Aug. 20, 2020 By Emilia Decaudin and Jesse Laymon –Opinion
We were disappointed and angered to read in the Queens Post this week of the plan by the 108th Police Community Council for a march through Sunnyside this coming Saturday.
As the newly elected Democratic District Leaders for Sunnyside and other parts of Long Island City, it is our responsibility to be aware of the sentiments of the voters in our neighborhood, and we can definitively say that our neighbors reject the hurtful symbolism of this planned march.
All political demonstrations such as marches are inherently symbolic actions—their literal slogans must be understood in the context of their time and place. And context can radically transform how we interpret a symbol.
A white dress can be innocuous attire; white dresses worn by dozens of Congresswomen are an unmistakable homage to the fight for suffrage. A hooded white robe can be a bathroom accessory; hooded white robes worn on horseback are an unmistakable threat of racist violence.
And in the context of the summer of 2020, a march by dozens of white residents through a city neighborhood “in support of our officers” must be interpreted as a thinly veiled embrace of the police killings of Black people across America.
No one who’s lived through the past four months should need an explainer on why police have been the focus of so much attention this summer.
Police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd. Police in Louisville killed Breonna Taylor. Police in Aurora killed Elijah McClain. After these and so many other horrific deaths at the hands of police across the nation, tens of thousands of citizens turned out to demonstrate against police violence. And in many cities, especially our own, police departments responded to these demonstrations with yet more violence—tear gas, body armor, billy clubs, and SUVs driven as weapons.
To organize a march now, given the context, in proud support of local police cannot be innocuous. This is not any ordinary year, and this march is not in observation of some annual police holiday or local tradition. Its symbolism is unmistakably clear: “we support police officers, even when they murder and maim.”
Perhaps the organizers of the march did not intend to be so blatantly hurtful and racist. Perhaps they’re out of touch with the events of 2020 or have been consuming only distorted right-wing media. Or perhaps they’ve internalized the twisted worldview of the bigot in the White House—whom the police union just endorsed this week—who promotes the false notion that wanton police violence is somehow helpful and justified.
If the 108th Police Community Council doesn’t intend to declare its support for the murder of Black people, there is still time for them to avoid doing so. Cancel Saturday’s march. And focus future events on how the local precinct can help the community, not how the community can condone the worst behaviors of police.
Emilia Decaudin and Jesse Laymon are the Democratic District Leaders for Assembly District 37, Part A, representing Dutch Kills, Ravenswood, parts of Long Island City, and Sunnyside.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Queens Post.