The systemic assault on the Black body has gone on for far too long—400 years and counting. We are outraged and heartbroken over the police murder of George Floyd, just as we were at the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland and so many more. Further, we are disheartened by the profound lack of leadership demonstrated by our elected leaders, especially their inability to propose and implement substantive reforms that promote real change. This lack of action combined with a lack of empathy, patience, and respect for protesters gathering to say Black Lives Matter is more than a series of missteps – it is a continued danger to New Yorkers for whom law enforcement’s responsibility to “protect and serve” is taken as a suggestion instead of a mandate.
As labor unions, we stand in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who have risen up to protest against state violence towards people of color, systemic racism, and police brutality. We cannot and will not stand down as we witness daily the violent response of the NYPD without reprimand nor consequence.
The failure of the NYPD to act with appropriate restraint is inexcusable. We demand better for our communities, our voices, our democracy. While we do not, and never will, condone violence against police nor property, we also will not allow the actions of a misguided few to distract from the message of the massive, peaceful protests demanding that Black Lives Matter.
We already have a President who divides instead of leads, who tear-gassed peaceful protestors, threatens military action, and remains a threat to our constitutional democracy. We call upon the Governor, Mayor, and Police Commissioner to shift gears immediately to demonstrate that we are different, that we embrace the Black Lives Matter movement, and that we can move towards justice because we are New Yorkers, and we are better than this.
We will not abandon the righteous goal of ending police brutality. We will not desist from peaceful but powerful demands for racial justice. As labor leaders, and as representatives of millions of New York’s working people – Black, Brown and white – we continue to stand in solidarity with the protest movements against racist violence. The labor movement is one born out of protest. The same militarized police forces that are brutalizing people marching for racial justice today, have in the past been used against workers fighting for their rights. We join the struggle for a more just and equitable society. We condemn police violence. We demand strong and accountable leadership from our elected officials. And we are confident that together, we will overcome.
Barbara Bowen, President, Professional Staff Congress – CUNY
Kyle Bragg, President, 32BJ SEIU
Beverley Brakeman, Director, UAW Region 9-A
Henry Garrido, Executive Director, DC 37, AFSCME
George Gresham, President, 1199SEIU
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, President, NYSNA
Dennis Trainor, Vice President, CWA District 1