If Bill de Blasio were not so intent on proving to his base of supporters that he is not Mike Bloomberg (and even more not Rudy Giuliani), he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in now.
But image-conscious politics got the better of the mayor and his aides, and as a result, he and his police commissioner were shown up by the newly re-empowered Rev. Al Sharpton, who has seized on the tragic murder of Eric Garner as a way to relive his greatest hits (and misfires) of the 1980s and ’90s.
In the aftermath of Garner’s death, Mr. de Blasio rightly sought to ease tensions that inevitably arise when unarmed civilians die at the hands of the police. This one was particularly troubling because it was captured on video, and it showed Garner being brought to the ground and subdued with a chokehold. All the while, Garner complained that he couldn’t breathe. The medical examiner has ruled his death a homicide.
Enter Mr. Sharpton, who has spent much of the recent past pontificating about national politics in a television studio rather than agitating on the steps of City Hall. Somebody at City Hall thought it would be a good idea to invite Mr. Sharpton to a press conference with Police Commissioner Bratton and the mayor himself, putting the reverend on equal footing with the elected chief executive of the city and his duly appointed commissioner.
Mr. Sharpton proceeded to dominate the proceedings with demagogic theatrics, talking down to the mayor and condescending to the police commissioner. “If Dante wasn’t your son,” Mr. Sharpton told the mayor, “he’d be a candidate for a choke hold.”
Never mind this egregious libel of the NYPD—including, presumably, the many black officers recruited to the department under former Commissioner Ray Kelly. Mr. Sharpton’s tone was offensive, and his words, presumptive.
News reports indicate that the mayor was furious with Mr. Sharpton’s theatrics. Let’s hope so. And let’s also hope that Mr. de Blasio has learned something about the dangers of giving the reverend a very public pulpit. As Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor understood, Mr. Sharpton is just one of many leaders of the city’s diverse African-American community. His voice may speak for many—but not for all.
The mayor should remember that he and Commissioner Bratton, not Mr. Sharpton, run the Police Department.