"Stop the shooting" - this was Reverend Al's message at the funeral of Denise Gay on Sunday, and in any discussion of the events of two weeks ago, this sentiment has to be front and center. Above is a public service announcement from Save Our Streets Crown Heights, who have been using the CeaseFire model (recently documented in the film "The Interrupters") to keep a particularly tough section of Crown Heights shooting-free for what is now nearly 90 days, even as gun violence continues to erupt nearby. There's been a lot of chatter about what can or should be done to respond to shootings, and this shooting in particular, but it's worth highlighting SOS Crown Heights, because what they're doing is working.
A few thoughts that have been kicking around in relation to all of this:
- Gun control also works - the CHCA sent around this link in advance of their rally two weeks ago, and ILFA urges everyone to take the opportunity to make their voices heard about the need for sensible firearms policies.
- There's no causal link between the Denise Gay shooting and Carnival, and while there were two incidents at the parade itself (neither fatal, thankfully), those arguing for the end of the event would do well to put the parade in perspective. Organizers should, of course, consult with the community and police to address concerns and make the event safe for revelers and - as they are already doing - but it's worth remembering that the Columbus Day Parade was once plagued by threats of (and assumptions of, and stereotypes about) mafia violence, and that the St. Patrick's Day parade often generates dozens of arrests and violent incidents. This isn't to suggest that such violence is ever acceptable, of course, but rather to provide a reply to the essentializing suggestion that this parade is somehow different. Large groups of revelers are hard to control, and any festival of this size is a balancing act. Hopefully next year's event will get the balance right. (Local blogger Brooklyn Travel Addict had a nice post about this, as well as some beautiful photos from the parade as a reminder of the joyful spectacle that 99% of attendees enjoyed peacefully).
- The New York Post ran video of NYPD officers dancing with masqueraders at the parade, with a response from the NYPD stuffily suggesting that they'll be disciplining the officers. The Trinidadian Carnival tradition, from which the currently polyglot celebration is descended, has long had an anti-authoritarian bent, in which lines of class and power are flouted by masqueraders. Frankly, given how much tension some officers managed to generate, I'm of the opinion that a little participation amounts, in this case, to good policing.
- With respect to policing, the NYPD's refusal to address serious issues that did come out of the Carnival weekend is getting, after two weeks, more than a little ridiculous, whether it's their insistence that Jumaane Williams was "detained" because someone nearby had punched an officer (a completely nonsensical reaction even if this had happened, and video shows no evidence of it) or their unwillingness to admit that it was most likely a police bullet that killed Denise Gay (with spokespeople clinging instead to a story that unidentified witnesses may have seen the first victim with a gun, even though he didn't use it to protect himself, it doesn't appear on the security video, and the gun was never found, despite the fact that he made it barely 20 yards before collapsing). The first is ass-covering of the basest sort, but the second is equally troubling. Surely no one is going to fault officers for shooting at a man who had just stepped out of his house, murdered someone, and then started firing at police, but even given these extreme circumstances, the NYPD seems afraid of the reaction they might face if they admitted that one of the 73 bullets they fired killed a bystander. Why? It starts with the 73 bullets, an enormous number to spray around a residential street on a hot summer evening. Without faulting the individual officers in the moment, we might begin to question their firepower (semi-automatic pistols), their youth, their training, and the war-zone mentality they bring into neighborhoods like Crown Heights in the context of "zero tolerance" policing and crowd control. These are hard but important questions, questions in which the NYPD would be important interlocutors (Ray Kelly once opposed semi-automatic service weapons), but it would appear that they don't want them raised at all. It's not surprising, but it's frustrating.
- Finally, I thought the Wall Street Journal's Sumathi Reddy wrote a smart piece contextualizing the events of two weeks ago within our changing neighborhood, a topic that guest blogger Andie Park has also covered recently. Reddy's piece covers different perspectives on policing and power on Franklin, while Park's quotes Assemblyman Jeffries, who noted at the Crow Hill rally that our societal tendency to expend more time and money putting young people from Crown Heights and similar neighborhoods through the criminal justice system than through school is in serious need of rethinking. Agreed - and part of that project is to stop the shooting.