Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at the National Action Network Rally

May 7, 2016

Reverend Al Sharpton: We’re happy to be with you another Saturday morning for our Saturday Action Rally. For you that are here live at the House of Justice, 106 West 145th Street in the village of Harlem, you that are watching us nationwide on livestream, and you that are listening live on 1190 WLIB AM in New York, we’re happy to be with you another Saturday morning where the action is. Give a hand to our presider, attorney Michael Hardy.

[Applause]

And certainly our Northeast Director of National Action Network, the Minister Kirsten John Foy.

[Applause]

I want to thank Assemblyman Keith Wright.

[Applause]

And his efforts in really highlighting what we need to be doing around the issue of Puerto Rico, and we will talk more about that in a moment. And certainly our Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz.

[Applause]

Who we have fought a long time, together.  And then certainly who’s a member here – he’s here most Saturdays – is City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

[Applause]

Let me say before moving forward, one of the things that was most, in my opinion, most noteworthy this week was the President about a year-and-a-half ago had met with five or six of us in national civil rights groups. And he told us when we were complaining that many of the Black and Latino community had not seen commutations and pardons and sentences. He said well now y’all need to the paperwork and get more done. Several years ago Attorney Michael Hardy started Thursday night Legal Nights, where 12 or 15 lawyers sit here and a couple hundred of you come out that cannot find legal help. Some don’t have the $50 for consultation fee. Others don’t know where to go. And they’ve done this the last Thursday in every month for years. Last year, a lady came and talked about her son and Attorney Hardy worked with her, worked with the commutation lawyers. Her son, Kenneth – Kenneth Kemp – had been incarcerated on a nonviolent drug crime, has done 22 years. She came to Legal Night. Attorney Hardy worked with her and worked with the commutation lawyers. And this Thursday, President Obama commuted the sentence of her son. Stand up.

[Applause]

I think – I want y’all to know we do more than march here. We get stuff done. And I want to give a big hand – had it not been for Attorney Hardy and Legal Night, this [inaudible].

[Applause]

Give Attorney Harding a big hand. Stand up there next to Attorney Harding. Come on.

[Applause]

I came into the office and Attorney Hardy had started crying. I didn’t know what had happened. And he told me the man he was working for and working on had been commuted. God bless you.

[Applause]

And we’re so happy. We wanted her here this morning to let y’all know National Action Network is real, real action. Isn’t that wonderful?

[Applause]

We are concerned, and we are very much involved with 32BJ and dealing with what must happen for Puerto Rico. I remember in 2001 Lin-Manuel, who just became the toast of the Tony’s, told a story at our convention. He used to do poems and rhymes for when I was running for president and did them when I was in jail in Vieques. I feel like I’m getting old when I say that young boy used to work for me.

Y’all supposed to say you ain’t that old. Y’all missed your line.

[Laughter]

But as I also deal with a progressive agenda globally, we must deal with it locally. One of the things that I hope – and you know, I try to leave Kirsten and them dealing with a lot of local things. But one of the things that is disturbing to me is that as we get caught up in all of what is on and in the news, that we not lose sight of what we are supposed to be getting done.
Yes, there’s all kind of stuff out in terms of the Mayor and the situation. Y’all know I talk to straight to the point. Nobody taught me how to put sweetener in my drink.

[Laughter]

Mayor de Blasio stood on this stage as a candidate – talked about stop-and-frisk, talked about pre-K, talked about dealing with criminal justice, talked about crime because of gun violence, and he was elected – stop-and-frisk has been brought down, crime has been brought down, gun violence brought down, 70 percent graduation rate, pre-K.

[Applause]

That must continue. When I hear Republicans in Albany talking about, as they are discussing mayoral control, whether there’s some investigation – that has nothing to do with servicing the people of the city. He has delivered on that. We’ve got to keep on delivering on that.

[Applause]

Let those things take care of themselves. Do not try and charge the people with some politics, while we ought to be dealing with continuing the education of our children, and bringing crime down, and servicing the people of the City. We’re not going to stand by and allow that to happen.

[Applause]

Now, let’s be real clear. Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, whatever is going on – I’m not a lawyer or an investigation – but I am telling you, I’ve known Bill de Blasio for 25 years. And he’s operated with integrity. And we are not going to react to nothing – to rumors and innuendos – we’re going to see where things go.

[Applause]

But we will keep working while we watch. Y’all can get caught up in all that. We are not going to stop the progressive agenda in the midst of all of this.

[Applause]

Friend of mine said to me last night, well Reverend you know they got clouds over. I said that’s all right, I fly a lot.

[Laughter]

And I tend to sit down in my seat, put on my seat belt, and relax. He said why, how you do that? Because the pilot has been trained to fly through clouds. Bill de Blasio didn’t start yesterday.

[Applause]

He’s worked with candidates. He’s worked with people in office that had to deal with clouds. I don’t know the particulars of the accusations, but I know he’s been trained how to fly through clouds. I bring you the Mayor of the City of New York Bill de Blasio.

[Applause]

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you so much. It is a joy to be at the National Action Network.

Rev, I want to tell you something. I think – I think you were trained to fly through clouds too. I think you – you proved long ago, a man with a vision for social justice could take all the slings and arrows and keep growing. And take what was once a small, local movement and turn it into a national power. That is what the National Action Network is today.

[Applause]

And let me tell you something about Rev. If he had let the slings and arrows get to him, if he had let the insults and the attacks get to him, he could have given up long ago. Have you ever noticed this man to ever give up in the face of opposition?

[Applause]

And at the same time, have you noticed that so many of the things he was talking about ten and twenty years ago are finally becoming something that everyone agrees on? So, he’s an example to all of us that when we have the right idea and we have vision for the people – keep fighting, keep fighting – never be surprised by opposition. Opposition is part of our lives when you make change. I saw that long ago when I was student activist. I saw it when I was fighting to get the United States out of Central America in military intervention there. I saw it over and over again throughout my life. And I – it’s true – worked with some extraordinary people who had to fly through clouds all the time. David Dinkins had to fly through a lot of clouds. Bill Lynch had to fly through a lot of clouds. Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton had to fly through a lot of clouds. People kept going because they believed in something.

Now, I want to talk about this moment very quickly first. I’m so appreciative to all my colleagues in government here and everyone at NAN who’s standing up for Puerto Rico. Because talk about people who are confronting opposition and are being put down. Look at what’s happening to the Puerto Rican people. They have lived their lives. They have tried to do all they knew how to do to be good people, good members of their family. And what are they being given in return for that? The backs of the United States government turned on them, while a healthcare crisis grows, a humanitarian crisis grows, the Zika crisis grows. By the way, brothers and sisters, do you think by any chance it could be because they’re people of color?

[Yes]

Any possibility that has something to do with it?

[Yes]

So let’s speak truth. If this were happening in anywhere in the fifty states, it’d be a whole different picture. And we understand that in New York City. We are Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is us. We will not stand for them to be treated like second-class citizens.

[Applause]

So that’s a fight we have to fight.

But let me also give you some breaking news that’s such a real ray of light in this world. So much has been done to try and divide people. By the way, the presumptive Republican nominee has tried to divide people. His chief opponent was trying to divide people. And they really, literally picked out every part of the American population to try to denigrate. But you particularly remember that moment Donald Trump said that Muslims should not be allowed in this country. And you remember that moment when Ted Cruz said that Muslim neighborhoods should be “patrolled and secured.” We’re talking about our fellow Americans. We’re talking about our neighbors. I happened to be standing next to Bill Bratton the moment that comment from Ted Cruz was reported. I’ve never seen an angrier human being than Bill Bratton who told Ted Cruz where he could go with his comment. He told him he knew nothing about how to treat people properly, how to create security, how to create a safe and unified community.

And while all that’s going on – you’d figure the well’s getting poisoned all over the Western world, and the division that’s being fomented, and it’s just going to get worse and worse – and then here’s this ray of light from yesterday in London, England. People of London chose a good, progressive man as their next Mayor. He happens to be the son of Pakistani immigrants. He happens to be a Muslim.

[Applause]

And a lot of people in this room have studied history and know something about colonialism and imperialism. How wonderful – yes, a bit ironic – but more important a statement of progress that the place that used to be the capital of colonialism has elected a Muslim man as its Mayor.

[Applause]

So there is progress to be had, and I want to talk about our city. You know, many people here participated in the silent march a few years ago down Fifth Avenue to protest the unconstitutional, and broken, and discriminatory policy of stop-and-frisk. Rev referenced the forum that was held right here. It used to be in this city, that we were told over and over again – you have to choose. You can either have a safe city, but not have your rights respected; or you can have fairness, and chaos and violence at the same time. What do you choose? And do you know what the people of New York City said? They said that’s a false choice. We don’t accept that choice. We will not be belittled with that choice. We will stand up and demand safety and fairness go hand in hand.

[Applause]

It used to be that was impossible. Today, as Rev said, we have changed things fundamentally. The city becomes safer – much more to do my friends, much more to do – but the city becomes safer and fairer. How many good, young men of color have not been stopped, have not been treated like they were part of the problem, when in fact they are our future, they are our hope?

[Applause]

700,000 stops in the year 2011. By last year, 25,000 people stopped because in so many cases, there was a very specific reason. And that’s what we expect of our police. We want people treated with respect, and we proved that when you bring police and community together, you become safer. You become safer when there’s respect and partnership, and that’s where this city needs to go.

It used to be that you were told you had to have less when it came to education. After-school programs were cut back. And parents were told well good luck – good luck with your children. We’re not going to give you after school for them. You have to work. You have a busy life. You want your kids to be safe. You want to give learning. But we’re not going to give you afterschool. Today, every middle school child in New York City is guaranteed an after-school seat for free.

[Applause]

It used to be that we said we wanted to fix our schools, but we didn’t reach our children when they need it the most, which is when they were youngest. It used to be we were told we couldn’t afford full-day pre-K for every child. What’s more precious than our children? What’s more important to our future than our children? We said you know what would actually change this town, you know what would create fairness, and justice, and hope – full-day pre-K for every single child for free.

[Applause]

It used to be that developers got to decide what happened in our neighborhoods. Whatever they wanted to build, by and large they got to build. They were not, in any way, shape, or form, required to create what the community needed. Today, because of the action of the City Council just weeks ago, developers are now required to build affordable housing when we give them the right to build high. Required.

[Applause]

So it’s very simple. The people spoke. The people said we don’t accept the rules of the past. We don’t accept the status quo that was unfair to the majority of people in this city. It was time for something different.

Now, brothers and sisters, guess what, when you do something different – as we talked about at the beginning – opposition emerges. The voices of the status quo find many, many ways to undermine progress, to stand in the way of progress. But we will not be held back. We will not be held down. We’ll keep moving forward. And I need your help to do that. I need your help to move this city forward.

[Applause]

If you know of a family that has a four-year-old child who’s not in pre-K, I need your help getting them into pre-K. If you know someone who has got a child who’s sixth, or seventh, or eighth grade and they’re not in afterschool, I need you to let them know afterschool is there for them for free – for free.

[Applause]

If you know someone who is being harassed by their landlord, who is being evicted illegally, who’s not being given heat or hot water, I want you to pick up the phone and call 3-1-1. I want you to report that, so we can act on behalf of that tenant.

[Applause]

We will come to that building and make the repairs, and provide the heat and hot water. If someone is being harassed illegally, or evicted illegally – now, because of the policies of this administration – we will give them a lawyer for free to defend their rights.

[Applause]

All you have to do is pick up the phone and call 3-1-1. And you, everyone in this room, can help make sure no one is treated unfairly in this city. No one is robbed of their home. This is something that everyone can participate in.

So I’ll conclude by saying we are making change every day. And we have only just gotten started. We have only just gotten started. There is so much more to do to create a fairer city – create a city where we actually have opportunity for every kind of person in every neighborhood. To create a school system that actually prepares our children to be all they are meant to be. There’s so much more to do. We are resolute and we are focused on creating that better city. The people want it. The people need it. And it’s our job to give them what is their right, and we will do that. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless you all.

[Applause]

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