Bill Thompson compares stop-and-frisk to George Zimmerman
Speaking to a black church in Brooklyn this morning, Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson linked the New York Police Department with George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who was recently acquitted of murder after shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, in Florida.
Thompson said he didn't want to quibble with the legalities of the case, or whether the jury was correct in acquitting Zimmerman. Instead, he focused his remarks on a broader problem facing young men of color.
Thompson said the justice system "failed Trayvon. It failed my son. It failed America."
"How did the system fail? How did the system fail? Here in New York City, we have institutionalized Mr. Zimmerman's suspicion with a policy that all but requires our police officers that treat our young black and Latino men with suspicion; to stop them and frisk them because of the color of their skin."
Thompson, the only black candidate running for mayor, spoke at a non-denominational church on Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights. His wife, Elsie McCabe, who has increased her visibility over the past week, sat in the front row.
Thompson is not the first candidate to link the NYPD with Zimmerman. On July 15, John Liu, who succeeded Thompson as comptroller and is now running against him for mayor, released a statement saying, "the same mindset that allowed Zimmerman to believe he was justified in following an innocent young black man permits the NYPD to justify the targeting of black and Hispanic youth in its stop-and-frisk operation."
After his remarks inside the church, Thompson told reporters "the president's comments inspired me to" talk today about the Martin case. Last week, Obama said Martin "could have been me 35 years ago."
I asked Thompson how he can disparage the NYPD by comparing it to Zimmerman, but also praise the overall performance of police commissioner Ray Kelly. In February, Thompson told NBC New York that Kelly has "done an excellent job."
Thompson said he acknowledged crime has gone down under Kelly, but said he has always considered Kelly the "architect of an abusive stop-and-frisk policy here in New York."
Thompson was also asked about Anthony Weiner, whose campaign manager reportedly resigned this weekend, after Weiner admitted last week that he continued having sexual conversations online following his resignation from Congress. Thompson reiterated his call for Weiner to drop out or the race, and said his continued candidacy was distracting from important issues. When a reporter asked if the campaign was becoming a circus, Thomspson said, "That would be kind."