New Yorkers must demand accountability for lawlessness
On Wednesday, February 5, the U.S. Senate disgraced itself by endorsing Donald Trump’s lawlessness with its vote to acquit him after the no-witnesses-no-documents impeachment trial. On Thursday morning, ICE shot an unarmed Brooklyn man in the face while they were trying to abduct one of his family members, whom they also injured. These two things are related, and together they raise the specter of increasing lawlessness and white nationalist violence.
Both men were taken to Maimonides Hospital. Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez was repeatedly pepper sprayed and tased by ICE officers as he tried to escape them after they grabbed him as he was getting into an Uber; the plainclothed officers did not identify themselves or indicate why they were trying to grab him. Eric Diaz intervened to try to help; in response, one of the officers pulled a gun and shot him at point-blank range. He was partially able to deflect he bullet with his hand, but it hit his cheek and lodged in his neck. He underwent surgery and is in critical condition.
ICE officers were in the hospital all day Thursday while community groups gathered outside to try to ensure both men’s safety. On Friday, New Yorkers from New Sanctuary Coalition, Jews For Racial and Economic Justice, Make the Road New York, Never Again Action, Rise and Resist, and other groups once again stayed in vigil outside the hospital. Early in the afternoon, ICE officers emerged with a shackled Avendano-Hernandez, assisted by NYPD barricades and an escort, and drove away. Community members tried to stop them, but were violently attacked by ICE officers.
There is so much wrong with these events that it is hard to know where to begin in demanding accountability.
1. ICE officers not identifying themselves or showing badges or giving a reason for grabbing someone. Were this to happen in another country, we would recognize it as the thuggish calling card of an authoritarian government deliberately terrorizing a population.
2. An ICE officer shooting an unarmed man in the face. Diaz’s brother described the shooting: “He literally points the gun at my brother and didn’t even hesitate. Just pulled the trigger.” This casual, racist violence adds to the disgraceful river of Black and Brown blood spilled every year in the U.S. by so-called “law enforcement.”
3. ICE agents in a hospital. Hospitals are places of healing and are supposed to be SAFE. For everyone. How is it that in our supposed sanctuary city, they were allowed into a sensitive site like Maimonides?
4. NYPD assisting ICE. We know that the NYPD does not honor ICE detainers, and that is good. But in addition to allowing their federal siblings in blue into the hospital in the first place, they also set up barricades and provided an escort to ICE to get Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez out of the hospital and into an ICE vehicle. They assisted in his detention — this makes a mockery of the claim that we are a sanctuary city.
There must be accountability for all of this. The ICE officer responsible for the shooting must be prosecuted. The officers failing to identify themselves and repeatedly assaulting Avendano-Hernandez must be disciplined. The NYPD officers assisting ICE must be identified and held to account.
And our city — from the mayor on down to each of us — must recommit to providing real sanctuary for all of our neighbors. We live in a time where our national government is run by white nationalists, cowards, and opportunists. Our government is already violating national and international law and human rights conventions with its barbaric treatment of migrants and refugees, and Trump has promised additional “restrictions” on immigration. For all its sins, New York is a fabulously diverse city with a vibrant culture daily enriched by the millions of immigrants who live here. We must provide safe harbor and be a beacon of hope and resistance in a nation that has lost its way.