NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One of the city’s most powerful black ministers has issued a stunning ultimatum to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem is demanding that the mayor make wholesale changes to the NYPD and fire the officer who put Eric Garner in an apparent chokehold – or else the ministers will fire the mayor.
Kramer spoke with Butts in a one-on-one interview. She described his comments as a giant Pepto-Bismol moment for Mayor de Blasio – now in the 16th month of his first term.
Butts is one of the most respected black clergymen, and he laid down the gauntlet – saying the mayor’s reelection could very well depend on making major changes to the Police Department, including firing Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
“I’m thinking that would be bold action,” Butts said. “The police commissioner can do it, and if he refuses to do it, de Blasio ought to dismiss his police commissioner.”
Butts said de Blasio will have a heavy price to pay if he fails to act.
“If he refuses to do that, then we have to look seriously at whether he should continue to be the mayor of the City of New York,” Butts said.
Butts wields enormous power as pastor of Abyssinian Baptist, which builds affordable housing and schools. He is also furious that the mayor has refused to meet with his group of clergy and community leaders from all five boroughs about demands to eliminate the so-called broken windows policing policy, and make NYPD policies fairer to minorities.
He has a simple question for the mayor who has talked extensively about how present–day New York is a tale of two cities.
“Black lives mattered when you were running,” Butts said. “Do they still matter?”
Kramer brought Butts’ concerns to the mayor.
“I have a great deal of respect for Reverend Butts,” the mayor said.
But as to the matter of firing Officer Pantaleo, Mayor de Blasio said it was out of his purview.
“The Department of Justice is the one that will make the next decision on this matter,” he said.
He also said the broken windows policy, in which officers enforce low-level offenses to maintain quality of life, will not be eliminated.
“Broken windows is a strategy that’s worked,” he said. “And it’s part of why this city has become increasingly safer, and we need to continue that process.”
Butts was not pleased.
“To hear him say it, and not sit down with the clergy and say it to us face-to-face – not only is it a disappointment, it’s an insult,” he said. “What I’m saying is, why not have the discussion? Maybe you can make the point, but you’re not even having the discussion.”
The mayor said he looks forward to meeting with Butts. His aides said the city’s community affairs commissioner is trying to make the meeting happen.
But in the meantime, Butts said he is meeting with potential candidates to run against de Blasio in 2017. Kramer said she saw one of them leaving Butts’ office on Wednesday.