Hundreds of pro-police supporters paraded through southern Brooklyn on Aug. 9 as part of what participants called a peaceful rally to “Back the Blue” — though it was capped by a violent altercation with counter-protesters caught on video.
“It was a peaceful event,” said former State Sen. Marty Golden, who attended the march from Avenue U and Burnett Street in Marine Park to Dr. John’s Playground at PS 277 in Gerritsen Beach. “It was Black, brown, white. It was Catholic, Jewish, Muslim. It was across all parties, all religions and it was coming together and supporting our men and women in blue.”
Golden, a Republican who long represented a swath of southern Brooklyn in the state legislature before losing to Democrat Andrew Gounardes in November 2018, was rumored to have organized the march, but told Brooklyn Paper that his former staffer Anthony Testaverde — who came under fire in 2018 for anti-Semitic Facebook posts — had actually planned the event, which sources say drew hundreds of attendees from Brooklyn and beyond.
Former members of the NYPD and families of fallen officers addressed the gathered crowd at the schoolyard — where a small group of young counter-protesters also confronted marchers, chanting “Black Lives Matter.” After the two groups exchanged words, a video obtained by Brooklyn Paper shows a middle-aged pro-police supporter grabbing a 14-year-old counter-protester by the neck and shoving her after a fellow marcher proclaims “White lives matter, f–k you.”
“Black lives matter and I want everybody to know that,” the young girl is heard saying in the video. “Everybody come out. We are three people against the world right now. Go do your part because Black lives matter.”
Nearby officers responded to the incident, according to sources — but the NYPD did not move forward with any charges against the attacker.
The former senator chalked the altercation up to a “skirmish.”
“This is just a skirmish between two people trying to put a blemish on something that was a really peaceful service to our community and to our police officers and to our city and to the people across this nation,” Golden said.
Retired NYPD Chief of Transit Joseph Fox was among the day’s speakers and expressed his unprecedented disappointment with the lack of community and political support for the city Police Department.
“We are angry, we’re angry. You’ve never heard me, Anthony and Marty Golden speak with a tone like this,” Fox said. “I am suffering too, we all are.”
Republican State Senate candidate Vito Bruno, who is hoping to unseat Gounardes in November, instead focused on the positive energy at the schoolyard gathering — which, he said, concluded with the crowd singing along to “God Bless America.”
“It was awesome to see so many people come out to back the blue,” Bruno told Brooklyn Paper. “In this day and age where there is so much negativity going on, to see so much positivity come out was awesome.”
Sunday’s march was advertised to be “non-political” because supporting the city’s peacekeepers is not a political statement as they are a necessary facet of a functioning society, Golden said.
“How is backing our police political?” asked Golden. “The thread of this great nation is being able to bring up your family in a safe environment, to get a good education for your children, have a good job and to be able to earn and go on to be a protected but productive citizen of this great nation. The Police Department is that thin blue line that keeps the civility and keeps people from committing crimes.”
But, as pro-cop rallies crop up across the country, Black Lives Matter demonstrators pushing for police reform say the showings are, in themselves, political statements.
“I think trying to neutralize and normalize a pro-police sentiment is a political statement in itself,” said Alana Maisel, co-founder of the Marine Park Political Youth, an organization for young, left-leaning Marine Park residents that participated in a July 19 counter-protest at the sprawling greenspace. “It’s basically a defense mechanism against any sort of debate. And they need to know they’re gonna get confronted on it.”
Encounters have been especially contentious across the five boroughs — and in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Marine Park — on the heels of recent cuts to the NYPD’s budget, which drew ire on both sides of the aisle, and on both sides of the push to defund the New York Police Department.
Golden, however, cited the city’s rising violence as a reason to keep the city’s police fully funded.
“The past three months, four months have been a disaster, from the greatest, safest, largest city in America to one that is in turmoil,” he said. “It is time to pull back and straighten out [NYPD-related] legislation so the cops can get back to work.”