There is a scene in the movie “Selma” where Alabama highway patrolmen, in full riot gear and led by unapologetically racist Sheriff Jim Clark, mow down scores of peaceful protesters marching to secure their voting rights in the infamous bridge attack known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Clark flaunted his affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, wore a button that read “Never Integrate” and earned widespread comparisons to then-Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham and living symbol of virulent racism Bull Connor. Furthermore, he wasn’t one to back down from a challenge from protesters, just as Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, has proved he isn’t today.
The official mouthpiece for the largest and most influential union in the New York City Police Department, Lynch’s rhetoric may not be as overt as these historical figures, but neither is it closeted. Lynch embodies the same dangerous, defiant and morally corrupt spirit of Clark and Connor, who made it known they cared less about preserving the rights of those they were appointed to protect and serve and more about upholding their own shameful agenda.
Lynch has blamed Staten Island grandfather Eric Garner for his own death, and he has called the officer responsible, Daniel Pantaleo, a “model officer” despite the fact that Pantaleo had received numerous use of force complaints before he applied the forbidden chokehold that snuffed out Garner’s life. Lynch accused New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio of having “blood on his hands” after the deaths of two NYPD officers, because the mayor publicly supported the constitutional rights of citizens to protest.
In the ultimate display of disrespect, Lynch encouraged officers to turn their backs on the mayor at the funerals for the fallen cops, making it clear that he does not care about how police treat people of color, even the ones in de Blasio’s own family. Lynch’s tireless crusade to defend the indefensible is a thinly veiled attempt to bully New York City’s Black and Brown citizens into submission.
It is because of folks like Lynch, bigots in positions of power and life-altering influence, that we will march Jan. 19 to defend the dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about.
Justice League NYC’s #Dream4Justice March will begin at noon Jan. 19 on the corner of 110th and Lenox, where we will take to the streets with the determination and righteousness of our ancestors, marching to shut down racist cops and disrupt protected systems. We will join together with more than 50 coalition organizers, Black and white and Brown, old and young, men and women, to insist that our civil liberties not be trampled on. We will march for Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and the thousands of other Black men and women who were murdered without cause.
We want you to join us. Help us hold racist leaders like Lynch, the NYPD and police unions across the country accountable for the misdeeds of their officers. Help us show progressive leaders like de Blasio that they have the support of the people to push forward real, direly needed reform.
A task force of juvenile and criminal justice advocates, experts, artists and formerly incarcerated individuals, Justice League NYC has identified the most pressing changes needed, and we have formulated a list of specific demands for city and state lawmakers. These demands include the immediate firing of Pantaleo and all officers responsible for the death of Garner; the immediate passage of transparency rules called the “Right to Know Act”; and an immediate end to the NYPD’s “Broken Windows” policing tactics. We invite you to read the demands and sign the petition at gatheringforjustice.org.
Justice League NYC demands these changes as citizens of this country and survivors of the American holocaust. If the Jim Clarks, Bull Conners and their “nephews,” the Pat Lynchs of the world, can use their platforms to mobilize people around racism and violence, we believe we can mobilize people around righteousness and justice.
Meet us out on the front lines Jan. 19 to defend our rights as American citizens and make our voices heard.
Tamika Mallory is a member of Justice League NYC.