Bronx Councilman Andy King warned the United States Department of Justice today that Ferguson, Missouri-style racial turmoil could come to the streets of New York if federal prosecutors fail to file charges against the cop who shot an unarmed black constituent, Ramarley Graham, in 2012.
Mr. King–co-chairman of the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus–announced at a rally in Foley Square today that, “to maintain sanity,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Attorney General Eric Holder must heed the 33,000-plus signatures the group Color of Change collected calling for federal charges against Officer Richard Haste.
“There’s going to come a time we’re going to stop writing names on pieces of paper and those 33,000 people are going to take to the streets,” said Mr. King, suggesting such direct, highly visible action might be necessary to force the Department of Justice’s hand. “The only reason Eric Holder went to Ferguson was because the world called him there.”
Two years ago, Mr. Haste kicked his way into Mr. Graham’s home and shot him in his bathroom, believing–incorrectly–that the 18-year-old was armed. A Bronx grand jury voted to indict Mr. Haste in 2012, but a judge threw the case out on claims of prosecutorial misconduct, and a second grand jury refused to re-indict the officer.
Mr. King connected Mr. Graham’s death with that of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Missouri, and predicted unrest would erupt in New York if the police involved are not investigated and prosecuted.
“There’s going to come a time when we are not going to be able to hold back the waters. When the dam is finally released, there’s going to be a problem on the streets of this city,” Mr. King said. “What will happen if you push a dog in a corner, what will happen if you push a rat into a corner?”
“I’m just saying, I’m just saying, I’m hoping the DOJ understands this is going to turn into a problem if they don’t take action,” Mr. King continued. “We’re not going to be able to hold back when another brother gets killed and nobody is held accountable.”
Mr. King’s BLAC co-chair, Manhattan Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, was also present, as was Bronx Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson and Brooklyn legislators Assemblyman Karim Camara and Councilman Jumaane Williams. None of them echoed Mr. King’s aggressive rhetoric, though Mr. Camara called for an end to what he alleged was race-based policing.
“We don’t need retraining, we need reform, we need an overhaul!” said Mr. Camara. “He was stopped and killed because of the color of his skin. This was broken windows, this was stop-and-frisk!”
Mr. Bharara’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Read the full text of the Color of Change petition below:
Dear Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara,
On April 12, 2014, Ramarley Graham would have been celebrating his 21st birthday, but two years earlier he was gunned down in his own home by plainclothes NYPD Officer Richard Haste.
As is so often the case involving Black victims of deadly police violence, Ramarley’s killer has not been brought to justice by the Bronx County District Attorney’s office. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has a duty to protect our community against racial profiling and the violence that it creates, especially when local or state prosecutors fail to do so.
This case has been under review by the DOJ and the United States Attorney’s Office since last summer. It’s time for federal officials to take action. By holding Officer Haste accountable for his deadly actions, you can send a strong message to law enforcement across the country that your office will protect our community against racial profiling and senseless police violence.
We demand that you conduct a full and thorough investigation and bring federal charges against Officer Haste.