By: David Ben Hooren
dited by: TJV News.comMayor Bill de Blasio: I want to start by honoring the victims of yesterday’s horrific attack in Jersey City, and we feel their loss deeply here in this city. Moshe Deutsch, the son of Abe Deutsch – a well-known community leader in Williamsburg – was brutally murdered in this attack; Leah Ferencz, also originally from Brooklyn; and from Jersey City, Detective Joseph Seals of the Jersey City Police Department, brutally assassinated in the horrible, horrible attack. I want to ask for a moment of silence for all that were lost yesterday.
We’re here at a very somber moment, we’re here at a very urgent moment for this city but also for this nation. Everyone is here sharing that same mix of sorrow and anger and urgency. I want to thank all the elected officials, the community leaders, the clergy who are present in common cause. We are all going to be working together, we have been working together for years, we are going to be working together even more intensely in the days to come. I want to thank the Executive Director of our Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, Deborah Lauter, who is leading an effort to work with communities all over the city to get at the root causes of the challenge we face.
You’ll hear from Commissioner Shea in a moment. I also want to thank Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison, Chief of Patrol Fausto Pichardo, and the Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counter Terrorism John Miller, everyone at the NYPD who will be involved in the efforts in the coming days to ensure the safety of our entire city and particularly of the Jewish community in this city.
We feel a lot of pain but we have to understand why this is a moment of urgency. This confirms a sad truth – there is a crisis of anti-Semitism gripping this nation, there is a crisis of anti-Semitism in this city. It has continued to take on a more and more violent form all over this country. Now we have seen this extraordinarily, extreme form of violence reach the doorstep of New York City and we have to take that as a warning sign. We have to understand, as I’ve heard from so many members of the Jewish community, that people are now living in constant fear. Members of the Jewish community have told me they no longer feel comfortable wearing anything that is a symbol of their faith for fear of an attack. That is absolutely unacceptable in a free society that anyone should have to feel that way from any faith, any background.
It’s unacceptable in a city that is meant to be for everyone and prides ourselves in respecting all people. It’s a national problem unquestionably but it is here now and we have to recognize that this is a crisis. There has been an uptick in hate crimes in this city directed against the Jewish community, some acts of vandalism and hateful symbolism, but some physical assaults. Until yesterday we had not seen in the New York metropolitan area for many years the level of violence directed at the Jewish community that we saw in Jersey City. And so we have to understand we’ve entered a new reality. No one is happy about it but we have to be honest about it.
What we saw yesterday was a premeditated violent anti-Semitic hate crime. In other words you can say it was an act of terror because it was premeditated, because it was violent, because it was directed at the Jewish community. There is still a lot we need to know. The investigation is preliminary and we only have some of the picture of what happened in Jersey City but it is enough to tell us that this was an act of hate and an act of terror.
Anti-Semitism – I don’t have to tell anyone here but it’s worth saying for all New Yorkers – anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon, it is centuries old. I think at one point we hoped it was in decline, we hoped it had gone away, but it never went away. It just lay dormant in this country and in many other countries. And now it is coming out in the open. History teaches us to take these warning signs seriously. And we in New York City have to lead. We have to show our country what a vigorous response looks like and it will have to go farther than anything we’ve done previously.
So, to the members of the Jewish community of this city, my message is we will keep you safe. We will use the largest and best police force in this nation to protect you but we’re going to have to do a lot more at the community level to engage community members and community leaders of all communities in common cause to root out hate. I’ll say a few more words before turning to Commission Shea regarding the specific actions of the NYPD but I will say very crucially at the outset, that there, at this hour, are no credible and specific threats directed against New York City but that is not sufficiently comforting and that is why we are in a state of high alert.
I directed the NYPD last night to go into that state of high alert and to ensure that hundreds of officers would be assigned to dozens of crucial Jewish community locations around the city. That effort will grow and that effort will be ongoing. Commissioner Shea will go into detail. You will see visible and increased presence throughout the Jewish community for a number of days to come. That’s the first point for people to understand, that presence will be large and consistent over the coming days. It has started already.
Second point is, the NYPD has been building a new unit over the last weeks. We now want to publicly announce this unit. The acronym is R-E-M-E. That stands for Racial and Ethnically Motivated Extremism. The unit is focused on identifying any trends and any signs of racially and ethnically motivated extremism so that it can be acted on before any terror or any bias crime occurs. Commissioner Shea and Deputy Commissioner Miller will go into greater detail. This is a new unit within the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau. As I said it has been built up over the last weeks. It did not happen as a result of this horrible incident yesterday but this is the time to now talk publicly about the role of this unit and what it will do.
It will directly take on the hate groups that are trying to spread in this country and that pose a threat to so many communities. Last point, as I indicated we will be gathering community leaders across all faiths and backgrounds in common cause and with a sense of urgency to find any signs out there of potential acts of hate, to reach deeper into all our communities. Our Office to Prevent Hate Crimes will work on the long term solutions but right now we need to reach more deeply into our communities to find out where immediate threats exist. We will turn to faith leaders, elected officials, community leaders with a particular focus on Brooklyn where very sadly we’ve seen so much of the hate crime activity in this city.
We’ll have more to say on that in the next few days. But one thing I want to remind anyone who ever even ponders committing an act of hate in any way, if anyone out there is even thinking about committing an act of hate, the NYPD has proven that it will find you, it will prosecute you, and you will suffer the consequences. We have to be very clear we seek to move the people of this city in all the right and positive ways but for those who refuse to respect their fellow New Yorkers, there will be very serious consequences. And hate crimes – to make it very simply, once any crime is committed there will be consequences. Once it is proven it is a hate crime, there will be additional time in prison.
To close before turning to the Commissioner, history has shown us over and over again the danger of silence and no community understands this better than the Jewish community. Silence can be fatal. That means all of us have to speak up against hate, it means we all have to guard against the dangerous trends in our society. We cannot let them grow. But it means something more personal as well. It means confronting hate speech in our lives when we hear it, God forbid even from friends or family members. It means reporting anything that suggests the potential for an act of violence and a bias crime. I want to urge all New Yorkers to remember that phrase that we have lived by and has saved so many lives – if you see something, say something. That message has been heard and felt by New Yorkers for years. We remember in Chelsea, just a few years ago, an everyday New Yorker called in her concern about a package on the street and saved countless fellow New Yorkers when it turned out it was a live bomb.
Well, if you hear the kind of speech that suggests someone might be considering an act of violence, if you hear someone musing out loud about committing violence against the Jewish community or any community, we need you to call that in immediately. If you hear something, say something too. Call 9-1-1 or call 8-8-8-NYC-SAFE. Any and all information is needed. Do not hesitate. If you think you’ve heard something important, don’t hesitate, the NYPD needs to know it. That one phone call might save lives. So, everyone, this is all of our business.
This is a crisis and in a crisis we all ban together and we all take responsibility. I want to conclude by saying there are many people hurting today – our brothers and sisters in Jersey City – and I want to thank you, Commissioner, for the extraordinary support the NYPD provided yesterday to Jersey City in their hour of need. My heart goes out to the people of Jersey City, to Mayor Fulop, and all the people he represents. They are going through a lot of pain. The families who have lost their loved ones, the people who were injured.
But to all New Yorkers, remember today, members of our Jewish community are in pain right now. They are feeling beleaguered and attacked. They just saw something horrific happen on our doorstep. Offer your understanding and support whether you’re a member of the Jewish community or a member of another community. Offer your support today. And to our police officers, they have lost a brother. And one thing that I know from working closely with law enforcement, it doesn’t matter which part of law enforcement or which state our officers come from, whenever an officer is killed all other members of law enforcement feel that pain. So, offer your condolences and support to the members of the NYPD today. With that, I’ll turn to Commissioner Dermot Shea.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea: Good morning. Let me start by saying that every member of the New York City Police Department today, as the Mayor said, mourns our colleagues in Jersey City in the wake of this absolute tragedy, and we stand together as one. By all accounts, Detective Joe Seals, a husband, a married father of five children, was a stellar police officer. Highly skilled at doing his job, getting guns off the street, making the streets of Jersey City safer for all residents, a man truly dedicated to the people he served. And our hearts also go out of course to the families of everyone killed or injured in this prolonged senseless act of violence.
While authorities in Jersey have the lead in this investigation, obviously, I can tell you that from the start the NYPD offered and sent almost immediately specialized resources to Jersey City as this initial job came over as an active shooter. And that occurred shortly after the first reports came in. Some of those resources included members of the Intelligence Bureau, our Aviation Unit – and you can think of the hazard with the weather conditions yesterday – our Emergency Service Unit, men and women that trained with their partners in Jersey City well before this incident.
So this is not a story in a distant newspaper or far off land. These are people that they know and respect prior, too. Almost immediately, here as this was unfolding here in New York, we deployed our Critical Response Units throughout the city to various Jewish locations and that instant response was amplified, as the Mayor said, throughout the night and continues to this point in time initially out of an abundance of caution as the situation unfolded but then with more purpose as the details began to emerge.
Those Counter Terrorism Bureau deployments were maintained overnight. They have been expanded today and they will be in place until we feel it is safe to remove them. But I will tell you that we stand committed to keep members of the Jewish community and all New Yorkers safe from any act of hate. In fact this morning I visited one of our police officers stationed outside on the largest synagogues in the world, Temple Emanu-El, right off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Members of our Community Affairs Bureau are engaged as well. We’ll be in touch with leaders of the Jewish community throughout the day today as they do every day. I’ll reiterate now what we’ve been saying since yesterday.
There is no known nexus at this time between the attack in Jersey City and New York and that as the investigation moves forward we will continue to be in direct contact with authorities in Jersey City and our federal law enforcement partners including the FBI. I will urge everyone however to keep going about your business as usual without fear, that is how we defeat terror, but to always remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times. If there is anything, no matter how slight that you see or hear that makes you uncomfortable in any way, anything that doesn’t look or seem right, tell a police officer, call 9-1-1, call 1-8-8-8-NYC-SAFE. Thank you everyone for this and I say that we denounce this act of senseless violence.
Mayor: Thank you, Commissioner. This horrible tragedy has particular meaning for members of the Satmar community in Brooklyn who have lost members of their own community including, as I said, the son one of the prominent leaders of the community. We are joined by someone I have known for decades and respect highly. I want him to speak on behalf of the community, Rabbi Niederman.
Mayor: Rabbi, thank you for speaking from the heart and we are all with you today, and with the community. Rabbi said one thing, before we turn to questions from the media, this, I want everyone to understand one of the powerful, many powerful things he said, that children were in the yeshiva right next to this site where this horrific killing was happening. So it’s horrible what did happen but imagine the fear it puts in the hearts of people throughout the community that those innocent children could have been in harm’s way.
And this is way it is a crisis and it has to be called a crisis and it has to be treated as a crisis. You can’t see that happen just miles away from your home and feel safe. We have to do everything we can do to change that so we return to a day where people can walk the streets of this city and know that this horrible moment has ended and we move forward. It will take real hard work and again, I say to everyone, you can depend on the NYPD. But do not ask them to do everything. We are all a part of this. They can’t be everywhere, they can’t see and hear everything but all of us together can. And once the NYPD knows about something they can act on it. But we all have to be vigilant and we all have to support each other. With that, take questions from the media. Yes?
Question: Can you talk a little bit more about the new unit and how it works with the Hate Crimes Task Force?
Mayor: Dermot, John?
Commissioner Shea: I will kick it off and I will pass it to John. But let me just say, we’ve seen an increase this year in anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City. I think it’s been well documented this year. And where we stand today is a 22 percent increase. And at times there are some that may look at these and downplay them – oh, they are just a sign etched on a window or in transit. Let me be very clear, the NYPD treats every one of these, every one of these as serious incidents. We have the largest hate crime unit in the country. I think there is a relationship between those incidents and this. And I don’t mean one that you can tie together. But there’s an escalation. You see swastikas being drawn, you see a brick thrown through a window, you see a woman walking with her kids walking down the block and having her wig ripped off her head. And sometimes it’s kids but there’s a common theme here. It’s ignorance and it’s hate. And it’s got to be denounced by everyone. It’s got to be denounced by not the NYPD, not members of the Jewish faith, every New Yorker.
That hate crimes unit is currently staffed with about 25 members. And if you think about what they do, they respond after the fact. An incident has happened, it’s dissected. They analyze it. Is this in fact a hate crime? And then they take it and run with it. But we are not blind to what’s been happening and I’ve had many conversations and to Jimmy O’Neill’s credit before me and John Miller to my right, and myself, Terry Monahan and others that what we have been seeing, not just in New York City, but across the country, so what can we do with hate that hasn’t risen to an individual act yet and can we prevent it before an incident like this happens? That’s really what’s behind this new unit. I will let John Miller really drill down into some of the details and some of the parameters, safe guards that we have built in place around it.
Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller, NYPD: Thanks Commissioner. You know as the Mayor said earlier we hadn’t seen anything on the scope or scale of the violence that we saw in a hate crime form yesterday in Jersey City, in New York in many years. We are joined by Devorah Halberstam whose son, Ari, was killed in an incident 25 years ago that had similar dynamics. What we have seen across the country is an increase in hate groups, an increase in hate speech from hate groups and an increase in individual acts emanating from those groups and that speech. So while those investigations were always carried out within the Intelligence Bureau, they were carried out by a group of four to five units who would come together at the table and work together on those cases. This summer in the course of a single weekend when you saw an attack at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, followed by one a couple of days later targeting immigrants in El Paso, followed by another in Dayton, Ohio preceded by the attack of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh because of an actor who was upset about their association with a support agency that actually is headquarters in New York City, or the shooting in Poway – towards the end of the summer, it became apparent to us that while this work was being done, it would be better form to get the four or five units together in one team. It was clear that we needed to expand that team before something on this scale happened in New York City. We requested from the Police Commissioner additional resources and then invited outside agencies including the State Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and others to participate. So it is centralizing something we have already done and expanding the man power. It operates the way the rest of the Intelligence Bureau does on these cases, which is under the [inaudible] guidelines which gives us the ability to investigate what we need to investigate while carefully guarding civil rights, free speech, privacy and the rest of the considerations that go hand in hand with that.
Mayor: Marcia, sure.
Question: John, would you just follow up – could you give us some idea of how the new unit will try to prevent crime from happening, to identify the lone wolf or the people who are involved in posting hate speech, fomenting hate speech, trying to get weapons, etcetera?
Deputy Commissioner Miller: So I think, Marcia, you’re question touches on the shifting dynamic that we have seen and we’ve seen grow which is it is not so much, although there are subtexts here, subgroups, it’s not so much that individual groups are meeting in somebody’s basement and plotting violence. Before you get to that point, what we see is the expansion and the networking of this online. Many of these groups have literally taken a page out of the ISIS handbook in terms of propaganda and encouraging acts. Many of these message boards that you have seen, from the one that was cited in the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, [inaudible] you know Gab, 4Chan, 8Chan, Discord, where people get together and exchange these ideas and encourage violence, are places that give us opportunities to understand networks as they are formed, networks as they grow, and where hate speech which unpopular speech is also protected by the First Amendment, crosses the line into hate acts and acts of violence. The idea is to have the intelligence, use the analysis, and then execute the prevention which is the key.
Question: [Inaudible] infiltrating [inaudible]?
Deputy Commissioner Miller: I am not going to get into the suite of tactics that we use, because it that crosses all investigations. But the idea is to focus on prevention.
Question: John, can you just clarify does this group then need all the time, is it replaced – the 25 members who are in the Hate Crimes Unit they’re part of it [inaudible] –
Deputy Commissioner Miller: They’re going to go to the Police Commissioner distinction. The Hate Crime Unit which is a very well formed and highly experienced unit responds to hate incidents, investigates them, and tries to bring people to justice. Those are often individual incidents committed by individuals against individuals. The focus here is hate groups, and hate networks, and we have worked with our partners from – I mean people right here standing with us from the ADL to the JCRC, people that study these groups all the time. We’ve compared notes across training for years. This is really just to centralize that effort. And this is something that began really at the end of the summer and into the fall.
Mayor: Hold on, we’re going to go around. Anna, go ahead.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about what has been happening with the new Office of Hate Crimes since it was started, I think, I believe the first week of September. Just kind of the progress that’s been made?
Mayor: Deborah, go ahead.
Executive Director Deborah Lauter, Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes: Right, so the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes opened in early September, as Rabbi Niederman mentioned, I’ve been spending a large part of my time meeting with the community, looking for solutions. What I found is that there’s – obviously there’s not one way to address hate. There’s not one way to address anti-Semitism. What you just heard today is a tangible way that law enforcement is dealing with it. So there’s three pillars. You need law enforcement, you need community relations, and you need education. And those are the three things our office has been focusing on. So the rabbi has been doing some incredible, and others, outreach in the communities just to break down stereotypes and to get the communities to know them. I think this is a really healthy thing that needs to be scaled in this community. The education – what we’re finding is that there’s very little, particularly among youth about what are hate crimes. They know that when they’re scrawling a swastika they’re doing something bad, but they don’t have any context for what the meaning of a swastika is and why it’s having such impact on the Jewish community. Today, the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crime is convening the first ever inter-agency committee. These are all the agencies that have worked in some respect on hate crimes. We’re bringing them all together to talk about how do we address this long term and holistically. So I’m really excited about doing this in this way, and I commend the Mayor for the vision for creating this office.
Mayor: Let me, let me just try and give some quick context that, what Deborah and her team are doing and working with everyone here – we are going to be on a long journey to try and eradicate hate but there’s really immediate things that we have to do too. And again, we’ll have more to say in the coming days about some immediate steps we’ll be taking at the community level that have to involve leaders of all different communities. The other point is we’ve got to figure out how to create more consequence. I think there are some crimes that deserve stronger penalties. I think there are real questions in terms of working with prosecutors to make sure that they are following through on this, on these cases effectively and making sure that they’re seeking appropriate penalties. I want to thank Devorah Halberstam who has raised this concern to all of us to make sure that the coordination with the prosecutors is tighter, but also that there is a recognition that we have to create a culture of consequence, because I think Deborah’s point is well take, there are people out there who think they can act with impunity or don’t even understand their actions. But once it is clear, there are consequences, it changes the whole discussion. So we have some real work to do. Quickly on that, yeah?
Question: Just a follow up on that issue. Is – are you getting an understanding by talking to kids who have maybe drawn swastikas, asking them why did you do this, do you understand what this means? Is that what you mean by outreach to communities that –
Executive Director Lauter: Yeah, that’s what we’re hearing. When the perpetrators of swastika incidents are caught, and many of them are youth, they admit that they didn’t know what it was. There are have been programs taking these kids like to the new Auschwitz exhibit in the Jewish Museum and giving the kids some context for what was behind it and from what I understand it was incredibly impactful. So basic education, education, education not only about hate symbols but also anti-bias education, and just generally how do you stand up against bigotry and hate. We have to inculcate these values in our youth early on.
Question: And then just, I’m sorry –
Mayor: Anna, I just want to get around. We’ll come back to you.
Question: [Inaudible] already said. You said that in the next couple of days you’ll be doing outreach, is that kind of going to be on top of the existing budget for the office?
Mayor: Again, different matter. We’re going to have more to say in the next few days. Go ahead, Erin.
Question: On the – you talked about – like how big is it?
Mayor: How big is the new unit?
Question: [Inaudible] is it already in operation? Or is it going to [inaudible]?
Mayor: In operation, and growing. John?
Deputy Commissioner Miller: So, it’s been in operation for several weeks with the team together. We have been recruiting an additional half-dozen people, but it’s going to round out to a couple of dozen, so 24-25, combination of NYPD detectives, Intelligence Bureau, analysts, and partners from outside agencies.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: Commissioner Miller and Commissioner Shea, could any of you talk about the [inaudible] in Jersey City, their presence and activity in New York City and what – how this new program you [inaudible]?
Commissioner Shea: What I’ll say is obviously it’s a Jersey-led investigation. I’m aware of many of the reports that are already surfacing about the several of the identities. We’ll be working closely with our partners in Jersey City, as well through John’s JTTF with the FBI to peel back the individuals involved in this, the scope of it, is there anyone else involved and all of those networks if they exist will be examined. But it’s a little preliminary right to be commenting on the individuals and any affiliations they may have had.
Question: I just want [inaudible] I know we have covered this, [inaudible] briefing, can you just talk in general about what the rise in hate crime numbers look like, the kind of – the increase that we have seen in the last year or two years. And if you could tie it to anything specifically that’s been happening in our society in the last few years, why we are seeing this increase, it’s something we haven’t seen in many, many years.
Mayor: As the Commissioner comes over on the facts, I’m just going to say, you know, in the most American way meaning non-partisan, non-ideological, it’s just clear there’s more division, there’s more hatred, it’s getting more permission. We could all go into the how and why, but, you know, we all have eyes to see that the civic discourse, the what you’re allowed to say and not say, is really different from just three or four years ago and there’s no question that that’s part of the equation, but there’s other things going on too.
And that’s why we got – that’s why Deborah and this office exist, and credit to the City Council that really leaned in heavily to move this, because we’ve got to figure out what is wrong, particularly with our young people, that they could be experiencing such a misunderstanding of the world, even to the point of lashing out with symbols of hate they don’t even understand, right? That something is profoundly wrong there that’s going to take real work at the grassroots level to get at. So I think your questions – you know the basic foundational question, I wish I had a perfect answer, but I do think more permission has been given for hate and that’s very dangerous. On the facts of the cases, numbers?
Commissioner Shea: Yeah, when you look at what we’re saying, Gloria, something that I’ve spoken about before, it’s – we’re up 70 hate crimes reported in New York City this year. Of that we’re up 39 specifically anti-Semitic. The anti-Semitic hate crimes are up 22 percent this year and that’s, you know, a significant increase, an increase of much less I would say the same, and that’s certainly the case. What we’re seeing, I highlighted a few examples before. Most of them are not physical assaults, and I don’t mean that to downplay what they are though, in any way, shape, or form. We’ve seen examples of women walking on the street and people coming up and smacking hats off heads, or wigs taken off, I think about the – just the most basic level the lack of respect that that displays. We’ve seen cars pull up and people jump out trying to scare people, specifically young Jewish children that are walking on the street, or walking home from a synagogue. Would the courts treat that as the most serious offense? No. Do we? We absolutely do.
I think it’s systematic of what we’re seeing in society, just a basic lack of respect. Are there undercurrents of what are happening in other parts of the country? Clearly. I think as I said before the common denominator is – you can call it ignorance and maybe that’s not the appropriate word, but I’ll call it that. It’s hate, its lack of respect for fellow human beings. But clearly, in conversations with the Mayor, I mean this is something that we’ve seen in New York City in the distant past, we’ve seen it more recently. Think about the normalcy of this event today, where this is becoming the new norm in the United States, for a group of leaders to stand up and talk about mass killings. I think it’s a sad day and it says, unfortunately, a lot of wrong things about where we are today.
Mayor: We’ll get you the exact facts. Go ahead, Noah.
Question: Alright. A couple of follow up questions on some of the stuff you said. First, is there any estimates of the number of kids you’ve taken to the Auschwitz exhibit and sort of introduced to the horrors of the Holocaust and how kids manage to become teenagers and never really realize what the Holocaust entailed and what the swastika meant.
Mayor: [Inaudible] you want to talk about the –
Question: And before she goes, just secondly, you mentioned efforts to tighten cooperation between the Police Department and prosecutors when it comes to going after hate crimes in the city. Are there any notable lapses that leap to your mind, cases where you thought hate crimes should have been brought as criminal charges but weren’t?
Mayor: I’m going to speak broadly to that but you speak to the first part about what we’re doing, and again, your efforts are nascent, let’s remember the office started in September, it’s only December. But any kind of sense of what’s being built up to bring young people to see these kinds of exhibits – obviously the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn is another very powerful place for that kind of education to happen.
Executive Director Lauter: Right, I don’t – I don’t have the exact numbers with me but you can contact the museum. They have reported a definite increase and a definite increase in the number of student tours that are coming through. From what I can glean, there are a number of already really good resources on Holocaust education and anti-Semitism. It’s a matter of how much are they actually being used – teachers have challenges with time and what not and I believe it’s time to look at the values in our schools and doing a little bit more concentration on teaching kids not just to respect the other, respect themselves, which I think will have larger consequences.
They also have to understand that when they do these kinds of incidents ike a swastika, there is a pyramid of hate and, you know, the Holocaust didn’t happen in a vacuum. It started with words and it started with discrimination and bigotry and that’s why we’re gathered today because every single act that happens needs to be condemned and we need to set a tone that is not acceptable. So how do you create a healthy community? These are ways to do it.
Question: It’s a terrible story though. You know, kids—
Executive Director Lauter: Right.
Question: —you know, indulging in a toxic symbol like the swastika and being taken to the museum—
Executive Director Lauter: Right.
Question: I’m curious, have you been on any of these trips yourself, can you sort of explain to me what you witness as you see these kids?
Executive Director Lauter: These are profoundly impacting the kids, not just the tours of the museums but having survivors come and speak to kids. You see kids really understand the consequence of hate, as the survivor community is diminishing, these kinds of programs are more important than ever. I know some Assemblymen have been coordinating – that’s part of what our office is doing, is looking where these programs have been most effective and trying to scale them up immediately.
Mayor: Okay, wait, wait. Hold on, we have to keep moving along. Let me speak to your previous points. The – first of all, I think we’re starting to understand more and more. I feel for our young people too, and I don’t mean that in the sense of ever tolerating any hatred. I don’t tolerate any hatred. I feel for our young people because they are coming up in a more divided society, they are coming up in a more confusing society, they are exposed to – I say this as a parent – way too much information way too early, including hate speech. We have to understand, and it gets to Dermot’s point, some of this is inevitably, unquestionably, about the last few years, but some of this is much more foundational in terms of what’s happening in our society. It’s really dangerous. We didn’t know how to prepare ourselves for an age at which a 10-year-old could get access to all the information in the world, including horrible negative voices that that 10-year-old doesn’t know how to sort out from a positive voice. So we are in a brave new world here that’s not all good by any stretch and we’ve got to make sense of it. I think parents, that’s again a mix of what government can do and what the individual has to do, parents have to do their best to talk it through with kids, to provide a positive example, to address the problems. I know this is as a parent, when all that new information is coming into a child, you have to have a much more intense, engaged conversation to help them make sense of it.
So that’s part of it. I think all of us at the community level, houses of worship, community leaders are all going to have to work on dispelling hatred and working together and showing unity. Our schools, I agree with Deborah – we’re going to have to ramp up. The good news in that is that social-emotional learning actually fits very positively and early in a child’s educational time with having the ability to talk through these things, understand, respect people more, diffuse conflict, we’re going to be doing a lot more of that. But this is multi-multi layered.
On the question of the prosecutions, I don’t have a perfect vignette for you, but I can say that we know there’s been a culture throughout prosecutor’s offices – they have such volume to deal with, they do plea bargains, you know, they have to make practical, pragmatic decisions, we understand that, but I also think we can safely say – because hate crimes, unlike some other crimes, have gotten societally much, much worse, and against a back drop where hate speech is being given permission, one of the antidotes is more consequences. So we want to work with the prosecutor’s offices to make sure, whereas in the past there might have been understandably a plea bargain, now maybe there needs to be a harsher outcome. Or in other cases, maybe there could be a more positive outcome where it’s about education and community service. But we’ve got to rethink the whole equation at this point. Who has not gone, if you haven’t gone, I want to give you a chance. Yes?
Question: Can you elaborate on what you mean by a harsher outcome? Do you mean people should go to prison who ordinarily would not go to prison?
Mayor: I think it is case-by-case. So, please, everyone up here especially those in law enforcement would be the first to say each case is individual but I do think that we need to have a culture of consequence. So that means for some people, yes, some people should go to prison who are not, some people should go to prison for longer than they are going now. We’ve got to break the back of this problem.
Question: Can you just elaborate on what specifically you’re doing in Brooklyn? You mentioned that at the top.
Mayor: Yes, we’ll say more in the coming days but I think it is – no one is shocked by the fact that the biggest challenge we have faced in terms of the growth of hate crimes is in Brooklyn and in relatively few neighborhoods in Brooklyn. We have to double down, focusing on these neighborhoods, but that’s everyone. And the folks who are here from Crown Heights will tell you they have experienced some problems lately but they are also the place that can give the best example in this city of people banding together across different communities to address previous horrific hateful acts and really finding a way forward as a community. So we have to deepen that. We need to bring together leaders in Brooklyn and then citywide as well for a very immediate response. We are shaping that now and we’ll have more to say in the next few days.
Question: [Inaudible] more of the cops, you discussed earlier?
Mayor: Where the need is in terms of the Jewish community, obviously, it’s one of the biggest Jewish communities. Let me do these two and we’ll complete.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I wonder if you talked to your constituents who may feel that Jews are different, that Jews are to be feared – what would you say to them to [inaudible]? And Rabbi Niederman, I wondered if you could also answer that question.
Mayor: Rabbi Niederman will go in a second. I’ll say this. Marcia, it’s such a big question and a very fair question but important. Anyone who tells you that Jews are different than you is sowing the seeds of hate and destruction for all of us. It’s as simple as that. Deborah said it a moment ago, don’t treat the Holocaust like something that could never happen again. Don’t treat any horrible acts of hate against any community like they couldn’t happen here. History is trying to, not just talk to us, it’s screaming at us right now, that the exact same patterns are being played out. In Germany, it started with hate speech and it got more and more tolerated and more and more people felt they could say it out loud and then, you know, more and more people started to support them and it was all verbal in the beginning and symbols. And then it turned to physical acts of exclusion and denying civil rights, and then it turned into violence. And so many communities have suffered over the years.
I mean New Yorkers can understand the suffering of each of our own communities. Put yourselves in the shoes of the Jewish community right now. There are people living in this city who were in concentration camps. I have met some of them. There are people with those tattooed numbers on their arms from places like Auschwitz who are living in our community right now. It is not the distant past, its right here with us. So you have to understand how dangerous this situation is.
Now, if a lot of people in Germany in the1920’s and 30’s had stood up and said, ‘There is no way we’re going to accept this, we’re not going to be party to this,’ six million Jews and millions more beyond would have still been alive. So, people all play a role in this. There is a horrifying image and not the later images of murder on a vast scale but the lead-up after the Pittsburgh attack stood Rabbi Arthur Schneier who at the age of I think nine years old stood outside his own synagogue in Vienna on Kristallnacht and it was burning. Vandals – Nazi vandals, organized vandals in an act of terror burned down that synagogue. That was horrible but the worst part of the story – he recounted it to all of us – was that the authorities stood and watched. The fire department stood and watched. The police stood and watched. That wouldn’t have been true ten years earlier in Vienna.
So, the words of hate and the small acts of hate turn into a much greater danger that will threaten us all and it has to end here and now. This is a place where it actually can be stopped and we will use all the force of the NYPD but we have to go much, much deeper than that. Rabbi –
Rabbi David Niederman: Let me just – allow me to mention another wonderful gentleman who lost his life at the incident and that was a worker who worked at the store, not a member of the Jewish community, who I think was named Douglas. When we issued the press release we didn’t have the full details. May he rest in peace. He served everyone who came into that place fairly and our heart goes out. He is also part of what we now call a list of dead people because of horrific criminal activity. So, to your question – was why shouldn’t they be feared?
Question: [Inaudible] should not be feared which is what seems to be [inaudible].
Rabbi Niederman: I think the record we have been for – since our country was created, we were here and of course over the past 60, 70 years after the Mayor so eloquently presented the Holocaust in its real light because the [inaudible] is not only the six million and plus others who were killed but what has led to that and that is an important lesson. But I would say in the 60, 70 years we have been here, we have established organizations, charitable institutions, and you find a bad apple, yes. But we have been living in harmony with our neighbors. Let me talk to you second about Williamsburg. Williamsburg was the first of the first places where we accepted public housing when nobody wanted it. And we accepted that, and we have been for 50 years living in harmony together, come to Williamsburg, don’t believe what you hear. Come and see, side by side, a Jewish community member, a Latino, an African-American, the [inaudible] itself has buildings that we have built. We all live together, mixed, integrated. So therefore you should not be feared. Ask the people Schaefer – in Schaefer Landing, where we were the sponsors of 141 units, 42 are Jewish, the rest is everybody in the world. What we see in our mix and we live together. Look at what happened, this person, one of the members of the communities hospitalized and hopefully he’ll go home soon, he was – he ran out and who saved him? A community, minority neighbor pulled him into his house. This should be glorified and to show us that we should show us that we should stay together and that’s the answer, we are charitable, we are working with our neighbors, and as Deborah will tell you, I’ve been going out, I’ve met with the principals, thank you Mr. Mayor. The District – Superintendent called together her whole cabinet, and we are going to go into the schools – Deborah was there – and Mr. Mayor, I can just tell you God should give you the strength to continue to lead the city in a very safe and peaceful city.
Mayor: Gloria, last question.
Question: Mr. Mayor, there was some – and the Rabbi also alluded to this – there’s some [inaudible] hesitation perhaps in getting all the information outright at first from Mayor Fulop and not calling this an act of hate or an act of terror early on yesterday and until this morning. I wonder if then – for the Commissioner as well – if you have any insight as to why that was—
Mayor: As I turn to the Commissioner just to say – and I have great respect for Mayor Fulop and I think he’s handled a very difficult situation very well, as have all the police and other officials in Jersey City. When these situations are emerging and they are often chaotic and information is contradictory, you really have to be careful that when you say something, you’re absolutely sure. And for much of the afternoon yesterday, we got multiple, ever-changing stories, so I think the Mayor was right to make sure when he did speak, that he felt it was 100 percent accurate.
Question: Commissioner, if just – if I could add, I know the Jersey City Police Department is leading the investigation. With what’s been reported so far about what groups might have been behind this, is there any fear or are you guys looking into the possibility that those same groups are here in the city and that they might be some sort of copycat or an attempt at recreating—
Commissioner Shea: So on the second point first, there’s absolutely concern. This is what – this is what we do with our JTTF, with our Intelligence Bureau, with Fausto’s patrol, you know, the information comes in depending on what the information is and we deploy accordingly. Again, we have – we don’t give specifics, but we have hundreds of officers today deployed throughout New York City to strategic locations to make sure that all New Yorkers are safe and that’s a very important – and the facts of this investigation as any one, will lead us to wherever the truth is as we peel back and learn more about this incident in particular. To how it unfolded yesterday, I would just say in general terms, as any incident of this nature – the chaotic nature – this one in particular with the lengthy gun battle, essentially, that took place over protracted period of time, as the information through the afternoon, I think it was actually relatively quick that they were able to discern what they believed it was once the immediacy of the danger was subsided. The crime scene was dealt with, now you start to be able to interview people. You start to be able to review video. None of this is happening while there is an active gun battle with hundreds of hundreds of rounds, in its simplest terms. Many, many stories came out and as they often do, the facts turn sideways or completely, 180 degrees. Is it related to other crimes, is there a pursuit into this store? As it stabilized in real short term, they were able to discern and communicate to us what transpired.
Mayor: And just to conclude, Gloria, to your question, one – again – emphasizing there is no credible and specific threat directed at New York City. Two, the entire purpose of the unit that John Miller has created over these last weeks and now is going to gather strength is to look at these trends and look for potential connections. All the crimes – I’m so sorry, to Dermot’s point, what the new normal is, I’m sorry that John Miller had to recite a list of horrifying incidents from around the United States of America, and it was only the last year or two those incidents he recited. But this is why we will now have a unit that looks at all of these groups, these trends, these connections, looking for anything else that can be prevented because so many of the challenges, you know, right here in our own nation that we have address. Thank you, everyone.