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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at a Rally Against Anti-Semitism

February 14, 2019

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you. Jeff, I want to thank you for all that you have done for the community. I want to thank you for everything, all the good that the Kingsway Jewish Center does for this community. I know you know from personal experience what the scourge of anti-Semitism means because of your family’s horrible loss in the Holocaust and what you have experienced personally. And I want to tell everyone, we're here because this is a community in New York City that has suffered the experience of hate crimes, including recently. This is a community where Holocaust survivors live. And this is a reminder to all of us – and it's a very sad reality, but anti-Semitism is alive and well in this world, in this city, in this country, and it must be stamped out once and for all.

[Applause]
This is not a small thing. People right here in this community in Brooklyn have seen in their own lives what happens when anti-Semitism goes unchecked, when people stay silent, when the authorities don't do anything, in countries that families here came from, they watched complacency, silence. They watched opportunism that led to horrifying results. This is why if anyone tries to dismiss anti-Semitism, if anyone tries to suggest that it's not such a big problem, they need to look at history, not just a little bit of history, two millennia of history, of bias and discrimination against the Jewish people in countries all over the world – and unfortunately we're still grappling with it here. They're still grappling with it and Europe. It never went away and we have to be blunt about it. It never went away and we're dealing with it to this day and it's very dangerous. History tells us, if you take it lightly, people will be hurt and people will die and we will not allow that in New York City. This place is proud of being a city for everyone – a city for everyone, a city that respects everyone. We also are the city with the largest Jewish population of any city in the world, and we have to be a beacon. We have to be the example to the entire world of what it means to protect our Jewish community. This is what we're here to say today. New York City will never be silent in the face of hatred.

[Applause]

And I want this to be very clear because again, it's personal for a lot of people here, right here in this community. A 77-year-old woman woke up one day to find swastikas scrawled on her front door. Someone who has been a part of the community, lived her life, given to others, and is pained, horrified to see the very symbol associated with a slaughter of six million people – right here, in Brooklyn, in 2019. So this is not just about saying we don't like it. This is about making very clear we will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism. There will be consequences. You're going to hear from Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison in a moment, but I want to give this message loud and clear to anyone who has hatred in their heart and they're thinking of going out and scrawling something on a subway or a front door, they're thinking of attacking an individual because of what they're wearing or because of the language they speak. If you do that, we will find you. We will arrest you and you will go to prison. Period.

[Applause]

We are here united and I want to thank the leaders of the community because they every day are fighting this antisemitism and they have stayed strong. Again, everyone at Kingsway Jewish Center and a particular thanks to Rabbi Etan Tokayer – my apology – Rabbi Tokayer. Also, we're joined by students from one of the great institutions in Brooklyn that prepares the next generation of leaders who will continue to create a more just world. I want to thank all of the students from Yeshivah Flatbush who are here with us.

[Applause]

I want to thank the elected officials who have stood strong. When the elected officials in the community see an act of hate, they are quick to call upon the city and to demand action on behalf of the community. We depend on them to help us know what we have to do to make things right. I want to thank, it's her district, Assembly Member Helene Weinstein for her leadership.

[Applause]

Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein, thank you.

[Applause]

And Council Member Kalman Yeger. Thank you.

[Applause]

So let's talk about the fact we were horrified as New Yorkers, as Americans, at what happened to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the worst, most violent anti-Semitic attack in the history United States of America. And it wasn't something that happened a hundred years ago in history. It was something that happened in our time, and that is a wakeup call to the danger. What we saw happen in Paris over the last few years. We're talking about the places where we thought things like this couldn't happen. And this is why we're on full alert, even in our city that does so much to fight anti-Semitism, this year we see sobering things happening in our communities. The rise in hate crimes through February 10th this year, 47 hate incidents in New York City compared to 27 during the same period in 2018. Now, here's what we should all be particularly concerned about – over two-thirds of those hate crimes targeted the Jewish community. Something is wrong and it must be addressed. It must be addressed in every part of our society, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our homes, we have to make sure that everyone hears a message of mutual respect and the voices of hate are confronted.

But we also have to be very clear that sometimes the best way to get the point across is to show the extent of the consequences. So, I want to be very clear. It's illegal to scrawl any kind of graffiti in New York City, but if you scroll hate graffiti, you're going to go to the prison for a longer time. It's illegal to assault anyone in New York City, but if that assault is based on hatred, if it is a hate crime, you will spend years more in prison. I want people to understand this. Years of your life you will be sent to prison if you assault someone based on bias. This is not a joke. This is serious stuff and the pain this community feels, and I've heard it from so many people, the pain this community feels right now is intense and it's palpable because people know what hatred leads to. Every family in this community in one way or another can tell you the story of how hatred harmed their family, took their loved ones from them, and I understand that fear. I understand why it's so personal. Every New Yorker should understand that. Every New Yorker should be part of solving this crisis. When we say, if you see something, say something, that's not just about terrorism, that's about anything that would tear us apart. If you see someone committing an act of hate, report it to the NYPD immediately. If someone talks about wanting to commit an act of hate, tell the authorities immediately. Because if we do not confront it, it will only spread and we can't allow that.

I want to say one more thing before turning to Chief Harrison and to two of the most prominent leaders of this community, we need to understand the place of Israel in world history, because it connects here. We need to understand that Israel was created not just as a dream of a homeland for people who had lost their homeland, but also as a refuge from a world filled with hate. Now, this is a government gathering, but it doesn't stop me from making a bipartisan statement, a bipartisan statement. Democrats and Republicans with equal fervor need to say – Israel must exist so the Jewish people know they are always protected.

[Applause]

And you could say, well, wait, no, it's different now. That was back then. It's different now. This is not 1948. We're in an enlightened time. Well, I say, if you think we're so enlightened, why did we see those attacks in Paris, the city of light? If we're so advanced, why we're innocent Jewish seniors killed in the Tree of Life Synagogue? Why are hate crimes rising in the most tolerant, diverse city on earth? Because there's a problem and we have to get to the root of it. Israel is just as necessary today as ever, and it must be protected. And I want to say again on a bipartisan basis, and I am a progressive, and I say this proud that you can disagree with the government of Israel on any particular matter. Everyone has that right. But don't do anything that attacks the fundamental right of Israel to exist.

[Applause]

And maybe some people don't realize it, but when they support the BDS movement, they are affronting the right of Israel to exist and that is unacceptable.

[Applause]

As I turned to Chief Harrison with deep appreciation for his work and the work of all the men and women of the NYPD to protect this community, and it is a labor of love in the NYPD. The NYPD understands they need to be guardians of all of us, every community, and they take hate crimes very, very seriously. I think it's exemplary what the NYPD does. But the way this city operates, and the way the NYPD operates follows on the words of one of the greatest voices of the last century, Elie Wiesel, when he said the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. In this city, we are not indifferent. We are strong, we are passionate in our defense of the community, and we see it every day when someone does something violent, when someone does something biased and discriminatory and hateful, and the next thing they find is an NYPD officer there to arrest them. To show them there will be consequences, I want to bring forward Chief Rodney Harrison.

[Applause]

Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison, NYPD: Mr. Mayor, thank you. I want to thank the elected officials for being here today. I want to thank the community leaders as well, my fellow police officers for their great support, and thank everybody for being here this morning. Hate crimes are a matter that we take very seriously here in the NYPD and as of Tuesday, we've had a – seen a spike, 49 reports of hate crimes throughout the city. This is an increase of 81 percent over the same time last year. Anti-Semitic crimes make up almost two-thirds of that where we've seen 32 crimes citywide. But I want to stress, hate has no place in New York City and if you commit a hate crime we will catch you and we will prosecute you through the fullest extent of the law.

[Applause]

This is why we investigate every one of these cases thoroughly. Our precinct detective squads will always investigate every single possible hate crime and our Hate Crimes Task Force, led by Deputy Inspector Mark Molinari, will conduct thorough investigations. As we identify trends we deploy resources we need to address the situations. We'll let our precinct officers know of locations that they should pay attention to while they're out there on patrol. We're putting more police officers in the areas of concern and we'll continue increased coverage to wipe out these incidents from occurring.

We'll train our officers to stay vigilant with any potential hate crimes developing and just as important, we'll be transparent and keep you informed of issues as they arise because no one is a more important resource than you, the people of New York City. We – you know the places you live and work deeply and we want you to know that when you see anything that needs our attention, we are here to help. Our Crime Prevention officers, our neighborhood coordination officers will work with you to develop security plans for your cultural centers, your houses of worship, your places of business. Our detectives will review security camera footage to enhance the cases, and our patrol and community affairs officers will provide additional security at events that you may have.

I know many of you are doing these things already, but it's important to stress so we can help you as much as we can. Thanks to the resources we received from Mayor de Blasio and the City Council, neighborhood policing is in place citywide. You have a neighborhood coordination officer, NCO, dedicated to your specific part of the precinct and they're willing to meet with you to find out any concerns that you may have. And if you feel that they're not helping you or your community, please let us know. It's our job to make sure every New York City resident feels safe in the city and our tens of thousands officers and detectives and supervisors are ready to work with you to make that happen. Thank you very much.

[Applause]

Mayor: I want everyone to just recognize something very powerful in the words of Chief Harrison, not only are we going out throughout the community to make sure the security plans are in place, not only do we have more officers on the street – and thank you to the City Council again – we have more officers so we can deploy more officers to places that need that extra protection, extra presence. What he just said, if you don't feel it's enough, let us know, and we will do more. Think about the world we're living in and think about the history of Jewish people. How few times any government ever said, if you don't feel safe enough, tell us and we will do more.

Unfortunately, it’s a rare experience in the history of Jewish people all over this world, but here in New York City, we want to make clear, we will not allow fear to win. We will never allow fear to win. People have to know they are safe and they are respected. With that I want to turn to someone I have known for decades and I think people all over the city see him as one of the great voices of truth and a great leader of the community. Rabbi Michael Miller.

[Applause]

[...]

Mayor: So, our young friend – okay over there? Alright, good. He’s okay? Alright. I want you to – go get him water. There's water right behind him, in fact. Let's get them that water.

I want you to hear from one of the great voices of reconciliation because we're going to continue to educate, continue to change minds and hearts, but at the same time, as Michael Miller said, make sure there are very clear consequences for those who hate. That work of trying in a difficult world to keep healing, to keep moving forward – one of the great leaders of that work is Rabbi Joseph Potasnik

[...]

Mayor: To conclude, I want you to hear from our elected officials who fight this battle every day, and I want to start with our host Assembly Member Helene Weinstein.

[...]

Mayor: Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein.

[...]

Mayor: Council Member Kalman Yeger.

[...]

Mayor: As we conclude, I want to just tell a quick story. When Kalman was speaking, it made me remember very vividly there was a Shabbat dinner and it was Assemblyman Dov Hikind and his wife Shani invited me and my family over when I was a City Councilman. And it was a very warm, engaging evening – everyone talking together in a spirit of brotherhood. People, obviously – my family, the Hikind family, different backgrounds, but all in fellowship together. And my
daughter was sitting next to Dov Hikind's mom and at one point she turned to us all and said that she had gone through the experience of the Holocaust but she had not lost her hope.

And I marveled at her because she had an energy and a love and a warmth about her, no matter how horrible and how tragic and unfair everything she had experienced in her youth was, she had found a reasons is still be hopeful. She had built a beautiful family. She was telling the story and at the end of the story she spontaneously rolled up her sleeve, and my children saw the number on her arm from Auschwitz, and that brought home to me and to them that this history is still with us, this danger is still with us.

In the lifetimes of people walking the streets of our city this most horrific act still lives through them to remind us of how vigilant we must be. But it was also reminder at that Shabbat dinner that everyone must be part of the solution. We can never leave the Jewish people isolated and alone again.

And so I say to all New Yorkers, if you hear anyone suggesting an act of hatred towards the Jewish community or towards any community, it's time to stand up for the values of New York City. If you hear that, you must act. You cannot be indifferent. You must be part of the solution. A true New Yorker stands up against hate. Thank you. God bless you all.

[Applause]

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