New York City Police officials have labeled an activist a domestic terrorist after he warned the mayor-elect there would be riots and “bloodshed” if the city reactivates plainclothes street units.
Hawk Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) of Greater New York, had a heated exchange with New York Mayor-elect Eric Adams during a public meeting over the mayor’s stance on the police unit, which has been involved in the high profile killings of Black men.
Adams said he would reform the units that are meant to reduce gun violence, implementing body-worn camera requirements and other accountability measures. Newsome accused Adams of betraying the BLM movement and sending the wrong message to cops.
Newsome said he would not let the mayor reinstate the units without a fight. The units that have been connected to the deaths of Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo were dismantled after years of agitation by activists and litigation in the courts.
“If he thinks that they’re going to go back to the old ways of policing, then we are going to take to the streets again,” Newsome said during a meeting at the Brooklyn Borough Hall.
“There will be riots, there will be fire, and there will be bloodshed because we believe in defending our people,” Newsome added.
According to the New York Post, a police supervisor has called for every politician to denounce Newsome and for a federal investigation into the activist.
“The FBI should investigate him as a domestic terrorist and look into where he is getting his money. The people funding him should also be investigated,” the unnamed official told the New York Post.
Adams dismissed Newsome’s threats and is standing by his plan to restore units. He told Newsome and other activists at the meeting that he had a track record of fighting racism and other abuse while serving as police captain. Adams worked for the NYPD for more than two decades before retiring in 2006.
“The supervisors are going to personally monitor them, and they’re going to review the video footage. Those officers who are abusing their authority, they’ll be held accountable,” Adams said. “And if they continue, they’ll be removed from my department. So, you’re going to see a better style of a gun unit that’s going to zero in on gun violence.”
The police units, dubbed anti-crime units, were discontinued after years of complaints of their abuse of the city’s stop-and-frisk policy that data showed has disproportionately targeted Black and Brown residents.
Crime in New York has increased since the BLM protests of summer 2020.
Overall crime in New York City increased by 22 percent in May 2021 compared to May 2020, right at the onset of the protests. The demonstrations against police killings of Black people erupted globally just three months into the pandemic. Still, the city had seen a record increase in homicides in 2020. The rate also rose in October compared to October 2020.
Public safety was a focal issue in the mayoral race, which Adams won on Nov. 2, securing his position as the city’s second Black mayor.
Newsome fears Adams’ decision to restore the units is a green flag to empower the NYPD to resume previous abuses. Newsome said he would hold the mayor accountable for any misconduct that resulted from his decision. Adams shot back at Newsome, saying the BLM leader should be proactive against violence in the Black community.
“You’re on the ground: Stop the violence in my community. I’m holding you accountable,” Adams said. He also urged the 13 activists at the meeting to unite in the fight against crime with him.
“No, it’s us. We need to do this together,” Adams said.
The activists urged the mayor to consider other approaches to crime reduction like job creation and education, but Newsome told reporters it did not sound like Adams had a solid police reform plan. However, a veteran NYPD cop told reporters Newsome’s public opposition is “a lose-lose situation for Black Lives Matter.”
“If the mayor likes the cops, the cops will work for the mayor,” the NYPD source said. “People in these communities where shootings and other crimes are spiking want the cops on the street.”
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