Over the past year, on a daily basis, I’m asked whether or not I will vote and fight for the Democratic candidate if it isn’t Bernie Sanders. And for a year, my answer has been a consistent “yes.” And I say that as someone who generally loathes several of the men and women who are still in the race. In spite of serious political differences, I voted and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016. I wrote op-eds in the Daily News encouraging everybody who followed me to do the same thing.
But Mike Bloomberg is the line I simply will not cross. I can’t.
I don’t say this from a place of privilege. Quite the opposite. It comes from a real place of pain.
Mike Bloomberg directly caused real pain, trauma, and harm to people that I personally know and love. That’s not rhetoric. His decisions, policies, and personal directives ruined the actual lives of countless men, women, boys, girls, and families all over New York City. Many will never recover.
Because social media did not exist on the scale it does today, during most of his time as Mayor of New York (2002-2013), with his final year in office being the literal year before the Black Lives Matter movement began, he narrowly escaped the nationwide public accountability and scrutiny that he and this policies no doubt would have received in any subsequent year after he left office.
And as a result, New Yorkers, particularly Black and Brown New Yorkers, have something akin to a collective PTSD over the harm he caused. I don’t want what I’m writing to be a “20 reasons not to vote for Bloomberg” think piece.
Those are out there.
But I do need you to understand the size, scope, scale, and vile nature of the 12 years in which he personally oversaw and turbo-charged a city-wide stop-and-frisk policy. It was the closest thing the United States has gotten to Jim Crow or Apartheid South Africa since the American Civil Rights Movement. Bloomberg will tell you that it existed before him. That’d be like saying prisons existed before the explosion of mass incarceration from 1975 until today. Yeah, they existed, but on a scale on par with the rest of the developed world. From 1870 to 1970, the United States consistently incarcerated fewer than 250,000 per year. Today, we incarcerate over 2,500,000 people on any given day, and over 10,000,000 people per year.
It has exploded.
That’s what Bloomberg did to Stop and Frisk in New York. He grew it and expanded it exponentially.
Give me just a minute to explain.
In the 12 years Bloomberg was in office, he ordered the NYPD to stop and frisk people, almost exclusively Black and Brown people, a staggering 5,081,689 times. And those are just the stops that the NYPD reported! Completely innocent people were strip searched, punched, kicked, slammed, beaten, groped, tasered, choked, and shot in these stops. Drugs were planted. People were framed.
Tens of thousands of people were arrested, sent to Rikers for crimes they did not commit, then eventually released without ever even going to court. Some spent days in jail where they lost their jobs. Single parents lost custody of their kids. Others didn’t spend days in Rikers, but weeks, months, and even years for crimes they didn’t commit. While they were there, like young Kalief Browder, they were beaten and tortured by both guards and inmates, forced into solitary confinement for years on end, then simply released without even an explanation.
When Kalief was released, he was broken, and took his own life.
Experts say tens of thousands of other innocent men, women, and children were either coaxed by prosecutors and police into taking plea deals so that they could simply be released for time-served, or just chose to take the deals to just escape the madness of jail – only to be released back into Bloomberg’s New York where they were routinely stopped and frisked again and again and again.
Some were stopped and frisked by the NYPD over 100 times. Can you imagine? When I say “over 100 times” I’m not using that as a euphemism for “a lot.” I mean they were literally stopped and searched by the NYPD over 100 times.
And as parents, activists, organizers, preachers, mental health experts, justice reform advocates, and constitutional lawyers all begged and pleaded with Bloomberg to stop, he refused. They met with him personally. They marched and protested. They interrupted his events. And some of the smartest, most persistent legal groups in the nation sued the Bloomberg administration over and over again to stop these unlawful practices.
And a federal judge deemed that Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policies were indeed a modern day Apartheid for Black & Brown New Yorkers. She found countless constitutional violations and ordered an immediate halt to it. And even then, he fought back, and refused to immediately implement the changes she demanded.
When he left office, and Stop and Frisk was no longer a policy, crime plummeted year after year after year. His racist policies had not made New York safer at all. They had just caused real terror to millions of people.
After he left office, for years on end, Bloomberg bragged about the policy and defended it with all of his might. That’s why he asked the staff at the Aspen Institute to not share any of the videos from when he spoke there in 2015 where he bragged about how police would throw Black and Brown boys against walls in the name of making the city safer. Those kids, and their mothers and fathers and siblings were not just humiliated by such awful practices, they were shattered by them.
Bloomberg literally defended Stop and Frisk all the way through 2019, right up until he decided to run for President.
I have dedicated my life to fighting back against Donald Trump and his policies. I have campaigned to oust horrible politicians and have helped elect bold, promising new ones all over the country. I have endangered my entire family in pursuit of tracking down and bringing white supremacists and neo-Nazis to justice.
Donald Trump is our mortal enemy. I work directly with the people and communities his evil has impacted the most. He must be defeated. And he can be.
But I will not support one oppressor to oust another one.