MANHATTAN — The relatively swift jury deliberation and subsequent conviction of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd injected newfound momentum into the pursuit of police accountability in New York City.
A crowd gathered in Foley Square Wednesday evening to support relatives of several Black and Brown New Yorkers killed during encounters with the NYPD.
Hawa Bah’s son Mohamed was killed by NYPD officers in 2012. Her son, a taxi driver, was armed with a knife and experiencing a mental health crisis when police entered the family’s Manhattan apartment and opened fire.
Bah said her biggest regret was calling 911 for help – not knowing the police would arrive, instead of an ambulance. She’s now seeking the same kind of accountability Floyd’s family received in Minneapolis.
“I believe I will have justice for Mohamed,” she said. “I have to believe. All the cases who are open, and they indict the kill[er] cop, and they should take their pension because our lives will never be the same.”
Advocate Stanley Fritz of Citizen Action of New York said there would be no real progress or success until “every single police officer who has wreaked havoc on our folks” was fired.
Monifa Bandele of Movement for Black Lives said New Yorkers must send a message to the current field of mayoral candidates.
“The only way to protect our communities is to reduce the size, the scope and the power of the NYPD and its union,” Bandele said.
Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn also spoke during the protest rally.
“If I called the police asking for help for my son in crisis, I wouldn’t have to worry they’d break down the door and shoot him,” Lander said. “So we live in a city where Black and Brown New Yorkers have to worry when their loved ones are pulled over for not wearing a seat belt, or when their loved ones are in mental health distress, that encounters with the police might end up with them dead. And that’s not what white New Yorkers have – and that’s what we gotta change.”
Lander said he and his colleagues have their work cut out for them in this year’s budget to advance an agenda of reform so they can inject more resources — and non-police front-line personnel — into Black and Brown communities.