NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Several New York City Council members took a knee on the steps of City Hall to show solidarity with athletes who have done the same in protest of racial injustice.
About a dozen council members along with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito conducted the kneel-in Wednesday.
They sat, they stared, they remained stone silent in an unusual protest for an elected body of American officials.
It’s a physical demonstration of opposing what the council members describe as “President Donald Trump’s profane condemnation of NFL players who do the same.”
“I want my silence to send a message that people aren’t alone,” Carlos Menchaca said.
In a statement released prior to their collective genuflection, the group accused the president of having chosen to attack NFL players rather than focus on real pressing matters such as the aftermath of natural disasters in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“Many of us made clear that this was not about the flag, this was not about patriotism, this was about pushing back on a system of supremacy, a system of oppressive policies that have been around in the country for a very long time,” Council Member Jumaane D. Williams said. “Many people as has happened in the past tried to use patriotism to stop people from protesting.”
Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito joined the kneel in, but recited the pledge. She returned from man aid trip to Puerto Rico on Tuesday night.
In Park Slope, councilman Brad Lander’s district, opinion was divided over using the pledge as a form of protest.
“He should leave the council. It’s despicable. My father was a prisoner of war in Hitler’s concentration camp. He should support the flag, not disrupt it,” Gary Sniegocki said.
“That’s what Americans do. That’s what separates us from the people in North Korea and Nazi Germany,” Peter Bingham said.
On Tuesday, Trump defended his criticism of NFL players who refused to stand during the national anthem when asked if he’s been too preoccupied with the issue while ignoring other major concerns.
“I’ve heard that before, about I was preoccupied, not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands, all I do is work, and to be honest with you that is an important function of work, it’s called respect for our country,” Trump said as he took questions from reporters in the Rose Garden with the Prime Minister of Spain.
The protests came in response to Trump’s comments at a rally Friday in Alabama in which he said that players disrespecting the flag should be fired.