BY WINNIE MCCROY
April 12, 2017
New Yorkers are standing up against hate crime, with Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen eager to designate their area as a “hate-free” zone. Responding to the March 20 domestic terrorism slaying of Timothy Caughman by white supremacist James Harris Jackson, community members sought to send a message to elected officials in Washington, DC, and the rest of the country: New York City will not tolerate hate.
So, at the April 5 Community Board 4 (CB4) full board meeting at Mt. Sinai West (1000 10th Ave.), the Board unanimously voted to approve a letter to the NYC District Attorney Cy Vance and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill regarding hate crimes and terrorism. They thanked the men for their swift arrest of Jackson, and asked what strategies were in place to prevent future acts of terrorism in their community. They also expressed concern that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had refused to condemn the murder “as a white supremacist hate crime and terrorist act,” as Mayor Bill de Blasio has done.
“He was attacked because of who he was, plain and simple. And don’t think for a moment it was an attack on one stray man, because it was an attack on all of us,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at Caughman’s April 1 funeral. “It was a racist attack. It was an act of domestic terrorism; we have to call it what it is. But it was also an attack on all of us, because this city stands for something. So, it’s no surprise that evil came calling here.”
Meant to address this “evil,” the letter ended with a call to “find ways to prevent assassinations of innocent people on the sidewalks of our Midtown community by violent extremists of all stripes.”
Calling it a “masterful letter,” CB4 Chair Delores Rubin said it had generated a very fruitful conversation within the Executive Committee about how none are immune to hate, adding, “someone lost their life because someone did not like that they were black. We would hope we were at an age where we didn’t have to see that.”
“I felt this was very important, because this man was a member of our community who was stabbed by a sword so big it went right through his back,” said the letter’s author, CB4 Member JD Noland. “It was murder by an act of terror; a terrorist act in our neighborhood by a man who came up from Baltimore specifically to kill black people. He was a member of a white supremacist group who went on websites just like Dylann Roof, who killed those nine parishioners in a church in South Carolina.”
Noland said the board should speak out not only because Caughman was a member of the community, but because Jackson came to New York City because it is the media center of the country, and he thought he could get more publicity for his crime.
“This was an attack on diversity by a man who came up here to kill black people, and it’s important that we say that,” said Noland. “If he had come up here to kill white women, they would not characterize it as an ‘attack on diversity.’ But it is important for us to speak up for our lost community member to the White House, who of course won’t respond. When Sean Spicer was asked, he would not call the attack an act of terror.”
City Councilmember and former CB4 Chair Corey Johnson stopped by the meeting to speak about standing up to hate crimes like this.
“The world seems crazier every day, and hearing about this kind of hatred is a nightmare for some of us,” said Johnson. “But the silver lining to this is that New York and the West Side are one of the biggest epicenters of the resistance, fighting anti-democratic actions. I am proud to represent a district with such activism, that is engaged, organized, and fighting back. I ask all of you to keep doing that.”
“One big lesson to take from this election is that democracy is not a spectator sport,” said Johnson. “Civic participation is required, not just posting on Facebook. You need to be out there door knocking, phone banking, educating friends and neighbors, and working to make sure elected officials aren’t just serving the wealthy — or the Russians.”
The Chelsea Now Police Blotter of March 30 covered the fatal stabbing of the 66-year-old African American New Yorker, stabbed at 11:25 p.m. near the corner of W. 36th St. and Ninth Ave. Jackson plunged a 26-inch sword through Caughman’s chest, puncturing vital organs. The 28-year-old Baltimore resident later turned himself in at the Times Square subway station, telling police that he came to New York City for the “express purpose of killing black men.”
On Thurs., March 23, Jackson was arraigned for murder as a hate crime, and later charged with murder as an act of terror, in addition to assorted weapons-related charges.
The attack is part of a surge in hate crimes in New York City, and around the country, since Donald Trump was elected to the presidency. A Dec. 1, 2016 article in Chelsea Now (“Tracking, Reporting, and Responding to Hate Crimes”) noted that the NYPD had logged 25 percent more bias crimes that year than in the year before, rising from 260 to 350 — the worst in the past eight years.
Rebecca Teitel, producer/director of the film “Hate in America: Stories From the Files of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” told the audience at a Jan. 29, 2017 Town Hall sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman that, in the recent political climate, “It’s really unlikely you’re going to get the Department of Justice investigating hate crimes.”
However, the spike in hate crimes did prompt Governor Andrew Cuomo to create a New York State Hate Crimes Unit comprised of investigators trained as “bias crime specialists” that will assist local district attorneys to prosecute hate crimes. And now, citizens are eager to team up with legislators to designate the West Side a “hate-free zone.”
“I want us to ask the DA and NYPD what can be put in place in the center of Manhattan to protect the community,” said Noland.
Maarten de Kadt spoke about the impassioned nature of the letter, and while he didn’t offer an amendment against hate, he did note that it was a prime opportunity to position CB4 as an organization that “declares ourselves to be against hate, in an area that hates hate.”
After voting unanimously to send the letter to the DA and NYPD, CB4 Chair members echoed the calls to designate their area as a “hate-free zone,” with Rubin noting that the board would have conversation at an upcoming Arts, Culture, Education and Street Life Committee (ACES) on the proposed adoption of making the West Side a “hate-free zone” on April 17.
The next full board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wed., May 3 in the Dan Carpenter Room at Hudson Guild (441 W. 26 St., btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.). Visit nyc.gov/mcb4.