This is a statement from the Tompkins County Antiracist Coalition. Contact: tompkinscoalition@gmail.com

ITHACA, NY — 22 January, 2021 — Mayor Svante Myrick’s recent statement on the confrontation between police and local antiracist protesters is a disgraceful attempt to rehabilitate the image of cops, conceal the dynamics of power, and discredit the growing struggle against abusive policing.

He has chosen the wrong side in the fight against brutality and discrimination.

Myrick’s statement whitewashes the Ithaca Police Department and slanders protesters by likening progressive activism to the actions of the right-wing mob that stormed the US Capitol earlier this month. Though couched in the rhetoric of objectivity and civility, his report is nothing more than an attempt to undermine the moral authority of popular antiracism, a movement that has generated a groundswell of support nationwide and across the world.

The statement is riddled with false premises meant to justify the power structure, including the absurd notion that aggressive speech weakens a movement’s moral standing; that the status quo is essentially peaceful; and that police forces and their defenders—the guardians of a grossly unjust institution—are somehow capable of “objectivity.” It shames activists for their uncivil opposition to an obscene and violent system. At its core, the statement is an ode to the idea of police impunity.

Myrick’s opportunistic pivot to the right is sure to fail. But it is vital that antiracists respond forcefully. As elites look to restore their legitimacy in the wake of last year’s protests, we can expect more efforts to distract us from the critical issues of our time.

The status quo is deeply threatened by campaigns to address racism and insecurity by defunding bloated police budgets and reinvesting in social programs that actually keep us safe. The defunding struggle reflects growing outrage over an institution of policing that many Americans recognize as inherently racist, hostile, and violent.

Despite Ithaca’s serene image, our local police routinely abuse people of color and poor people. In recent years, Ithaca cops have shot, assaulted, tased, profiled, harassed and otherwise abused scores of nonwhite and vulnerable residents. As Myrick’s report acknowledges, as recently as last year a young black man was arrested after being threatened by a white man with a knife. The white man walked away with no charges.

Now local authorities are trying to use the call for “reimagining public safety” to undermine the popular demand for police defunding. But the Ithaca Common Council has already ignored the Tompkins County Antiracist Coalition’s demands for a budget that defunds police and expands desperately needed community services.

It is ironic that Myrick should try to use the recent assault on the Capitol to justify a local crackdown on antiracist protest. Part of what made the Capitol siege so troubling was the clear alignment between right-wing forces and many of the police—another sign of the underlying corruption of law enforcement.

Myrick’s attempt to frame the malicious transphobia exhibited by the IPD deputy chief as an honest mistake is equally appalling. Transphobia is a virulent problem that disproportionately affects people of color, and that perpetuates the social and personal violence so many vulnerable members of our communities face. It is shameful that Myrick would stoop to blaming the victims of state-sponsored violence for the injustices inflicted on them.

Myrick’s targeting of young activists is especially offensive amid this moment of social and economic desperation and critical political mobilization.

The horrific murder of George Floyd last year brought a new generation of brilliant young people into the street. A vibrant local movement fostered discussion, political education, and engagement while bridging many of the social divisions that kept our neighborhoods atomized.

Our activists have worked to highlight the realities of poorer and nonwhite residents who are especially vulnerable to police violence and social insecurity. The grassroots defunding struggle has helped inspire a larger renaissance of local activism against gentrification, economic exploitation, and inequality. That activism will not be derailed by the mayor’s hypocritical defenses of the status quo.

Aggressive and racist policing were longstanding problems before the Trump Administration, and they remain so in Trump’s aftermath. Now is not the time to turn our backs on antiracist organizers or to distort their challenge to corrupt power. There is much work left to do. That work starts with defunding the inflated police force and refunding communities that have been systematically abandoned and abused.

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