President Joe Biden traveled to New York on Thursday afternoon for a series of public relations appearances, alongside new Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul and other Democratic politicians, as well as senior officials of the New York Police Department.
The purpose of the visit was to show Biden’s support for the policing agenda of Mayor Adams, a former police captain elected late last year and sworn in on Jan. 1, and to demonstrate his own support to the police.
Adams called for a heightened police presence on the streets, as well as the re-establishment of plainclothes “anti-gang” squads that were disbanded after repeated allegations of brutality, but under a new Orwellian name: Neighborhood Safety Teams.
For his part, Biden has abandoned any effort to pass legislation bearing the name of George Floyd, a Minneapolis police killing victim whose death sparked global protests in 2020. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would not have enacted only a few cosmetic reforms, but even that was too much for the police unions and right-wing politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Instead, the president has funneled billions into beefing up police, allowing governors and mayors to use COVID-19 recovery funds for that purpose. And the New York Times reported this week that Biden’s top domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, has had more than 20 meetings with police unions in recent months to discuss the White House’s “anti-crime” agenda.
The Democratic president has come under fire from right-wing Republicans over rising crime rates in many US cities, though that violence is well below the level of the 1980s and 1990s, when urban centers were ravaged by the crack epidemic.
Today, a different epidemic, COVID-19, claims far more victims than any “crime wave”, but America’s ruling elite, Democrats and Republicans, have washed their hands of all responsibility, saying instead workers must learn to “live”. with the virus.” No one is suggesting that people should “live with” murder, robbery or rape.
The disparities in the death toll are staggering. Biden said during a stop at NYPD headquarters, “Every day in this country, 316 people are shot, 106 are killed and 6 NYPD officers have been victims of gun violence so far this year.”
Every day in America, however, hundreds of thousands of people are infected with COVID-19 and more than 3,000 are killed by it. As for the NYPD, some 64 cops and civilian employees have died from the pandemic over the past two years, compared to a handful of shooting deaths.
According to a recently released FBI report, in 2021 the number of US police deaths in the line of duty rose to 458, the highest number on record and double the annual death toll in recent decades. Of those, 301 were attributed to COVID-19, 72 to felony assaults and 58 to traffic accidents. The pandemic has thus accounted for two-thirds of all police deaths.
Yet the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the New York police union that has vehemently backed Donald Trump, has sued the city government because incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a vaccination mandate on cops and other city employees.
Meanwhile, over the past year, US police have killed more than 1,000 people, the vast majority of them young men from the poorest sections of the working class, white, black , Hispanics and other minorities. Whites were by far the greatest number of people killed, but a disproportionate number were black and Hispanic.
None of these telling numbers were discussed by Biden or Adams, and no one in the large media entourage who attended the carefully curated series of events was rude enough to ask a question rooted in this reality.
Instead, the main focus was the shooting deaths of two police officers in Harlem last week, by an apparently mentally disturbed man who was himself killed by police during the encounter. Both of these deaths have been exploited by the media for endless sensational coverage, in an attempt to justify widespread police repression and violence in New York and across the country.
Biden has denounced calls to “defund the police,” which Democratic Party officials have blamed for their poor performance in the 2020 congressional elections, even though no Democratic candidate has actually backed such action.
The slogan was raised during the massive protests following the police killing of George Floyd, and it became the focal point of much Republican demagoguery on the campaign trail, although it was universally disavowed by Democrats.
Republicans only got an edge because the Democratic Party made nothing but shameful criticism of police brutality and ran its 2020 campaign on a staunchly right-wing base, making no appeal to opposition sentiments. mass expressed by millions of people during the demonstrations which have exploded. after Floyd’s murder.
Biden has always been identified with the politics of law and order — more cops, more jails, savage prison sentences, right-wing demagoguery against “criminals,” while downplaying any scrutiny of the social causes of the murders, assaults, burglaries, etc. boasted during his years in the Senate, part of which he served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that every crime and punishment law passed bore his fingerprints.
This became a problem during the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, when he had to pretend to regret the impact of his series of crime bills by sending millions of workers, disproportionately black and Hispanic, in the horrible American prison system.
Alongside ex-cop Adams, however, Biden was truly in his element. He praised the police for “putting their lives on the line every day to keep our community safe.” He promised more money for the police, repeatedly stating, “the answer is not defunding the police.”
He tried to give his right-wing posture a liberal luster by combining it with a call for Congress to pass gun reforms, such as universal background checks. He brought Attorney General Merrick Garland with him on the trip to New York, noting that Garland had “directed all American attorneys in the United States to prioritize combating arms trafficking across the borders of the state”.
There was also a political message delivered by Biden’s visit. Adams won the Democratic mayoral nomination with a right-wing campaign directed against several more liberal candidates who advocated increased social spending, criticized police brutality and lamented, at least rhetorically, the dominance of Wall Street and real estate interests over city government policy.
In embracing it, the leader of the National Democratic Party underscores his own distance from the Democratic Party’s ‘progressives’ and seeks to make himself more palatable to Congressional Republicans and big business as a whole as the campaign opens. 2022 election. It should be noted in this context that the New York Post and the the wall street journalboth owned by Rupert Murdoch, have been enthusiastic Adams supporters.