Councilman Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, sent letters to Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly on Monday asking if they could schedule a sitdown to “discuss police accountability” together. ”You had in the past expressed an interest in the value of sitting down over a beer to work out the issues, and we hope you are just as willing to sit down with myself, Kirsten and a number of young black and Latino New Yorkers that have been affected by unfair policing tactics,” Councilman Williams wrote.
In September, Councilman Williams and Mr. Foy were arrested at the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn after getting into a dispute with police officers who wouldn’t let them cross a barricade. Afterwards, Mayor Bloomberg suggested Councilman Williams and Commissioner Kelly “have a beer together and work it out.” Last month, after investigating the incident, the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau disciplined three officers involved with the arrests.
Since his arrest, Councilman Williams has become an increasingly prominent critic of the NYPD speaking out about a variety of issues including the department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, incidents of corruption and police conduct during the Occupy Wall Street protests. Councilman Williams was arrested again while performing an act of civil disobedience during the Occupy Wall Street “day of action” November 17.
In his letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, Councilman Williams said his desire to share a beer came from a meeting he had with a group of politicians and activists following his arrest at the West Indian Day Parade. Though his arrest with Mr. Foy was the impetus for his invitation, Councilman Williams said he’s not focusing on police issues for personal reasons.
“This is not about justice for either of us, but rather justice for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers that have been discriminated against by this police culture,” Councilman Williams wrote.
Yesterday, one day after the letters were mailed, the New York Times published a story about a Facebook group where police officers made a series of racist and offensive comments about the West Indian Day Parade. This afternoon, Councilwoman Tish James, hosted a press conference in response to the Facebook scandal on the City Hall steps where Councilman Williams brandished his letters before the assembled news media.
“In one hand he took the seventy pages of the Facebook posts and he said, ‘This is the powder keg,’ and in the other hand, he had these letters and he said, ‘This is part of the solution, this is a way to come together on this,” said Councilman Williams’ spokesman, Stefan Ringel. “We’re really hoping to take the momentum of what’s going on and really push forward with the police accountability movement. We’re hoping that the Mayor and Commissioner will take this opportunity to respond, otherwise there will be more action.”
Along with his letters to Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, Councilman Williams sent a message to Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott asking the Chancellor to meet with him and Mr. Foy to discuss mandating “Know Your Rights” training in schools to advise students on how to handle being stopped by the police. Councilman Williams didn’t offer Chancellor Walcott a beer.