griffith’s death.
On the evening of Aug. 23, 1989, 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins was shot and killed after being confronted by a mob of white teenagers (some holding baseball bats). Hawkins and his girlfriend were in the neighborhood to buy a used car. A local girl had told the group that she was bringing some Black and Latinx men over to settle a score with Keith Mondello. Mondello, who fired the shots that killed Hawkins, was sent to prison for rioting and almost a dozen lesser charges, but was acquitted of murder and manslaughter.
The mayor did not respond for comment, but he talked about the incident in Bay Ridge, including rumors of a journalist being attacked. De Blasio said that the city needs to look at different perspectives of the issue to have an informed take on the events.
“We take all of this seriously, but the bottom line is we always want to figure out the best way to balance safety with the other rights people have,” the mayor said during Monday’s media briefing.
Requests for comment were ignored by the NYPD and the Police Benevolent Association.
Blue Lives rallies were held around New York State, including in places like Plattsburgh. The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association shared video from those events on Twitter labeling them “patriots” who speak for the “silent majority.” With the double trouble of Black Lives vs. Blue Lives and COVID-19, this summer is shaping up to be an eventful one. “The city is a pressure cooker,” said Trujillo. “On top of coronavirus, the almost seven years of the de Blasio administration and the City Council dragging their feet on the issues of policing have made things even worse. People want change. Others want to keep police empowered, including the police themselves.
“Since 2014, city officials have given them what they wanted with year after year of growing police budgets––encouraging their sense of entitlement,” Trujillo said.
This week, the “Black Lives Matter” declaration painted in front of Trump Tower was vandalized. Video showed a man pouring red paint over the signage.
A global pandemic can’t stop the temperatures (and tension) from rising in the city.