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Clarke Talks Weekend Protests, Police Brutality on Cheddar News

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Transcript of Yvette D. Clarke’s June 1st Interview on Cheddar TV’s Closing Bell:

Cheddar News’ Brad Smith: Joining me now is Yvette D. Clarke of New York. Thank you so much for joining us here today. Let’s start with the video from Saturday evening. The NYPD driving marked SUVs into a crowd of protesters. This happened in your district. What is your reaction?

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke: My reaction is that these officers need to be brought in and need to be charged. This is not Charlottesville. NYPD has no reason to conduct themselves in this way under any circumstances. They had alternatives. They could have reversed their vehicles. They were only seconds away from one of the police precincts, they could have called for backup. They could have called community affairs to come in to help open the roadway. This is no way for our police department to act at all, and they need to be held accountable for injuring the public in the way they have.

Smith: And in Charlottesville it was a driver that was acting on their own initiative. In this case it is the people…

Clarke: A white supremacist. And here we have the people that we’ve entrusted, you know, to protect and serve us using their vehicles as a battering ram in the same way. So you can’t say it was wrong in Charlottesville, and say it’s okay in Brooklyn, it is not, and they need to be held accountable

Smith: I think that’s a great point and so a follow up to this, because a lot of the conversations that I was having with people over the weekend they want to know when issues like this are being voiced and through protest, and they are out in public and more of a police presence is called in. Where is that police presence called in from? Does the NYPD have the proper training when it comes to handling protests and are the other officers perhaps that are coming in from other jurisdictions, are they trained properly to do so as well, in an area and neighborhood that they might not be from themselves. 

Clarke: So, the deployments are at the discretion of the department themselves. And typically when we have large gatherings, you will have a backup unit from other precincts outside of the area that they are in effect policing.  That oftentimes creates a problem because people aren’t familiar with the culture in the area, people, officers rather don’t have the proper training. 

We have a very young force here in New York City. And it’s important that if in fact, we are encouraging de-escalation training that they put it into effect. We have not seen evidence of that in central Brooklyn, and we’re calling upon our mayor we’re calling upon our police commissioner, to really make sure that through all of the ranks in every precinct, and in every special unit, that de escalation training is put into full effect, and people are held accountable if they are not using that training, because they give a lot of  lip service to it when it is not being utilized. When we see the old practices and patterns of abusive behavior from some of our officers, there is a real problem.

Smith: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio largely defended the police officers on this, although he has called for an investigation. Do you agree with that stance, and what do you think that local NYC officials need to be doing differently to handle these protests?

Clarke: Well, we had a press conference myself and a number of our colleagues from Central Brooklyn, who were very concerned about the defensiveness if you will, around these incidents. There is no reason to defend bad actors under any circumstances, there’s no justification, particularly when these officers have the training to be able to de-escalate. And to be able to come up with alternative tactics for addressing what is before them. 

The fact that we saw two police vehicles roll over people in the middle of the street in central Brooklyn is not acceptable. The fact that we saw two officers, one who grabbed a young protester and threw her to the ground, and injured her, sending her to the hospital, and his supervisor is working, walking right next to him. He doesn’t check on the lady. And he doesn’t reprimand his officer. This says to me that something is going wrong here. And we need to get this corrected immediately. 

For the overwhelming number of officers that I know that patrol communities in the ninth District of New York, have the temperament to be on the force. There are those bad apples, however, and those bad apples have to be rooted out. There has to be a demonstrative reckoning with them, so that other officers don’t believe that that behavior is okay. Otherwise we’re perpetuating what has been centuries old behavior, in communities of color that have left, unfortunately, some dead, some maimed, and the community that lacks trust in the people that they rely on to protect and serve them.

Smith: At this time, it seems that even in Washington DC, there is so much mistrust as we’ve seen, not only here in New York City, but other major metropolitan areas, also seeing peaceful protest But still, there’s still a clash with the police officers that are there and the escalation that continues to come into play. And part of that escalation comes from the highest office that we have here in the United States as well on a call earlier today with governors the president urged governors to take a more strict coming towards protesters. And let’s be crystal clear here the president is not merely stoking division, but he is telling governors to dominate protesters and dominate citizens of the United States. I want to get your reaction to that and how can we ensure that all of the governor’s that were on that call are not necessarily listening to every single thing that the president says in an instance where he’s been in a bunker

Clarke: Well first of all, Donald Trump has been a menace to civility. From the day that he was, he was put in that office. He has said on numerous occasions, even before some sort of police fraternal organization that, you know, you don’t have to be soft with these guys you should rough them up, bang their heads. This is coming directly out of the mouth of Donald Trump governors have a responsibility to their citizens, they have a responsibility to make sure that the civil rights and civil liberties of every single one of their residents is protected and upheld. 

And so, it is my hope that they are independent agents, as they were elected to be. That Donald Trump does not dictate to them our Constitution, and that we will see action, action from the United States Congress which is currently looking at a whole suite of legislation; from looking at asphyxiation practices by police departments, to setting up through the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division the ability to subpoena and get information, collect data on incidents that are taking place. 

You know, we are fortunate in that many of the incidents that we’ve seen have been filmed. But there’s so many in our local communities that happen on a daily basis that go untold. We need all of that data so that if the American people have some transparency and understanding the scope, breadth and depth of this problem, and that these precincts, these police departments across the nation are held accountable for how they are conducting business in communities of color. 

This is a seminal moment for us and there’s no turning back. There’s no turning back. This generation coming up, should not experience the heartache and pain that the generations that preceded them have, and there are many like me, who are standing on the front lines, who are saying there is no turning back. In the midst of a health pandemic. And in the midst of an economic crisis, the last thing that communities of color need is to have a police department that they cannot hold trusted. 

Smith: Congresswoman we only have a few seconds left here but while we have you, when you think about what we can do right now, what’s being done in terms of dialogue that’s led to where we are, especially around the issues of systemic racism which is at the core of this. What is happening right now? What can take place? What can citizens do? We only have a few seconds here. 

Clarke: Oh, I maintain that citizens have the right to protest, and what sparked this was the case of George Floyd, in Minnesota. But we had Breanna Taylor, we’ve had a host of incidents that took the life of the innocent. We need to make sure that the pressure is put on our state legislators on our federal government to do right by the people, the Congressional Black Caucus, has stood up and continues to stand up, we will be unveiling a host of legislation and action, working with the civil rights community, to make sure that again, this moment does not pass us so that we are looking back a year from now two years from now six months from now, and we’re still dealing with the same issues, there’s no turning back. The American people deserve better from the entities that they pay to protect and serve. 

Smith: Congresswoman Yvette Clarke of New York  Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke of New York, thank you so much for joining us.