By Rory Lancman
Special to the Eagle
In October, members of the "Proud Boys," a hate group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, attacked individuals on the streets of Manhattan in full view of police. We have seen similar incidents of white supremacist violence occur in cities across the country, but it was shocking to see such violence take place here in New York City.
Making matters worse, the city seemed completely unprepared to deal with the violence instigated by the Proud Boys. Not one member of the Proud Boys was arrested that evening, even though officers were on the scene. New Yorkers watched videos of the attacks in horror, wondering how it was possible that no action was taken.
The Proud Boys assaults should be a wake up call to the entire city that we need to have strategies in place to prevent white supremacist violence, and be prepared to deal with it if it does occur. That is why last week I introduced legislation in the City Council to establish a task force responsible for studying white supremacist organizations and acts of violence encouraged by these groups, and making recommendations to the city as to what safety procedures could be improved.
The goal of the task force is to bring key law enforcement and community stakeholders together to develop a comprehensive strategy for thwarting efforts to bring violence into our city. The task force would include the NYPD's chief of counterterrorism and chief of crime control strategies, and the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management, among others. The city's District Attorneys would also be invited to participate.
The task force would help ensure that the city takes the threat of white supremacist organizations seriously, especially in light of rising hate crimes in New York City. The number of hate crimes citywide increased by five percent in 2018, with anti-Semitic hate crimes increasing by 22 percent and hate crimes against African-Americans increasing by 33 percent. Moreover, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, thirteen known white nationalist or anti-Semitic groups operate in New York State.
What these numbers show is that the scourge of bigotry, hatred and white nationalism is a serious problem that requires a serious solution.
It is my hope that the formation of this task force will spur the city to put in place the policies and procedures needed to ensure we are prepared and best able to keep people safe. Acts of hatred and violence can never be tolerated in New York City, and we cannot afford to be taken by surprise again.
Rory Lancman is a City Councilmember and a candidate for Queens District Attorney.