December 29, 2014 |
When hundreds of cops from around the country and as far away as Canada turned their backs on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, the NYPD officer shot to death alongside his partner Wenjian Liu by a deranged gunman, they fired the first salvo in a carefully coordinated political operation aimed at discrediting the liberal mayor and shattering the ongoing anti-police brutality protest movement.
AlterNet has obtained emails revealing plans to organize a series of anti-de Blasio protests around the city until the summer of 2015. Billed as a non-partisan movement in support of “the men and women of the NYPD,” the protests are being orchestrated by a cast of NYPD union bosses and local Republican activists allied with Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor who recentlycalled on de Blasio to “say you’re sorry to [NYPD officers] for having created a false impression of them.” The first rally is planned to take place at Queens Borough Hall at noon on January 13.
Joe Concannon, a failed Republican State Senate candidate and current president of the Tea Party-aligned Queens Village Republican Club, is the main organizer of the burgeoning anti-de Blasio protest effort. The retired NYPD captain and former Giuliani advisor is a close ally of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch. Lynch generated national headlines — and cheers from rank and file cops — when he claimed that de Blasio “has blood on [his] hands” just hours after Ismaaiyl Brinsley murdered Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
In an email exchange with a supporter, Concannon said he and his allies had filed papers to found a non-profit to fund the anti-de Blasio campaign. The January 13 Queens demonstration would be among the largest, according to Concannon. Major rallies in March in Breezy Point, Queens and at City Hall were also in the works, he said.
In a separate email dated December 26 and titled, “Support Your Police rallies,” Concannon declared the onset of a campaign he dubbed Operation All Out. “Everyone MUST get out and support these fine men and women,” he implored several NYPD associates.
Jack Coughlin, the treasurer of the NYPD Superior Officers Association, responded by proposing “a rally held in Breezy Point in March when the weather will be better [that] could attract thousands of pro-cop supporters to counter the professional anti-cop organizers.” Coughlin went on to urge Concannon to pressure Republican representatives Peter King and Lee Zeldin and NY GOP State Chairman Ed Cox to “get the House Homeland Committee to hold public hearings on who's financing Al Sharpton's anti-cop protest.”
National Police Defense Foundation executive director Joseph Occhipinti chimed in to offer help in coordinating the demonstrations. “I would suggest that everything go through the [Patrick Lynch’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association] for any organized protests,” he added. A former agent of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Occhipinti was convicted in 1991 of conducting illegal searches and narrowly escaped jail time for allegedly stealing $16,000 from his victims. When the US attorney who secured his conviction, Jeh Johnson, was appointed by Obama to direct the Department of Homeland Security last year, Occhipinti rushed to the right-wing writer Charles C. Johnson to complain.
The anger coursing through the ranks of the NYPD is driving union bosses like Lynch to ratchet up their rhetoric against the mayor. Lynch is up for election soon and seems desperate to channel the resentment of his constituents. Meanwhile, Republican operatives see a chance to do fatal damage to a rising Democratic star and close Clinton ally by resurrecting the kind of racial backlash politics that won them urban white votes during the Nixon era.
Not since the early 1970s, when liberal mayor John Lindsay presided over a politically chaotic and crime-ridden New York, has a mayor been so reviled by the NYPD. With an African-American wife with a history of liberal activism and a biracial son who played a pivotal role in his campaign for mayor, de Blasio has become, at least for some cops, a symbol of everything they despise about the city they patrol. Though some officers support de Blasio's calls to reform the NYPD -- particularly Latino and black cops -- there seems to be no organized force within the department capable of obstructing the campaign against the Mayor.
A cursory glance at message boards on a semi-private police chat forum suggests that opposition to de Blasio within NYPD ranks has descended into raw racial paranoia.
NYPD Officers, In Their Own Words
On Thee Rant, a popular chat site known to be an online watercooler for active duty and retired NYPD officers, commenters fret about possible ambushes by black gang members, obsess over radical leftists, organize boycotts of chain stores and a Chipotle outlet they deem “anti-cop,” and hatch plots to target protest leaders. While the forum attracts a disproportionate number of cops with a proclivity for outrageous hyperventilation, it also offers a rare look at the unvarnished views of the retired police activists and old guard officers mobilizing against the mayor.
As veteran NYPD observer Len Levitt wrote of the forum, officers “are often so constricted by the department that Thee Rant is often their only outlet. That’s good, until it isn’t.”
In comment threads, de Blasio is routinely referred to as “Kaiser Wilhelm,” a derisive reference to his birth name, Warren Wilhelm Jr. Police resentment of de Blasio has simmered since his campaign for mayor, when he ran against Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policies. The anti-de Blasio sentiment grew during the early months of his term, as he wrangled with the Policemen's Benevolent Association (PBA) over police salaries and dropped a Bloomberg appeal of a federal lawsuit that found NYPD officers unfairly targeted people of color with stop-and-frisk tactics.
But nothing fueled NYPD outrage like de Blasio’s relationship with Al Sharpton. When the mayor hired a former Sharpton aide, Rachel Noerdlinger, as the chief of staff to his wife, Chirlane McCray, then defended Noerdlinger against atorrent of bad press for her relationship with an ex-convict and her son’s Facebook postings referring to cops as “pigs,” NYPD anger exploded.
On a Thee Rant forum, commenters homed in on Noerdlinger’s race (she is black) and her gender. While one commenter described her as “a weed soaked cum dumpster low life POS,” another officer wrote of her and her partner: “The bit-ch will be bugging mofo's ass, if she hasn't done so already, about making nigge-r noise in court and he will begin clobbering her, and then junior will jump in and snap his neck!”
“They're born N I _ _ E R S , live like N I _ _ E R S and usually die like N I _ _ E R S,” a police commenter added. His language was typical of commentary appearing on the forum whenever Noerdlinger's name was mentioned.
When de Blasio remarked this month that he had instructed his son, Dante, to use extra caution when engaging with cops, Thee Rant commenters lit up the chat boards. In a typically lurid thread, a Thee Rant commenter made light of the struggle de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, has waged with substance abuse. “Somebody should slip her a ‘hot bag,’” a fellow officer who called himself Thisroundsoneme replied, suggesting a cop plant drugs on her to frame her for possession.
A Staten Island grand jury’s refusal to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for strangling Eric Garner to death was not only a cause for celebration at Thee Rant, but an excuse for a new wave of racist tirades. “F u c k Black America, their equal or worse than whites, when speaking of Racism…" wrote Eddie R, a forum commenter. “F u c k Diversity, it's not working and never will work…”
“The latinos are about 24 percent of the population as opposed to the 13 percent that negroes comprise. Perhaps that is why our 'brethren of color' are using any excuse to act up,” another NYPD commenter added.
When the killing of Ramos and Liu was first reported, Thee Rant commenters leapt to blame de Blasio, and for the first time, focused their loathing on Bratton. “Allowing these savage animals to get away with the SHYT they are is the reason this happened. The blood is on your hands Mr Mayor and You Police Commissioner Bratton,” a forum member declared, foreshadowing remarks by the PBA’s Lynch.
NYPD Commissioner Bratton has emerged in recent weeks as a hate figure on Thee Rant forums. The angry cops have dubbed him "Beansy," mocking his thick Boston accent and deriding him as a hyper-ambitious, imperious technocrat who has served as a political stage prop for the liberal de Blasio. While one forum commenter called for a PBA vote of no confidence for both de Blasio and Bratton, another waxed nostalgic for Ray Kelly, the former commissioner whose legacy was defined by his defense of stop-and-frisk. “The difference between Kelly and Bratton is Kelly, for better or for worse ran the Department while Bratton holds DeBlasio's coat,” a commenter who called himself Petefio wrote.
As the demonstrations against police brutality spread, some Thee Rant commenters vowed to target protest organizers like Jose LaSalle, an activist with Copwatch who documents police abuses in the Bronx. “Jose hates white people!” wrote a commenter who identified himself as a former member of the NYPD and went by the handle, Retirednutjob. “What a shock! Why don't he go back to Puerto Rico? Go harass the Police down there Jose and see what happens!”
The ex-cop went on to post what he said was LaSalle’s home phone number and suggested a campaign to force him out of his job with the New York City Parks Department. “Come on we are a powerful force of retired investigators and private eyes and various other sources, lets start following and watching these !%@% stirrers it cant be that hard to find dirt and discredit these azzholes,” Baysidedet clamored.
From #TurnYourBack to Operation All Out
At the Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn where Ramos and Liu were pronounced dead on December 20, the PBA and Sergeants Benevolent Association received word that de Blasio was on his way. It was the police union bosses’ chance to embrace the raw rage of the beat cops they represented. When the mayor arrived, proceeding down a long hallway past a line of officers, the cops turned their backs to him in a show of total contempt.
“That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor,” the PBA’s Lynch proclaimed afterwards. “When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”
The following day, actor James Woods seized on the protest to popularize a hashtag on Twitter: #TurnYourBack. Woods’ first tweet, published just hours after the spontaneous protest took place, has been retweeted more than 2500 times.
Woods is one of the Tea Party right's favorite celebrities and happens to be a friend and golfing partner of Rudy Giuliani. In fact, Woods played the former NYC mayor in the forgotten post-9/11 biopic, Rudy. “I fought tooth and nail to portray him as the genuine hero that I unequivocally believe him to be,” Woods said at the time.
With help from Woods and Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post and Fox News Channel, where Giuliani blamedthe Mayor for “bringing [police protests] on himself,” the NYPD’s war on de Blasio became a flashpoint for the national partisan battle. The stage was set for an epic rebuke of de Blasio.
Nearly 700 cops from around the country and Canada descended on New York City for the December 27 funeral of the murdered officer Rafael Ramos, taking advantage of an offer from Jet Blue of free flights to the memorial. Among those represented at the ceremony were members of the Albuquerque Police Department, a scandal-stained force with the highest rate of shootings of unarmed civilians in the country.
As soon as de Blasio appeared on a large screen monitor positioned outside the church where the funeral took place, cops who may never have heard the mayor’s name responded to the cue to turn their backs. “100% including Volunteer FD guys from Long Island and Cops from everywhere from Canadian Mounties to San Diego and San Francisco, and everywhere in between [turned their backs],” recalled Thee Rant member Thisroundsonme. “Even civilians in the rear behind the detail turned their backs as word spread as to what was going on.”
Another cop put the protest in perspective: “This was a show of solidarity for the Police nationwide. Cops everywhere are under attack by the public they protect, and the politicians who should be supporting their Police are derelict in their duties... And this is what you get.”
Officer Liu’s funeral on January 3 will present police with one more opportunity to admonish de Blasio. Then Operation All Out begins, with Republican operatives hoping to ride out of the political wilderness on the rising tide of cop rage. In an email to a supporter, Queens Village Republican Club president Joe Concannon referred to the planned wave of protests as “our plan to keep it in the news for the first half of 2015.”