Saturday, December 27, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Bringing Ferguson to New York

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There's an effort afoot to connect the dots between the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teen-ager in Missouri and the death of Eric Garner, who was killed while being arrested by the NYPD on Staten Island.

Organizers of a Staten Island protest that's slated for Saturday yesterday announced that the family of the dead Missouri teen, Michael Brown, will be coming to New York for the event.

"A white policeman killing a black unarmed man, that happened here on Staten Island," said Ed Josey, president of the Staten Island branch of the NAACP. "The same thing happened in Ferguson, Missouri. The parameters might vary somewhat, but in basic [terms], that's what happened."

But it's what happened afterward that is so starkly different – both in the immediate response by the police and community here – as well as by Mayor de Blasio. And trying to link the two situations might create more harm than good.

While I have noted previously that New York has had several situations where both protests and the police have gone out of control, that's clearly not been the case after Garner was put into a fatal chokehold.

The mayor has struck a balance in the case that probably has made no one entirely happy; supporters of the police were furious when he brought in the Reverend Al Sharpton to City Hall where he publicly upbraided Police Commissioner BIll Bratton. But de Blasio has also carefully avoided calling for the Garner case to be taken out of the hands of Staten Island District Attorney and given to federal investigators – a request made by several of the city's prominent African-American and Latino members of Congress.

Unlike Missouri Governor Jay Nixon – and Italian vacations notwithstanding -- de Blasio has tried to own the crisis and spoken out about Garner's death forcefully at times. The level of secrecy and transparency surrounding the two events is also markedly different.

As their hometown burns on the nightly news, it's unclear if Michael Brown's family was desperately asking to come to Staten Island or if others were interested in bringing them to New York to gain more publicity for their cause here. It's obviously important to speak out – and protest – when there's injustice but it's also sloppy and unhelpful to link two situations that are many miles apart on several levels. It's thankfully a long way from Tompkinsville to Ferguson.

Bob Hardt

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