The events that changed the landscape of the city
The video of the slow, sadistic murder of a black man by a white police officer prompted mass protests across the United State. These protests against police brutality were met by further police brutality.
The night of June 2, 2020 was the most frightening time I’ve experienced in my twenty years in New York city. I was terrified of the police.
Around 4 p.m., I went to SOHO and witnessed the frenetic labor of workers covering store fronts with plywood. I took pictures of the stores advertising brand names like Nike, Apple, Adidas, Zara, Calzedonia and Camper. The media was full of news of people looting stores from Union Square down to SOHO. As I walked with Samuel through SOHO, we were both tense and alert, frightened of our City.
Walking along SOHO streets, I understood these protests differ from others in one important way: they have changed the landscape of the city. In other city protests, the predominant images are those of the protestors. Now the representative image for me is of storefronts covered with plywood.
An anthropologist friend explained another difference. In previous demonstrations, the protests that took place in poor neighborhoods, were now happening in affluent neighborhoods because of the lack of police protection. In the decades before, wealthy areas such as Fifth avenue and Times Square had a more prominent police presence. My friend explained that New York had changed to the point that people couldn’t envision street riots and glass windows being smashed in these protected neighborhoods. That level of vandalism belonged to a past era–it was history–and this was why, before June 1st, there was little or no police presence on the streets.
On March 23rd non-essential businesses were closed and for over two months, the glass fronts of empty SOHO stores remained intact. Samuel found the absence of smashed windows an anomaly in an American city, a proof that the times had changed. This certainly would not have been the case in the city of Pittsburgh, where he grew up.
At first glance, looters targeting brand name goods in a maximum expression of consumerism is a contradiction, when less affluent “neighborhood” stores such as bodegas, craft stores and small coffee shops remained untouched. At the same time, the breaking of glass as an act of destruction set off an alarm alerting New Yorkers that the city is no longer safe for them and things are not fine.
After Eric Garner, the big protests in the city came with George Floyd, another black man killed in police custody. Both men were murdered for misdemeanors, both for reasons relating to cigarettes. Both deaths are also related to the broken windows theory of policing, also called quality-of-life policing, which is based on the theory that controlling social disorder ofences is a way to cut serious crimes. This theory, while unproven, has consequences in the everyday lives of New Yorkers: repression, authoritarian rhetoric, the molestation of minorities and the decreased quality of life for the non-wealthy. The consequence for black men is murder.
It is no coincidence that store windows in SOHO and on Fifth Avenue were smashed. The action is saying: You kill us in accordance with your broken windows theory of policing, you treat us like criminals even when we haven´t broken any windows. Well, now we have! The broken windows theory of policing is still in effect and has been for more than thirty years, and it is used to justify the murder of blacks males.
David Norman Dinkins, the first black mayor of New York, initiated the broken windows theory of policing or quality-of-life policing in 1989. Succeeding mayors have maintained the practice even though vandalism has been nearly absent and crime rates are low. The policy is used as a justification to assault black, latino and immigrant populations and vulnerable members of society such as the homeless, the addicted and the mentally ill. But where were the police when the windows were actually broken in affluent areas? They were absent because it was assumed their presence was unnecessary. As I walk around SOHO, it is questionable whether those who broke the windows and those who looted the stores are one and the same.
Whose lives benefit from quality-of-life policing? A quality of life for whom? The wealthy? Manhattan is the playground of the rich. Since 2005, the gentrification of the city has taken on global dimensions. Tall buildings pop up seemingly overnight in empty lots or replace gas stations. Lower and middle income people have moved out of Manhattan, displaced by the rental costs. Private investors from all over the world have come here to purchase condos. (Samuel and I wrote a book on the subject). In the nineties, art galleries left SOHO and moved to Chelsea or Williamsburg. Now, SOHO consists of nothing but expensive hotels, boutiques for tourists and homes for wealthy residents. The Status quo was so sure of its invulnerability, that stores were built of glass. After the death of George Floyd, the looters are questioning what the more than 110,000 deaths by COVID 19 didn´t question: the status quo.
Samuel and I often walk around SOHO in the evening after the stores are closed. We hunt for furniture or other things left out on the sidewalk or just walk to take advantage of a part of the city that is less crowded. The plywood covered windows bring to mind images of the stores before the protective plywood was in place. Although I enjoyed the festival of lights, styles and colors and the gate less window displays flaunting expensive merchandise, I also found the whole scene pornographic and pretentious, full of entitlement and assured of its own invulnerability.
For weeks the plywood exteriors of SOHO have been covered with enlarged pictures of brown and black front line workers who, together with a few artists who still live in SOHO, were the only inhabitants. SOHO has been empty for months. Affluent residents fled to escape the virus. They are able to afford second homes or spend time in retreats away from the city. It is unclear whether the intention of the looters is to pilfer un-affordable objects of cult and desire or to sow the seeds of social instability, or both. Either way, SOHO today is no longer a place for entitled hipsters but is a battlefield after the battle.
This protest was ignited by the murder of George Floyd in police custody, but it is also about inequality (race, gender, class), a clear symptom of the murders of black men and women by police. Of the 120,000 dead from the coronavirus, many were people with few privileges, and many of the deaths would not have happened if the Mayor of New York had adopted protective measures in time to prevent the spread of the disease. When I speak about the poor, I include myself among them, and when I talk about class, I am told it is a concept that is passé. There is a systematic denial in wanting to blindly believe, It is all cool, some of us have money and some of you have not; no big deal…it is a widely accepted belief today.
Today SOHO is a blackboard. People have attached signs, prints and posters onto the plywood covering stores often for Black Lives Matter but also to promote other agendas, Stop Sexism spray painted on Victoria’s Secret, for instance or a homemade poster that reads Di Blasio Rides Blue Cock, that a young white man posts after the mayor has attempted to limit the hours of protest from 5am to 8pm.
We go west taking Broome Street until we hit east Broadway and then go back to Broadway and south toward Canal Street. We pass a coworking building on Broadway and Grand, their storefront completely covered in plywood and keep walking south. When we arrive at Canal Street, we turn left. A few blocks up is Centre Street, close to the courts and the jail. Then we go east on Canal and pass Elizabeth street, where the police precinct is located. The street is closed and filled with police cars. The activity is like nothing I have seen before in New York. Police Vans are being loaded with people and weapons. More cars arrive. The police move quickly and with excitement, as if to say, The party is about to start. With this curfew we can fuck with anybody, we have permission from the Mayor.
I get an emergency alert on my phone around 7 p.m. telling me there is a curfew in effect. Around 8 p.m., police cars began to cruise the neighborhood with megaphones: Go home, Thank you for your cooperation.
“We are in a dictatorship,” CNBC online reports, “Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the 8 p.m. curfew on New York City will be extended through the end of the week as heated protests over the death of George Floyd continue to shake the city.”
The pdf I get in Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s News Letter reads:
“What happens if I violate the curfew?
We fully expect that all New Yorkers will cooperate in the interest of public safety. For the very few individuals that refuse to cooperate and do not fall within the exempted categories, they will be given every opportunity to return home. Only if an individual continuously refuses to do so will additional enforcement action be considered, included but not limited to fines.”
The inclusivity in the phrase, “additional enforcement included but not limited to fines,” suggests the police can kill you if they see fit. Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., I count seventy-six police cars going south down Bowery. Secret police in grey and black cars cover the adjunct streets. I am debating whether to go to the protest or not to go because I have seen the police get ready for the party; I know what is going to happen. I won’t join the protest, but I do want to be in the streets. Instead, I am on the roof of a building as the helicopters begin patrolling from overhead.
I was enraged by the lack of response from Major di Blasio over the death of Eric Garner in 2005. The justification for the curfew has been the looting. Samuel and I have an argument. For me, the Mayor’s curfew makes no sense. The looters and the protesters are two different groups of people, To punish peaceful protesters and those who want to be on the streets is repression.
Making the outcome looks like the natural response
Samuel believes the curfew does make sense, that there is a lot going on in the city and not enough police to handle both the protestors and the looters; store owners must be protected.
J. Curfew is not the necessary result of the equation, there are other things that can be done.
S. Like what?
J. Stores can hire their own guards to protect their goods, they do that in many cities in Latin America.
S. But stores pay taxes…
J. But that is not the point, My point is that putting a curfew because people loot the stores is not logical, it doesn’t make any sense.
S. yes is does,
J. What is your logic? Tell me the premise that drives that conclusion?
S. If there are not enough police to deal with the protestors, the looters and the regular police emergencies, then clear the streets and send the people home so the police can more easily act.,
J. If there are not enough police to deal with the protestors and the looters and the regular police emergencies, then don’t police the protestors.
Our argument illustrates the difference between a social democrat and an anarchist. Samuel’s justification of the curfew suggests that curtailing our freedom is logical and a privilege of the state. To declare a curfew is not the rational response in this situation. This is repression. Are we in a democracy or a dictatorship? The situation is tense. Helicopters fly low above us and are moving quickly. I’m afraid one will crash. I hear the voices of the protesters on the Manhattan bridge. The police have been waiting for them on the Manhattan side of the bridge, sandwiching them in between Dumbo and Chinatown.
I am as scared of the police as I am of getting Coronavirus. Police don’t wear masks, and if I get arrested, they are going to throw me up for at least 36 hours in a cell with many people: they are young and I am not. I end up not going to the protest. Those who protested at the Manhattan site, where I had intended to join, were met with police in full riot gear and were not able to pass through. The next day the news reported that the protestors from the Manhattan site were badly hit by the police, but the protest in Brooklyn ended peacefully thanks to the intervention of the Public Defender, Jummane Williams.
Samuel argues that people need policing because nobody is good by nature, and even in a peaceful protest there are still going to be people who break the law. I answer with, “I am my own policeman” by “Wilhem Reich.” I don’t need to be policed because I’m unable to control myself. I am an anarchist and Samuel is a social democrat. He believes we need an external form of control. I don´t. Many Americans have a misunderstanding of anarchism. For them anarchism is about destruction and terror, but anarchism from its origin is a form of government that differs from communism in that it doesn’t require a paternal figure to give orders and control others, everyone controls them self. Given a vote of trust, humans will respond not with violence but with responsibility. My point was proved when the protests that continued throughout the week turned out to be peaceful. There was no more looting, the violence came from the police, and the curfew gave the situation a context to make this possible. De Blasio made the possibility of hospitalization and arrest for many New Yorkers an actuality.
My fear of exposure to the coronavirus through police action was well-founded. “Despite Virus, Hundreds Arrested in Unrest Are Held in Cramped Jails,” a New York TImes article by Jan Ransom (June 4, 2020) read,“More than 2,000 people have been arrested by the New York Police Department during the protests….A flood of arrests has caused a backlog in New York City’s courts, forcing many to wait for more than 24 hours before seeing a judge. “On Thursday morning, more than 380 people — waiting either in cells at Police Headquarters, in local precincts and in a Manhattan jail — had yet to be brought before a judge. Nearly 70 percent of them had been waiting for more than 24 hours, including one defendant who had been waiting 80 hours, according to court officials and the Legal Aid Society.”
I spent the week writing letters to Governor Cuomo, the City Council and other community leaders in order to press Mayor Di Blasio to stop the curfew and the support of police violence.
Bill de Blasio, The Mayor of the Wealthy Supremacists of New York
Defund the Police = Defund de Blasio
The exhibition of violence in the U.S. echoes internationally and bounces back with a change in tone by government officials who, in many cases, supported police brutality. Under the pressure applied by protestors, two proposals seems to be under consideration:
1) Police accountability.
Passing bills to control the actions of the police in order to eliminate police abuse.“One bill criminalizes an officer’s use of a chokehold; another one bans officers from covering their badge numbers from the public; a third bill reaffirms the people’s right to record police activity in public places; and lastly, another bill requires the NYPD to create a tool, known as an Early Intervention System (EIS), to identify problematic officers and bad policing patterns.“] Other policies talk about retrieving police immunity. It is impossible to believe that police will change, people do not easily change and police are people. The police need to be not only defunded but dismantled and reinvented.
2) Cuts to the New York Police Department’s budget and reallocate funds from the police into other areas of civil needs.
Most of the proposals go in two directions:
a) The band aid approach to problems. This approach treats the symptoms not the root of the problem. For instance, putting money into drug addiction programs or shelters for the homeless, when the root of the problem for drug addiction is lack of concern for human dignity and the root of homelessness is lack of housing.
b) Putting money into education and health. Education and health are very important. But they are secondary to the basics. The three most important things for a human are: Freedom, Food and Shelter. Giving money to the second important, funds the poor but not the very poor.
A protester at a Washington march said she worries about getting infected by the Coronavirus, but she worries more about the illness of the soul. This is why in the middle of a pandemic thousands of citizens have joined each other in public protest. Freedom is the number one priority for many Americans.
Lack of freedom, involves having no control over the circumstances, over our lives and also having no choice. Lack of freedom refers to loss of liberty and having no control refers to inequality. Lack of liberty and lack of equality are what is behind lack of freedom. When a policeman (or a rapist) calls me “fucking bitch” it is an attack on my liberty, so it is when there is a curfew. When I must take public transportation, that comes infrequently and is crowded, because I have no car and can’t afford to take a taxi, then I have no choice.
These two categories, intangible freedom, tangible control are two sides of the same coin and usually go together. Those who respond and rebel are labelled as having “non stereotypical behavior.” The punishment for rebellion is denial. Denial of access to society makes it difficult for those who speak out to have economic success or even to make a living. Those who don’t follow a direct line to success, wealth and power, or those who want to behave in a more humane and less automated manner, are deprived of their rights. Any actions perpetrated upon them is justified. Punishment often denies liberty and choice. Examples are those who protest police brutality, are arrested by the police and get sick from COVID 19 after spending time in a crowded cell.
Americans are divided into two categories: the ones who follow the script and the ones who speak out against it: this translates into the ones who matter and the ones who don’t. Beyond discrimination by race, or sexual orientation, the deepest divide is between those who like the system with minimal reform, and those who are able to imagine and draft a new world. Those who follow and those who don´t This second category is understood as a threat to society. But these individuals are the ones who actually will create another way of living. Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York, has ensured that the line between these two types of Americans, the ones who matter and the ones who don’t, don’t blur. He is on the side of the ones who maintain the status quo: they are valuable and matter. The poor, people of color, women, thinkers and intellectuals are excluded from his idea of who matters.
-De Blasio Supports Police Violence
Instead of limiting the police presence at peaceful protests and reallocating them to prevent looting, Mayor de Blasio put an 8 p.m. curfew on all New Yorkers from June 1st until June 8th.. Furthermore, he openly supported the police use of violence at peaceful protests. Under the title, “Mayor de Blasio, Open Your Eyes. The Police Are Out of Control” a June 4th New York Times editorial read “This is not what serving and protecting should look like.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/opinion/new-york-protests.html
Mayor de Blasio has a history of saying one thing and doing another. He got in office with the promise to remove stop and frisk. However, he maintained broken windows policing, which allows arrests for minor offenses such as drinking beer in public or urinating in the streets. It was only in 2016 and after a huge demonstration for the death of Erick Garner and the push of many organizations, that the mayor removed the potential of arrest for minor offenses, a commendable act to prevent jail time for drinking a beer on the street. However, he kept the fines, which target the very poor, remain, and the police continue to arrest people for minor offenses when they choose. This new bill has not been met with protests.
A New York TImes article by Jan Ransom, “Despite Virus, Hundreds Arrested in Unrest Are Held in Cramped Jails,” reported, “….police have clogged up the system by putting people through the courts, who should have instead received summonses for minor offenses during the protests.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/nyregion/nyc-protests-jail.html It was due to this taxing of the courts, that a bill was passed in 2016 issuing summons instead of making arrests in the case of a minor offenses.
The only article I found, which gave voice to the widespread opinion in the street, was a June 12th, 2020 New York Times pieceby Jeffery C. Mays, “‘We Want to See Action’: “Why Black Supporters Are Deserting de Blasio.” ht In it Mays wrote, “Di Blasio has been blindly supporting the police intervention with no questions asked to the NYPD.” The article then questioned his behavior. “When asked about a video of two police cruisers being deliberately driven into protesters, the mayor defended the officers involved.” “They say the mayor has benefited politically from pledges to overhaul the Police Department, but has failed to deliver meaningful change…. “ We once thought de Blasio was with us,” said the Rev. Kevin McCall, a civil rights activist who organized last week’s memorial with Mr. Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, “but he flipped the script on us.” I know de Blasio´s tactics from experience, when I was negotiating with the HDFC coalition for tax subsidized coops. He says one thing and does another. “And even when Mr. de Blasio called for the officer involved in Mr. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis to be immediately charged, it only underscored how the mayor had steadfastly refused to fire the officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man, in 2014.” In the same article, a more direct attack comes from Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate: “You can no longer hide behind your black wife and children, not anymore,” .
–De Blasio supports luxury housing
On the housing front, Mayor de Blasio has practiced the same strategy on paper. He claims to support affordable housing. But in reality, 30,000 rent stabilized units were lost under this administration. They have also been very active in repossessing housing from small, non-wealthy property owners who have utility or tax debt and then flipping them and offering them as affordable housing for the slightly less poor. His administration has also co-opted homes from owners and then charged them rent. This happened with Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC), co-op owners who had become rent stabilized tenants. They lost their assets and their only opportunity to escalate into the social line. I addressed this issue in my essay, “The Re-Appropriation of Housing in New York City” (June 7, 2017).
In this administration, former housing czar, Alicia Glen, closed the senior housing on the Lower East Side, at Forsyth and Rivington Streets in Manhattan and offered it to de Blasio’s investor friends, who bought it for almost nothing in order to develop housing for the rich. Allies of de Blasio, and nearly half of the past employees of his administration are HR&A Advisors, the single advisory firm for the city in property development. They are famous for transforming public land into profitable business. In my article“The Family” (2017) , I illustrate the progression of government employees to the HR&A Advisors team.
Jaime Torres Springer is senior advisor at HR&A. He is known for turning libraries into luxury condos. His wife, Maria Torres Springer, former commissioner of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), has celebrated the grab of New York Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings now “leased” to private companies for 100 years.
Mayor de Blasio, endorses not-for-profit businesses, which focus on grabbing the properties of private citizens. For instance, he gave power to hundreds of organizations to manage HDFC tax subsidized coops. These not-for-profits were then advising their boards on how not to take care of buildings, and the buildings ended up going into foreclosure. The city would then repossess the properties from small owners (mainly brown, black and poor) and convert their original ownerships into city rentals. These property owners of color and their families lost the opportunity from pervasive economic inequality.
-De Blasio supports the spread of the virus
Regarding health, de Blasio, with 52,847 hours in office, carries upon his shoulder the weight of New York City’s 21,688 deaths from COVID 19.
The article “Blame Bill de Blasio” says that “His stubborn refusal to take the coronavirus seriously may have caused thousands of deaths.” And his refusal to to trust the advice of experts, was similar to the inaction of Trump at the National level. “…..America’s COVID-19 devastation is disproportionately a story of New York State’s devastation, and New York State’s devastation is overwhelmingly a story of New York City’s devastation. There’s a case to be made that New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is the single individual in the United States who is most to blame for the catastrophic loss of human life.”
The article “The mistakes that turned New York into an epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic” by Alexander Nazaryan on March 27, 2020 also compare Trump with De Blasio “De Blasio’s response has been in some cases similar to Trump’s, rife with divisive political rhetoric and a sustained deflection of responsibility. Like the president, he has continued to engage in feuds even as the outbreak rages.”
De Blasio didn’t initiate precautionary steps in time, although there were plenty of indications of an epidemic. To see his incapacity is even easier than to list his mistakes, which would cover pages and pages of this text. It is more efficient to look at the positive actions a mayor can do. Mayor London Breed’s early and aggressive moves to contain the outbreak have made San Francisco a national model in fighting the pandemic. “The City That Has Flattened the Coronavirus Curve”
On April 16th, I had a fever and muscular pain, but I was unable to take a test for COVID 19. There were no tests available and no possibility of being accepted into the hospital if my fever didn’t reach 102 degrees. Throughout the pandemic, de Blasio continues to disregard New Yorkers. He does NOT oversee the regulations in mandatory distancing, mask wearing or crowd size requirements in supermarkets; It is because affluent New Yorkers shop online. Supermarket employees shopping for home deliveries at the speed of light (they are instructed to find each item in under a minute), are a chief source of overcrowding in stores making it impossible to maintain a six-foot distance. This may explain why people staying at home and not going to work, but doing their own shopping, are still getting COVID. New York reopened and de Blasio is still not demanding and monitoring that people in the MTA wear masks. He, himself, walks around with no mask. “Your smile is killing me” can be applied here literally and metaphorically.
The rhetoric of politicians and their persistency in being “they” the news, is pure arrogance. There are no beds in hospitals, no tests, no swabs, no protective gear, no ventilators, and this mayor has only one thing for the people: empty words. “De Blasio rails against Trump on cable news and it means nothing, because people are dying in Elmhurst and Flatbush. The people need something; they crave it. Maybe it is the thing Aristotle wrote about, or maybe it is something else entirely. Maybe it is a ventilator; maybe it is hope. Whatever it is, Bill de Blasio is simply unable to give it to them,” ”The Mayor Who Can’t Rise to the Occasion” Alexander Nazaryan
Dignity: Freedom, Food and Shelter or Justice, Work and Housing
The demand to defund law enforcement grew out of a brutal murder of one individual by four policemen. We cannot forget that. Those policemen took away not only the life but the dignity of George Floyd, killing him as if he was a nuisance (a rat). If we are thinking about how to reallocate the police budget, we have to remind ourselves what was annihilated by this act: life and humanity.
There is much reporting in the news about reallocating money to education or solving drug addiction, or creating housing, but I have yet to read a single argument about what it takes to elevate individuals who have been deprived of dignity. It is dignity that makes a life a human life, which has been crushed under a knee both literally and figuratively.
The dignity of a person is based on three principles: 1) FREEDOM 2) FOOD 3) SHELTER which translate into tangible goods: 1) JUSTICE 2) WORK 3) HOUSING. These three elements can be summarized into simply feeling “at home,” in your country, in your house, in your body.
The body of George Floyd was slowly deprived of oxygen which led to his death. The house is the second layer of the body and therefore should be considered untouchable by those in power. In New York the speculative market has deprived many residents of air. Being without a house is being naked, exposed to the brutality of others. One lesson to be learned from George Floyd’s death is that no one should be placed in a situation where they can be abused by others. Because if others can abuse them, they will. When the police have the power to arrest people for minor offenses, they have free license to abuse them.
Funding must go to empower the potential victim. The criminal defense lawyer, T. Greg Doucette, who compiles videos of police brutality, described the situation in this way:
“It’s about the victim, they’ll say, “Oh, the victim was not perfect.” Or, “The victim should have just complied.” If it’s an officer, they’ll say, “Oh, well, you don’t know what happened before this video was recording.” Or, “It’s just one bad apple.” Or, “Police have a hard job.’
People whose values don’t align with stereotypical goals of the accumulation of wealth and power, find themselves deprived of basic necessities and exposed to brutality from others. Funds must go to erase this separation, so those who don’t want to live their lives as a marathon toward a financial goal, with a me first disregard of others, can still live a fruitful existence, with access to justice, work and housing. We enjoy religious freedom yet have the freedom not to be religious. In the same way, all individuals should be allowed the pursuit of happiness or the pursuit of nothing.
America supports industrious individuals, the “doers,” but doesn’t support individuals who reflect. Individuals who reflect not only act but are conscious of what they do while doing it; they are the ones who rebuild the world, although credit is given to the builders of practical things. The search for factual and practical things–goods and products–never ends. They are the endless links in the chain of consumerism addiction. The main problem in American is not racism. Racism is a very important symptom, but the main problem is the understanding of the world only in practical terms. This “practicality” allows a person to kill another person as if they were crushing a bug because of a belief that some people are things and can therefore be crushed.
Until Americans have an understanding of the importance of the intangibility of values, until they focus not only on the mechanical but also on the humanistic elements, America will not change. The main division is between those who understand the intangible and those who don´t.
Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect Americans to understand this a week before the budget for New York is due on June 30th. Looking at the duality of a split America from a symptomatic, material level, we have created a pool of people that can be abused, exploited and killed. The numbers of Black and Latino people killed by the police, goes hand in hand with the number of Black and Latino people in jail. Some Blacks and Latinos are killed and others sent to jail. Police working with a quota system write tickets for minor ofences such as urinating in the street or drinking a beer outdoors. These “offenders” cannot pay the fines and end up going to prison. As an outcome, they have a record and cannot get a job, so they cannot pay for housing and end up living in jail, their home by default. This is another form of slavery, perhaps not practiced through explicit consent, but generally accepted. Jail cannot be the only stable place where the ones who don´t matter can live.
The way to empower and give dignity to those from which it has been taken is to treat them as equals, which in capitalist language means being economically independent. To have power, I need to have control over my body; who touches it (freedom), how I feed it (food, work) and the place where I keep it (housing). Funds removed from the police should be reallocated to elevate the dignity of those whose dignity has been stolen.
Freedom / Justice
Automatic and effective accountability of any power abuse by government officials including, but not limited to, police officers. (other examples are: Security guards or government employees who make decisions on food stamps, social service benefits, etc.). Anyone who is an extension of the State, who has the capacity to make a decision over the safety, income or benefits of another person, must be vetted, and the mechanism of complaint and follow-up must be simple and reliable. This will ensure principle number one: freedom
Basic needs: Food/Work and Shelter/Housing
HOUSING – Without having a home it is very difficult to be part of society. Getting and maintaining a job necessitates having an address, a way to bathe and to wash clothes. Last year I did a project with unemployed people, some of whom were living on the street. I was able to see the difficulties they had in maintaining an employable appearance, one that disguised the fact that they were living on the street. They bathed in municipal baths, printed CV’s in libraries, and had no place to scan their documents, or to leave their belongings when going for a job interview. These constraints made it an ordeal for the homeless to find work.
WORK – Funding government employment programs. During the great depression there were a myriad of government programs providing direct work for citizens. (For instance, writers and photographers were commissioned to document the depression).
DIGNITY – When one is treated with dignity (has housing and income) their health improves. Solving the dignity crisis alleviates the health crisis. To be in a home, one that is not over-crowded, is healthy. Place the homeless into homes. Make sure current renters do not become homeless. Offer government created jobs – infrastructure, arts, public parks etc. – to those without work. Many social problems will be alleviated once freedom, food and shelter are rights for all. An addiction treatment experiment in Denmark, housed addicts as a first step, instead of giving housing only to those individuals who had a job and could first prove they were responsible. A large percentage of these housed individuals were able to stop taking drugs and within a year were able to readjust into society. Government housing represented a vote of trust, having a home offered a base of stability from which to begin recovery. Caring for people encourages people to care for themselves.
Many of the protesters are young, white, educated Americans who have never before been in a confrontation with the police. As they enter the social /economical /health/ government negligence crisis they face a future without employment or affordable housing. They recognize that coming into this present social crisis eliminates their chances of becoming societal “winners;” and by default they identify themselves as “other,” people who don’t matter. They protest not only for racial equality, but against their own limited opportunities.
Blaming of the victim
“The blaming of the victim” is used to justify police abuse. It is always the same, but as T. Greg Doucette states, this time it is different. Police brutality in response to the protest against police brutality makes it very clear that there is no way to blame the victim.
“For a lot of these, you have footage of the whole thing, start to finish. You see a peaceful protest and then the police say, “OK, we’ve had enough 1st Amendment for today. Let’s go ahead and start shooting people.” I think that argument is just specious garbage. You have so many videos in so many jurisdictions over a very small time span that people are kind of realizing, “OK, yeah, what we’ve been fed over the past however-many decades is, in fact, garbage.”
With a video of a seventy-five-year-old man pushed to the sidewalk and splitting his head, or the photo of a reporter who lost an eye after being shot by the police, there is no longer a way to blame the victim. This realization has provoked massive opposition.
But victim blaming was a transparently amoral response before the death of George Floyd. How did the police and the justice system get away with such justifications? Why didn’t we, as a nation, take to the streets before? The answer in part lies with the Me-Too Movement. In order to shift blame away from the victim, there is a need to see that the victim cannot be blamed and visual evidence – videos, photographs – that no longer permit the public to ignore or remain in denial in the face of abuse and brutality. The structure is the same in both the Me-Too Movement and Black Lives Matters. Whether it is gender or race, the victim is blamed. Rape victims are blamed for their own rapes, Blacks are blamed for their own deaths. The Me-Too Movement in the U.S. in 2017 is equivalent to the “Black Lives Matter” in 2020. In both cases, the victims scream out: “We will no longer take the blame.
In Spain, the Me Too Movement began in 2016, in San Fermines, when a woman was raped by five men. The rape took place during the Running of the Bulls festivities and was referred to as La Manada, the pack. Massive protests followed and within a few months, the public verdict went from considering the incident sexual abuse, to widespread acknowledgement of rape.The streets of the whole country were covered with the signs, “No es abuse, es violación”.
Nothing initially happened when George Floyd was murdered. It was only after large protests, and the burning of the precinct closest to where he was killed, that the Arresting Officer was charged With 3rd-Degree Murder, Manslaughter.” The protesters demanded First degree murder. He was later charged with 2nd-degree murder.Information of the criminal complaint can be found “8 Notable Details in the Criminal Complaint Against Ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin“ By Brian Ries, CNN
The La manada rape that ignited the Me Too Movement in Spain has similarities to the murder of George Floyd, which brought the Black Lives Matter movement into national focus. Four men were involved in the Minneonapolis murder, and five men in La Manada; both crimes were “witnessed” through media images. In the case of La Manada, the abuse was videoed and shared on facebook by the perpetrators. in the case of George Floyd, the murder was by videoed by a seventeen year-old female witness.
When my book Rape New York was translated to Spanish and published in 2017, I wondered why people weren’t protesting in the streets against rape. The Me Too Movement in the U.S. made it clear that the abuse of power perpetrated by several prominent men against women, was actually a form of rape and could be named as such. In Spain, beginning last summer, thousands of women took the streets and continued their protests until the La Manada incident was called a rape. Both movements follow the same principle: rape is rape, murder is murder. These crimes have a name regardless of race or gender. The protests are against gaslighting. Justification is in the root of the problem. The history of abuse is about making one thing pass as another and about justifying abuse. These two events – the murder of George Floyd and the rape by La Manada – evolved the way they have because there is no way to continue blaming the victim. Suggesting otherwise is pure sadism as sport.
De Blasio supported police brutality, repossessed property from small owners, and was negligent in not taking preventive measures for the coronavirus. My answer to Defund the Police is Defund de Blasio.Where should the police budget be reallocated? To the areas that de Blasio ruined: justice (unequal treatment for minor offenses), inequality (forbidden access to city resources for the very poor), housing (asset erasing, repossessing properties from small owners, increasing the number of homeless, destroying rent stabilized apartments) and environmental (not maintaining or creating bicycle lanes), health (mismanagement of a health crisis that resulted in almost 22.244 deaths from COVID-19)
The de Blasio administration will likely handle the Police budget reallocation in the same manner that it dealt with housing, through a network of not-for-profit organizations. These not-for-profits, in the name of justice, will take funds to serve themselves, not their constituents.
We can only have a better New York with a better Mayor. Di Blasio and the officials that support him must resign now!
June 27 2020
Edited Keith McDermott