Protesters Have Their Eyes On Police Unions

Activists occupy the National Fraternal Order of Police office in D.C. CREDIT: USTREAM
Activists occupy the National Fraternal Order of Police office in D.C. CREDIT: USTREAM

The Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, and Black Lives Matter occupied police union offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City Wednesday morning, as part of a new #FreedomNow campaign against police violence. The groups’ foremost demands are police accountability and a greater push to defund law enforcement.

Activists in the nation’s capital blocked off an entrance to the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). According to the BYP 100 website, members of its DC chapter and BLM DC are there to demand that cops stop paying dues to the union.

“The FOP acts like a college fraternity and is responsible for maintaining the harmful, lethal, unethical, and unaccountable culture of policing while the families and communities impacted when officers brutalize civilians are left to mourn with little, if any, semblance of justice,” BYP 100 spokeswoman Clarise McCants said. “Just like college frats that further rape culture by closing ranks to protect members who are sexual assailants, the FOP has proven that their primary commitment is to protect the worst of their members behind the ‘Blue Wall of Silence’ — even in the most heinous of circumstances. The FOP is the most dangerous fraternity in America and they need to be stopped.”

Meanwhile, the New York City chapters of BYP 100 and Million Hoodies are staging a sit-in at the Patrolmen Benevolent Association’s (PBA) headquarters.

“We are here today, to demand three things: disband the PBA, fire Officer (Wayne) Isaacs, defund the police, and fund black futures,” a demonstrator chanted. According to protesters, money would be better spent on affordable housing, improved education, and mental health resources in black communities. “These things have been proven to increase the safety of our communities,” a second protester said. “It has never been proven that the cops keep communities safe.”

Isaacs was recently stripped of his gun and badge, for fatally shooting an unarmed black driver on July 4. Video shows Delrawn Small walking up to Isaac’s car, after the off-duty, plainclothes officer reportedly cut him off. Isaacs fires his gun as Small approaches. But the officer claimed he fired his weapon because Small punched him several times and opened Isaacs’ door.

The officer is now on desk duty.

“The police are trying to manipulate the conversation. They are trying to manipulate all of us into believing that they are at risk. They are not at risk. Police officers are the threat,” BYP 100’s New York City chairperson Rahel Mekdim Teka, wrote on the organization’s website. “Police do not keep us safe. Police do not protect us. They are the danger that keeps Black people unsafe. We [must] divest from institutions that do not value us and instead invest in Black communities.”

Activists are targeting unions because the organizations wield extreme influence in law enforcement agencies and courts. Groups like the PBA and FOP negotiate powerful protections for cops accused of misconduct or brutality. In D.C., for example, members placed on leave for killing someone must receive monetary compensation, and they’re allowed a break before they’re interrogated by investigators. Officers are also given access to information about the cases against them, a privilege that civilians aren’t afforded and one that makes it easier for cops to defend themselves.

In the rare cases when officers are fired for excessive force or misconduct, police unions also fight to get them reinstated via backdoor appeals. Union representatives work with arbitrators, who are supposed to be independent mediators but have a history of siding with police, to get terminated officers reinstated with back pay.

Unions also wage campaigns against civilians who accuse cops of wrongdoing. When Eric Garner was killed using an illegal chokehold in 2014, PBA leader Patrick Lynch smeared the man who filmed the police encounter while declaring Garner’s killer, Daniel Pantaleo, an “Eagle Scout.”

“What’s also been lost is the character of police officer Daniel Pantaleo,” Lynch said. “What’s not being told is what kind of man and what kind of person and what kind of professional he is. He is a resident of this great city. He lives on Staten Island. He lives in those neighborhoods. He’s college educated, here in this city. He’s a mature, mature police officer who’s motivated by serving the community.”