Michael Blake – I’m a Black Man. I Just Want to Survive

Sisters and Brothers,

On Thursday, New Yorkers gathered at Union Square to protest the modern-day lynching of George Floyd (MN), the killing of Breonna Taylor (KY), and the actions of Amy Cooper, a white woman, who falsely accused Christian Cooper, a Black man, of threatening her and calling 911 when he asked her to leash her dog in Central Park. More than 100 NYPD officers converged on Union Square and more than 40 people were arrested during a clash between police and bystanders. Video of the event captured police using excessive force against protesters.

I just want to make it back home alive. We just want to be able to breathe.

Because that hope cannot be protected, many Americans have taken to the streets to say enough is enough. As Americans, we have a fundamental right to speak out against injustice in this country.

On Thursday, in Union Square, what started as a peaceful protest and a gathering of New Yorkers speaking out for the end of killings of Black and Latino people and the need for racial justice, turned into an unnecessary show of excessive force by the NYPD.

We can’t be outraged by Minneapolis but be silent as brute force happens here at home in New York. How many times do we need to see this scene play out?

As an elected representative from The Bronx, home to the tragic deaths of Amadou Diallo, Anthony Baez, Ramarley Graham, Andrew Kearse, and countless others, I am keenly aware of the danger that Black and Latino people the moment that we walk out of our homes. I share that fear.

Beyond my education and my public service, I am still a Black man and that fact makes me vulnerable every day that I live. Being a Black man does not make me a criminal. My skin color doesn’t give you permission to kill me.

It feels like every day we witness another example of police violence and rogue vigilantism running rampant within our communities, a pain that I experienced as a high school student and now again as an elected official.

Every day, another Black or Latino person is robbed of their humanity by overzealous police officers. Every day, another young Black or Latino person is seen as an imminent threat, and not a child playing innocently with their friends. Every day, another Black or Latino person’s life is taken senselessly.

Whether we sleep in our homes, commute from our jobs, shop in grocery stores, bird watch in a public park, attend an Ivy League school, work a white-collar job or in the U.S. Congress, communities of color are constantly living in fear.

Let me be clear: this is not an indictment of all police officers.

Many members of the force are upstanding cops who live, work, and serve within our communities. This is a spotlight on generational, systemic policies that are rooted in institutional racism that has allowed for the acceptance of countless acts of brutality, and abuse of our people.

We need to move from anger to action.

It is why I’m demanding that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance prosecute Amy Cooper for her false police report and that the State Legislature finally repeal the NYS Police Secrecy law, known as Section 50-A. Our communities can’t begin to heal without justice or accountability.

The time has come for the NYPD to acknowledge a fact that has been proven over and over again: racial disparities exist in policing, and only police have the power to stop it. Moreover, I don’t just want a suspension or firing but rather an arrest and a conviction. The NYPD motto of ‘Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect’ needs to be universal for all New Yorkers. Until that day comes, our elected officials and community leaders must speak out and use the power of government to hold these officers accountable.

When a baton is striking a human or a precinct set ablaze, we are reaching a breaking point. I stand with communities of color within The Bronx, New York City, and the country against these heinous acts of cowardice.

I pledge to join with residents, my colleagues in government, community allies, and law enforcement to find immediate and lasting solutions that will truly make Black and Latino New Yorkers feel valued, respected, and safe.