Mayor tours Caribbean community after violent protests

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday toured Flatbush, Brooklyn, in the epicenter of the Caribbean community, with Haitian American legislators Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, and Council Members Farah Louis and Dr. Mathieu Eugene in the wake of protests and rioting over the police killing of a Black man in Minneapolis by a white police officer.

In at least 75 cities, mayors on Saturday declared curfews, governors deployed the National Guard and demonstrators even reached outside the gates of the White House, from where protesters claimed that President Donald J. Trump fanned the flames of violence.

The Caribbean community joined the national outrage after video footages show a Black man, George Floyd, 46, being pinned to the ground by a white police officer in Minneapolis, who kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes, contributing to his death.

Last Monday, four police officers had arrested Floyd in Minneapolis for a nonviolent offense.

After Floyd was handcuffed and subdued, video footages show two officers holding him down, while a third, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck while Floyd pleaded for his life, gasping “I can’t breathe.” A fourth officer stood guard.

Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Flatbush, told Caribbean Life Sunday night that the elected officials “advocated for community resources, and discussed the protests with the mayor and elected officials” as they walked the streets, touring sites including the COVID-19 testing center at the Sears parking lot on Beverly Road in Flatbush.

Earlier on Sunday, Bichotte, the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, called on New York State legislators to help pass a bill that she introduced, A4615A, in the New York State Assembly, to prohibit police officers from racial profiling.

“George Floyd is a casualty of racial profiling by police. He died because of a systemic injustice; an injustice that is as pervasive in New York as it is in Minneapolis,” Bichotte told Caribbean Life.

“The truth is here: A Black man was murdered in public by the very people charged with carrying out justice and keeping our communities safe,” she added. “The nation is reeling from the trauma of his death. Parents are asking how they can keep their kids safe when the offenders are the people wearing a badge, and they are not held accountable for their actions.”

As protests continued on Sunday across America over Floyd’s killing, Bichotte said Flatbush, the center of many demonstrations, was both “peaceful and violent” on Sunday.

She pointed to a video that was taken on Flatbush Avenue near St. Marks Avenue on Saturday showing demonstrators pelting police cars with objects from the street, and blocking them in, before the cars suddenly surge forward into the crowd.

“Protests today were mostly peaceful, with no reports of significant arrests by sunset,” said Bichotte Sunday night, stating that 47 police vehicles were damaged over the weekend.

New York City Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said that about one in seven arrests, of 686 so far, were people from “out of state.”

At least 645 arrests in New York City were made on Saturday, Miller said.

The Mayor’s daughter, Chiara de Blasio, was one of those arrested at East 12th Street and Broadway for “unlawful assembly” on Saturday, the police said. She has since been released.

De Blasio said on Sunday that he was appointing his corporation counsel, Jim Johnson, and Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett, to conduct a full investigation into the police response to protests.

The Mayor’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity – co-chaired by his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, who traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia; Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson; and Deputy Mayor Raul Perea-Henze – on Sunday issued a statement on Floyd’s death.

“The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of millions of Americans, but the truth is that communities of color see, feel and experience the painful cost of being Black or Brown every day,” it said. “In our communities, the death of George Floyd and the loss of countless other Black lives is a gut-wrenching reminder of the everyday nature of systemic racism and violence.

“Poverty, poor environmental conditions, and inequitable access to health care experienced by too many people of color are powerful forms of systemic injustice that we cannot and will not accept,” it added. “The Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity remains committed to ensuring voices of color are at the table as we work to build neighborhood-based solutions for our hardest-hit communities.”

On Sunday night, police fired tear gas near the White House to avert further chaos, as protesters had smashed the windows of prominent buildings, overturned cars and set fires.

But, without appealing for calm over the national protests, President Trump instead took to Twitter on Friday, echoing a statement made by a Miami police chief in 1967: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

On Saturday morning, the president said the Secret Service was ready to sic the “most vicious dogs” on demonstrators outside the gates of the White House, conjuring up images of police unleashing dogs on peaceful demonstrators during the civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s in America.

In addition, on Saturday, rather than addressing the issue head on, Trump blamed Democrats, calling, in tweets, on “Liberal Governors and Mayors” to get “MUCH tougher” on demonstrators.

He also threatened to intervene with “the unlimited power of our Military” and intimated that his supporters stage a counter-demonstration.

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