Mayor Caught Flatfooted on Law-Breaking Trump Car Protests
SUV parades foreshadow the wave of right-wing violence that might wash over us after the election.
Many Trump supporters who illegally blocked local roads and bridges with parades of SUVs and pick-up trucks this weekend also broke the law by obscuring their license plates — but police apparently did nothing about it, and they certainly didn’t inform Mayor de Blasio.
Instead, the mayor heard about the law-breaking on Monday during his daily press briefing — from the Wall Street Journal.
“I noticed in the video of a lot of the parades and photos, the cars had their license plates obstructed, and, you know, my understanding is that’s not legal,” reporter Katie Honan told Hizzoner. “There were plenty of police there. … I’m curious if you’ve seen these videos and have you been explained how cars can drive around New York City with both front and back plates obscured, without police intervention if there wasn’t?”
Scenes from Broad Channel this morning, where a group of Rockaway and Broad Channel residents staged a counterprotest to a MAGA car rally that began in Jacob Riis Park to let likeminded residents of nabe (which went 70% Trump in 2016) know "that you're not alone" pic.twitter.com/gsfZmEJEgE
— Max Parrott (@mwparrott) November 1, 2020
De Blasio replied that he hadn’t watched the videos and “had not heard that report before” but that it “certainly worries” him.
“You’re right,” he continued. “It’s not legal to obscure your license plates and that should be addressed. I’m certain sometimes if there’s multiple things happening that officers need to focus on other things first, but it should be addressed going forward. That’s not something that is acceptable and, and we will certainly follow up on that.”
The mayor’s startled answer provided more evidence that he may be behind the curve when it comes to preparations for the aftermath of Tuesday’s election. The road-clogging pro-Trump rallies on Sunday did not result in any arrests, even as police cuffed 10 anti-Trump protesters in Manhattan. Meanwhile, New Yorkers have been asking for weeks whether the NYPD would crack down on Trumpist law-breaking in the event of post-election protests or violence — especially if President Trump is defeated and refuses to step down. The main police unions, the Police Benevolent Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association, endorsed the president, and off-duty cops are thought to be among the pro-Trump protesters disrupting traffic.
So it is worrying that the famously micro-managing mayor wasn’t informed about the law-breaking and couldn’t answer whether anyone was facing penalties.
The parades — part of a show of vehicle violence nationwide in the election’s closing days, which included Trumpers trying to run a Biden bus off the road in Texas — noisily bollixed major thoroughfares both here and in New Jersey, taking over the Tappan Zee and Whitestone bridges as well roads in the Rockaways and the Garden State Parkway. But they are not the first such demonstrations — nor have such protests been free of violence.
Trump supporters started blocking streets with their oversized vehicles already last month, when muscle-car drivers displaying Trump flags jammed traffic on Fifth Avenue on Oct. 3. The action followed several incidents in the last few months in which SUV drivers have plowed into cyclists or groups of Black Lives Matter protesters, injuring several. Cops themselves rammed BLM protesters with squad SUVs in June — an action the mayor initially defended.
But, on Sunday, as at least one Trump supporter in Queens strapped an effigy of a dead Antifa activist to the hood of a license-plate-obscured car, police in Belle Harbor told one bystander that “we’re not here for enforcement.” The bystander said that a Trump supporter in a truck “drove into” her after she snapped a picture of his obscured plate — but that the cops threatened her with arrest. The tweet thread below shows a number of vehicles with obscured licenses.
Most license plates obstructed at #MAGAdrag. Asked Ofc Lambros if that was legal. He replied “we’re not here for enforcement” In a crosswalk at a red light I took a pic. Truck drove into me. I was then thrown aside by two cops who threatened arrest. @NYPD100Pct why is this okay? pic.twitter.com/081hldltoM
— By the NYC shore????? (@KalinJane) November 1, 2020
The mayor has assured residents that he and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea have prepared for the Trumpist onslaught.
“We are going to have a very clear approach, because I’m not going to be surprised if there is a prolonged count, recount, whatever it may be in this election and extremely strong views, and a lot of people out expressing themselves…and obviously [we] would have to deal with it if anyone attempts violence,” de Blasio told reporters a couple of weeks ago. The mayor dismissed concerns that the political allegiances of officers would affect their policing as “just false.”
“I know there’s a lot of fear. I think there’s a lot of fear on so many fronts right now, but it’s not what I see in all that I work on day to day with the NYPD including right down to the grassroots level,” he added. “And I know that the leadership, the NYPD would not tolerate people, bringing their politics into the work.”
As law-breaking Trumpists flood the streets, New Yorkers can only hope that the mayor’s assurances are true.