Public Advocate: Three Latino Moms Say Mark-Viverito Was Slack on Police Accountability

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Melissa Mark-Viverito. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

[Op-Ed] 

 

We’re asking you:  Please do not vote for Melissa Mark-Viverito. 

Our names are Iris Baez, Margarita Rosario and Altagracia Mayi. We are Latina mothers whose sons were murdered over 20 years ago. Long-time New Yorkers know our sons’ names and remember the racism, police corruption and cover-up that made it impossible to get justice for our families. Two of our sons – Anthony Baez and Anthony Rosario (and one of our nephews, Hilton Vega) - were murdered by the NYPD: one by chokehold 20 years before Eric Garner, and the other two were shot execution-style while they laid on the ground. One of our sons, Manuel Mayi, was beaten and murdered by a white racist gang of 10 in Queens. 2 of Manny’s murderers became police officers. 

We’ve known Melissa Mark-Viverito for over two decades. She used to come around to some of our meetings back in the 1990s when she was a student. While we would love to see a Latina woman become New York City’s Public Advocate, we feel we must make it clear: Electing Melissa would be a big mistake for our city. We will not be voting for Melissa and we are speaking out to call on all New Yorkers to vote against herin the Public Advocate race. We don’t need a Public Advocate who has a history of advocating against the public. 

All of us became activists, not by choice but because we were forced to fight for justice for our children -- and we have continued to fight for justice for our sons and for the children of other families who have been murdered by racist and police violence for over 20 years.

As Latina mothers, as activists, and as New Yorkers, we are asking New Yorkers to vote against Melissa in the Public Advocate race. Melissa likes to claim that “the Puerto Rican community” supports her “fervently”. Well two of us are Puerto Rican leaders and we oppose Melissa, we don’t trust her and will be voting against her. We know from personal experience that when the pressure is on and when it’s not politically easy, Melissa has been too willing to sell out communities in backroom deals.  We don’t need someone to have a title like “Public Advocate” who has used their power to advocate against the public.

Here are just three of many examples from when she was City Council Speaker – when Melissa Mark-Viverito had actual citywide power - where she chose to please the NYPD and Mayor instead of fighting for the needs of Latino and other communities of color:

In 2015, even though our city hadn’t put enough money into issues like affordable housing and youth employment, Melissa made a deal with Commissioner Bratton to increase NYPD officers even though there was no need for this. She even lied to her own Councilmembers by saying she would increase only by 1000 – but she ended up increasing the budget for 1300 more cops.  

In 2016, Melissa made a backroom deal with de Blasio and Bratton to try to water-down and kill a vote on the Right To Know Act, police accountability bills that families who had lost loved ones to police murder were fighting for. Basically, she did a handshake deal with the Mayor and Bratton for the NYPD to do a bad, watered-down version of the bills. She tried to sell this as progress, but we the people weren’t fooled -- Melissa was immediately called out for her shady attempt to kill the bills by police brutality families and activists across NYC and even media outlets like the New York Times. 

Even though Melissa tried to undermine the anti-police brutality movement, we kept fighting to make sure a strong Right To Know Act became law. 

And in 2017, when we knew the City Council had to pass the bills because of the non-stop organizing and public pressure, Mark-Viverito once again betrayed the movement and families whose loved ones had been murdered by NYPD. Behind closed-doors, and at the last minute, Melissa worked with the Mayor, NYPD and Councilmember Ritchie Torres to take out the most important parts of one of the Right To Know Act bills before it was voted on. We tried to get her to drop this second betrayal on the bills, but she refused.

We cannot have a Public Advocate with this kind of track-record of betraying the movement, of betraying Latina motherswhose grief Melissa has opportunistically claimed to understand, and of prioritizing her own political ambitions over the needs of the people.

We need a Public Advocate who has shown they will stand with New Yorkers when it comes to racist violence, police reform and accountability, even when it’s difficult, even in opposition to the Mayor and the NYPD. We want a Public Advocate who has demonstrated that they will work in partnership with activists, especially the families, to do a real platform for racial justice and police reform in New York City. Our Public Advocate must be committed to real actions to support families like ours that lost loved ones to racial violence and the police in our demands for justice for our loved ones – not just photo ops. 

The three of us Latina mothers are voting for different candidates in the Public Advocate election – but none of us will be voting for Melissa Mark-Viverito.

On February 26th, we’re asking New Yorkers to vote for a true champion of the people as Public Advocate – that means voting against Melissa Mark-Viverito who has betrayed us too many times. 

Pa’lante,

 

Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez murdered by NYPD in 1994

Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega, murdered by NYPD in 1995

Altagracia Mayi, mother of Manuel Mayi, murdered by a white racist gang in 1991

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