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‘Mad as Hell’: Mayor Edits Statement By Minority Leaders, Silencing Their ‘Narrative’

Call him Mayor Bill Scissorhands when it comes to quoting City Council leaders. Photo: Mayor’s office

Members of the City Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus slammed Mayor de Blasio on Sunday for twisting their words in an attempt to minimize their outrage over police abuses over the weekend during protests of police brutality that have roiled the city since the murder of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.

In his press conference on Sunday, the mayor highlighted only part of the statement issued by the 24 Council Members who make up the caucus, quoting this segment in an attempt to suggest that communities of color were taking a neutral line on the police violence and balancing it with Mayor de Blasio's statement that outside agitators committed violence against the police:

We do not condone violence against the police or the senseless destruction of property but the Police Department must acknowledge that those of its members who lack discipline and frequently do violence to us also endanger the lives of their own colleagues. The absence of any real accountability for the habitual killing of our people undoubtedly poses the greatest threat to public safety as do the agitators that have no claim to our struggle but stoked the fire before retreating to the safety of their privileged white enclaves. They would be wise to stay at home instead of inciting further acts of hostility toward our brothers and sisters. And to those individuals who are not of our community but genuinely want to be helpful towards advancing the cause, we appreciate your sentiments but ask that you not speak to experiences that you have never suffered. We got this.

Except here's the problem: The Caucus statement started with two key sentences that framed the full events of Saturday night in the context of the minority community's seemingly endless fight for basic human rights. So for the full picture, tack these sentences onto the start of the mayor's statement.

Last night, we witnessed the NYPD act with aggression towards New Yorkers who vigorously and vociferously but nonetheless peacefully advocated for justice in the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the generations of Black and Brown people who were subjected to brutality and murder by the law enforcement officials sworn to protect them. When the system fails us, no one can dare to deny us our feelings of outrage, or suggest that we suppress the urge to confront our oppressors.

Adrienne Adams. Photo: NYC Council
Adrienne Adams. Photo: NYC Council
Adrienne Adams. Photo: NYC Council

Obviously, members of the caucus were not pleased that the mayor took what he wanted and left the rest of the outrage on the speech-writing floor. Council Member Adrienne Adams of Queens, who is co-chair of the caucus, sent Streetsblog the following statement (quoted in full):

The mayor’s selective quoting of the statement issued by the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus displays the unwillingness of the administration to publicly acknowledge the systemic racism that people of color have experienced in our city and country for decades. It is fundamentally important to the narrative that generations of Black and Brown people have been murdered and brutalized at the hands of law enforcement. The unwillingness to treat people of color as human beings is the crux of the current unrest. The mayor’s omission lends to the further demonization of peaceful protesters encouraging a dismissive or punitive reaction against people that are understandably mad as hell after years of aggression based on the color of their skin.

Here's a picture of the full statement:

The Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus wrote this letter to Mayor de Blasio. He chose to quote only a portion of it.
The Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus wrote this letter to Mayor de Blasio. He chose to quote only a portion of it.
The Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus wrote this letter to Mayor de Blasio. He chose to quote only a portion of it.

The de Blasio incomplete quote wasn't the only misappropriation of someone else's words. Earlier in the press conference, the mayor was asked to back up his claim that many of the protesters were outside agitators and anarchists, so he quoted Bob Dylan:

"It is as clear as a bell and the fact that it's happened in cities all over America simultaneously – you know that famous quote from Bob Dylan, 'You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.'"

The quotation, which comes from the Bard's famous "Subterranean Homesick Blues," does indeed refer to 1960s protests — but the song is mostly bitter towards the police (including the reference to Civil Rights protesters being hosed down by Southern cops, "Better stay away from those/That carry 'round a fire hose").

The line in question about the direction of the wind is clearly a reference that the youth movement of the 1960s would prevail over repression, war and racism.

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