NY debate on how to deal with rising crime, cop brutality

By Seth Galinsky
July 12, 2021

NEW YORK — “Working people are discussing the rise in assaults and robberies here and across the country, and police brutality,” Róger Calero, Socialist Worker Party candidate for mayor, told the Militant June 30.

Calero and running mates Willie Cotton for public advocate and Sara Lobman for Manhattan Borough president are campaigning door to door, at taxi lines, construction sites, union picket lines and other protests. They present a road forward for working people and our unions in the face of high unemployment, speedup on the job and rising prices of food and basic necessities. They take up international questions from opposition to the U.S. embargo of Cuba to unconditional defense of the right of Israel to exist.

Police reform and crime were at the center of debate here among the capitalist candidates ahead of the June 22 Democratic and Republican Party primaries.

Eric Adams, currently the leading Democratic Party mayoral candidate, “presents things as if there are only two options: rampant violence and criminal mayhem or a reformed tough-on-crime, pro-police approach that brings back stop and frisk, ‘broken windows’ policing of the Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg era,” Calero said. “Crime did decline during those years. But at an enormous price for working people.”

“The cops carry out the same function in every capitalist country,” Calero said. “It’s not racism or white supremacy that’s their motor force. They exist to serve and protect the property, profits and prerogatives of the capitalist class.”

Despite anger at cop brutality, calls to defund the police are not popular among working people, Calero noted. That’s reflected in the rise of Adams and the decline of “woke” pro-defund candidates like Maya Wiley.

Like elsewhere, in New York the capitalist rulers “pulled back the police presence and took a hands-off approach to the violence, drug dealing and anti-social mayhem in working-class neighborhoods,” in retaliation for calls by liberals and middle-class radicals to “defund” or abolish the cops during last year’s protests against police brutality, Calero said.

Adams presents himself as the working-class candidate. “We don’t want fancy candidates. We want candidates, their nails are not polished, they have callouses on their hands and they’re blue collar people,” Adams told the press.

“None of what Adams or any of the capitalist candidates and politicians put forward are a solution to crime or police brutality,” Calero said. “The only way to do away with crime and police brutality is to do away with the capitalist system itself, which produces both.”

“We need to conduct struggles that strengthen solidarity and independent political organization by the working class, as part of fighting to replace capitalist rule with a government of workers and farmers,” Calero said

Calero pointed to a Wall Street Journal article on the 2014 California referendum that made the theft of items valued less than $950 a misdemeanor instead of a felony. One internet video shows someone fill up a duffle bag at a store and leave without any attempt by the security guard to stop the theft.

“I tell workers we need to reject lowering the bar on what is considered acceptable behavior,” Calero says. “We don’t accept thuggery, hustling, stealing and preying on fellow workers. These actions undermine and degrade working people and the solidarity we need.”

“The best example is Malcolm X,” Calero said. “After an early life of anti-social crime, he was sent to prison, where he cleaned himself up, began reading and studying, and became political. After he got out, he developed, and became an outstanding revolutionary leader for all working people.”

One week after the primaries, the Democratic Party race is in total disarray. For the first time, city officials used “ranked voting,” where voters are encouraged to choose up to five candidates in order of preference.

The elections board released a preliminary count election night that showed Adams ahead with 28.8% of the vote, Wiley with 19.9% and Kathryn Garcia with 17.8%. A week later the board released a second count, with “rankings” factored in. The new count showed a mysterious increase of 140,000 votes. Neither count includes the 124,000 absentee ballots. The board says they mistakenly added in “test” ballots. Oops!

“It was announced overnight in New York City that vast irregularities and mistakes were made,” former President Donald Trump commented. “They should close the books and do it all over again, the old-fashioned way.”

“Vote fraud is nothing new,” Calero said. “But the biggest fraud they perpetuate is denying working-class parties and candidates, like the Socialist Workers Party, a place on the ballot by putting insurmountable requirements in the way.”