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Sorry About the Meeting
July 25, 2016
The group of young black activists who chained themselves to lobby turnstiles at the headquarters of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association got a lot of mileage when ten of them were arrested.
In today’s anti-police climate, where Black Lives Matter affiliates seem to be sprouting up like crocuses or weeds, depending on your point of view, this group — which calls itself the Black Youth Project 100’s New York Chapter — made the papers, the six o’clock news and the internet.
It also rattled the PBA, whose leaders seemed defensive and maybe even a little paranoid.
The demonstrators, who appeared at 125 Broad Street in Lower Manhattan at 9 AM last Wednesday, said they were protesting the killing of Delrawn Smalls, shot by an off-duty cop after Smalls, angered in a road-rage incident, approached the cop’s car.
But why were they demonstrating at PBA headquarters and not at Police Plaza or City Hall, where police policy is set?
"We want the PBA to understand there needs to be accountability for racist, killer cops," co-chair Jewel Cadet was quoted as saying. Apparently referring to the police union, she said that one of Project 100’s goals is to "dismantle an institution that oppresses and kills black people."
Responding to the protestors, PBA president Patrick Lynch said, "Today's protest was a display of misdirected and misinformed anger that should have been pointed at City Hall, not the police officers who were on hand to protect the demonstrators' First Amendment rights.”
Besides low pay, one of the union’s grievances is that the city’s anti-police climate stems from former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s overuse of Stop and Frisk, as orchestrated by the previous police commissioner, Ray Kelly.
One PBA official, who asked for anonymity, said that what was especially galling about the demonstrators is that they returned to the lobby the following day to take pictures of themselves — and were joined by members of the Civil Liberties Union.
“These were people I ride the elevators with every day,” the official said.
The NYCLU’s Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn disputed that. “No way. I am 100 per cent positive that never occurred,” he said, and noted that the PBA “is always assuming the worst about us.”
In fact, the NYCLU was misled by the demonstrators. Apparently, Black Youth Project 100 mistakenly believed its members needed security passes to enter the building’s lobby.
“We received an email from people we didn’t know who said they wanted to meet with us Wed. morning about an important immigration issue,” Dunn said.
So the Civil Liberties Union scheduled a 9 AM meeting and placed the names of the people from the email on the building’s guest list so they could pass through the turnstile and come up to its offices on the 19th floor.
Wednesday morning came. The Civil Liberties staffer who was to conduct the meeting entered the building with the demonstration in progress. But she had no time to watch as she was rushing to her office for what she thought was her 9 AM immigration meeting.
Whether she made it to her office is unclear. But at some point she realized that the people she was to have met with were actually participating in the protest.
One of the arrestees called out to her, asking if she was the person they were supposed to meet with and then said, “Sorry about the meeting.”
With his red hair, ruddy complexion and an accent that resembled that of James Cagney, another New York City boy, Timoney personified Hollywood’s image of a tough Irish cop. Responding to this reporter’s email concerning his illness, he wrote, “This thing hasn't beaten me yet.”
Well, at Police Plaza, the escalators between the lobby and the second floor have been broken and gone unrepaired for months.
Copyright © 2016 Leonard Levitt