“My response to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton is that he can go to hell, and take his killer cops with him and take his broken window theory with him!” declared elected activist Assemblyman Charles Barron after hearing the commissioner’s comments from last week.
Barron continued, “He has a lot of damn nerve talking about me inciting a riot. The only thing that is going to incite a riot is when he allows his killer cops, as with Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, to get away with killing us with impunity, and the racist system of injustice lets these cops go. That’s what is going to cause a riot. So if anybody is going to be arrested for causing a riot, I’m going to make a citizen’s arrest of him, because that’s what’s going to cause a riot, not my warning at a press conference.”
Last Wednesday evening’s (March 23) announcement that Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson had recommended to Judge Danny Chun that convicted killer, ex-cop Peter Liang, serve no time in prison and instead receive a sentence of 500 hours of community service, six months of home detention and five years of probation raised the ire of several activists.
Thompson explained that the Liang case was always about “justice, not revenge.”
The following day, Barron conducted a noontime press conference/rally “to express our outrage” in front of Thompson’s downtown Brooklyn office at 350 Jay St., surrounded by numerous angry activists.
“District Attorney Ken Thompson betrayed the Black community,” the original Black Panther activist stated. “How dare you, a Black man they put in a high position, get an indictment and conviction of manslaughter, then say he shouldn’t spend a day in jail? You are out of your mind! This is why I continue to say, when peaceful means for justice are ignored, violence is inevitable!
“Don’t blame me, the social-forecaster, for predicting a social uprising when this system refuses to value Black lives and refuses to send police officers to prison that abuse the use of deadly force. My condolences and support continues to go out to the family.
“We will not forget this. Some of our people in the streets are saying ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.’ Even Martin Luther King—the prince of peace—said that riots are the voices of the unheard. Am I saying we should be violent? I’m saying the system will determine that.
“Don’t make us bring Ferguson to New York City. How dare you, after the community invested in you. All the good you’ve done has been wiped out. Thankfully your hypocrisy is just a recommendation. So we the people ask the judge to ignore this, and do the right thing.”
In conclusion, Barron warned, “We will shut this city down, Ken Thompson. Wherever you go, we should be there.”
Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Peterson, was accompanied by a silently sobbing Melissa Butler, who was with Gurley when he was fatally shot.
“You are just as guilty as if you’d pulled the trigger,” Peterson said of Thompson. “We trusted you, and you hoodwinked us.”
She called the DA a “disgrace” for “looking her in the eyes” and pretending he was seeking justice. “You sold yourself to the devil,” she said. “You will always have Akai Gurley’s blood on your hands.”
Supporters surrounding her shouted in call and response fashion, “Thompson—” “—is a traitor!”
Peterson added, in reference to the Brooklyn DA, “I don’t want to hear anything from you or from your office. This is a slap in the face.”
Councilwoman Inez Barron said,“We are revolted by your actions, and we will never forget. Don’t come to us for anything, Ken Thompson. You are forewarned. This is not the end!”
Nicolas Heyward Sr. and Frank Graham, fathers who also lost sons in police killings, were present and shared similar sentiments. “We want Peter Liang go to jail!” they declared.
Thompson’s office declined to comment on the protest.
On Friday, while being interviewed on the radio by 77 WABC’s Election Central’s Rita Cosby, Bratton responded: “Mr. Barron should shut his mouth,” he warned. “He is very close to committing a criminal act of inciting to violence, and if there are disturbances, you better believe we will be looking very closely at him and his comments and his potential role. It is abrogation of responsibility as an elected official. Inciting violence is disgraceful.
“Certainly the community has a right to express its concerns, but in terms of Mr. Barron and his followers, the idea that because it didn’t go their way they’re going to bring Ferguson to New York, they’d better be very careful about what he’s going to try to do in the city of New York. We’ll watch very closely his activities and his actions.”
“Tell him to bring it!” Barron challenged when asked if Bratton was trying to threaten him with charges.
Barron praised Thompson for his many good deeds, and then added, “But for him to indict somebody for manslaughter, then say they should get no jail time? That is incredibly ridiculous and absurd, an insult to our community. He betrayed our community and all the good that he’s done, that betrayal trumps all the good that he’s done.
“It’s embarrassing now that those of us who are of African ancestry to say that not only does Black lives don’t matter to a white system, but Black lives don’t even matter to a Black man who’s in a high position to do something about it. Akai Gurley will never go home to his little daughter, and she will never see her father again. It’s an insult, an outrage and a gross miscarriage of justice.
“Police terror has been the number 1 issue in our communities in the nation, and you get a Black DA, and he says that Black lives don’t matter, that this guy can take a life recklessly and get no jail time? Ken should be totally ashamed of himself. He shouldn’t try to satisfy us by indicting and convicting him, then satisfy them by saying no jail time. This is not about playing both sides. This is about the value of a Black life! I think somebody got to him.
“I think he should get the max, 15 years, he was reckless. He caused a young man to lose his life, unarmed, innocent, not committing a crime … This officer was indicted and convicted for manslaughter in the second degree. That crime carries up to 15 years in prison. For DA Ken Thompson to only recommend five-years probation, six-months house detention and community service for an officer who recklessly took the life of Akai Gurley and negligently refused to help save his life, tells me even with a Black district attorney, Black lives do not matter to this system.
“This is why we need an independent prosecutor that is not a part of the system. This sends a signal across the nation, that police officers can kill Black people with impunity without ever worrying about spending one day in prison.”
After a two-and-a-half week trial a jury of his peers found Liang guilty of second-degree manslaughter and criminal misconduct, stemming from his Nov. 20, 2014, shooting death of Akai Gurley in a dimly lit stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn. Liang is to be sentenced on April 14.