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In letter to mayor, Prospect Heights area community organizations call for police accountability, end to ID to access neighborhood

Yesterday, residents, civic organizations and community groups that border Atlantic Terminal & the Barclays Center, in response to protests in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, posted a Community Letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, which was also sent to numerous elected officials.

The letter was organized by Prospect Heights resident Crystal Hudson, organizer of Greater Prospect Heights Mutual Aid, the first organizational signatory. She's a former aide to Council Member Laurie Cumbo, and currently is a Deputy Public Advocate for Community Engagement.

Other groups signing on were Crown Heights North Association, North Prospect Heights Association, P.S. 9 Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Clinton Hill-Fort Greene Mutual Aid, Boerum Hill & Downtown Brooklyn Mutual Aid.

The list remains in formation, and different organizations can take longer to make decisions, but I would note that some long-established organizations, like the Fort Greene Association and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, are not (yet) signatories.

The requests

Citing recent high-profile killings and "the countless Black Americans who have lost their lives because overzealous members of law enforcement & the public saw them as less than human," the letter noted that "members of the NYPD showed that they are not capable of de-escalating protest activity without an egregious use of force."

It called for "holding officers involved in violence against protesters accountable," ensuring that the city protest the First Amendment rights of protesters, an engagement with local organizations regarding public safety around protests.

It also called for "a ban on the requirement of government-issued identification for residents and non-residents alike in order to access their own homes and safe havens, as well as roam freely through our neighborhoods." As I wrote, the neighborhood behind the Barclays Center--to Atlantic, Flatbush, and Carlton avenues--is on lockdown at several portals.

It's understandable why the NYPD might want to restrict access to the specific blocks bordering the 78th Precinct and the arena, given that those are--or at least have been--targets. Perhaps they fear(ed) that access to surrounding blocks would allow large groups to mass too close to the targets. It's the role of elected officials to test that argument. Update: requiring ID is illegal, according to the NYCLU, so this must be aired out.

The letter, in full

Mayor De Blasio,

Like the rest of the country and our City, we are deeply shaken by the deaths of Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was shot in her home in Louisville, Kentucky; Ahmaud Arbery, who was hunted down while out for a run in his own neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia; George Floyd, who was killed when an officer pinned him down with a knee to his neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tony McDade, who was gunned down by a police officer in Tallahassee, Florida; and countless other Black Americans who have lost their lives because overzealous members of law enforcement & the public saw them as less than human.

We would be remiss not to mention the impact of two recent incidents right here in New York City in the last several weeks — police officers pinned down Kaleemah Rozier at a subway station for not properly wearing a mask, while her son looked on, and in Central Park, Amy Cooper made a false report against Christian Cooper, invoking race to threaten him for asking her to abide by the park’s leash laws. Both incidents, which took place in the midst of a global pandemic that has disproportionately taken the lives of Black people across the country and in New York City, affirm that the work we must do to avow that Black lives matter is far from over.

The incidents that took place over the last several days in the neighborhoods surrounding the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where members of the NYPD showed that they are not capable of de-escalating protest activity without an egregious use of force are inexcusable.
As organizations who have committed to ensuring that our neighborhoods remain places where commerce, retail, livability and safety are actualized, we will not settle for harsh policing as the answer — not now, not in our neighborhoods, and not in our City.

To that end, we call for the following:
An acknowledgment that the actions taken by the NYPD over the last several days will not be tolerated and a clear commitment to holding officers involved in violence against protesters accountable for their actions;
A commitment to ensuring that our City will protect the first amendment rights of all of its residents who choose to voice their pain and frustration through protest;
A focus on rebuilding small businesses as we move to reopen on June 8 that does not rely on an increased police presence;
A ban on the requirement of government-issued identification for residents and non-residents alike in order to access their own homes and safe havens, as well as roam freely through our neighborhoods;
Meaningful engagement with local community and civic organizations where protest activity is taking place, to allow local residents to dictate what safety should look like;
A commitment to reducing the NYPD’s almost $6 billion budget so that in a moment of economic crisis, crucial services, programs and infrastructure are not reduced.

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