Protests have rocked Harlem since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As residents speak out against the systemic murder of African Americans, several local electeds have expressed solidarity.
Amid reports that some of the protests have gotten violent, with instances of looting and police use of excessive force, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D) asserted that most demonstrators were airing legitimate grievances and conducting themselves appropriately.
“These protests are about ending institutional racism and violence against Black and brown people,” said Brewer. “They highlight what happens when people do not feel they are being heard. I have participated in the protests and vigils in Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood which were peaceful.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Harlem, Inwood, Bronx) agreed, but condemned incidences of unnecessarily incendiary conduct.
“Congressman Espaillat is calling for peaceful protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and he urges communities throughout New York’s 13th congressional district to end the vandalism and looting of several local businesses which we have witnessed over the past several days,” she told New York County Politics. “Today, Congressman Espaillat will be introducing a slate of legislative priorities, aptly titled the Harlem Manifesto, that calls for the implementation of policies to end police brutality and stop the criminalization of African Americans and Latinos throughout communities around the nation.”
Meanwhile, Assemblymember Al Taylor (D-Harlem, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights) defied Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) 11pm curfew, where he urged “faith and community leaders” to practice “civil disobedience” to help call for “greater police accountability.”
“This is a pivotal moment in history,” said Taylor. “People are rightfully angry and want to be heard after years of silence and dismissal. Far too many people of color have had their lives snuffed out too soon with little to no change or accountability to show for these needless deaths. We must allow people to continue voicing their pain in a peaceful and nonviolent way. I believe curfews and an escalation of violence are not the answer. Police brutality and the structural racism that enables it are diseases and people’s lives depend on us finding a cure.”
Councilmember Bill Perkins (D-Central Harlem, East Harlem, Morningside Heights) and State Senator Brian Benjamin (D-Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights) declined to answer our requests for comment.