Below you will find the text of a letter from Mayor Kenney to Philadelphians, concerning city plans for what happens after the Derek Chauvin verdict is announced. That letter preceded by a weepy, wokey statement sprinkled with his sweet confection of white guilt. “Systemic racism” and inequity are endlessly repeated, crossing the line from empathy to embarrassment. He lays it on thick.
You are free to wade through it, but first is my letter to Mayor Kenney.
Dear Mayor Kenney:
Most Philadelphians share your belief that the U.S. has a history of racial (and other) injustice that continues to this day, in some amount.
But most Philadelphians — Black, white, brown, yellow, red — know there is no excuse for violence, arson, theft, assault and vandalism. Your words point to amnesia that you were elected to serve all Philadelphians, not just minorities (and most of us are minorities in one way or another).
While even one police-caused death is too many, each is different and in your official capacity you have reached conclusions in two cases which have not yet been adjudicated.
Being murdered because of a broken tail light, you write. As it this happens every day, if at all.
You seem to share the common progressive belief that it is open season on Black people in this country. The facts do not support this.
For 2019, the last year for which numbers are available, 12 unarmed Black men were killed in police encounters, out of millions of interactions, according to the Washington Post data base. The total of armed Black men killed by police is 252. [Numbers in this paragraph were updated 4/18/21.]
The insistence on exaggerating the number of Black deaths creates added fear in that community.
I am glad you recognize you made mistakes last year during the riots in Philadelphia sparked by George Floyd’s death.
Realistically, it would be hard to deny your mistakes as police cars and parts of the city burned, and scores of stores were looted.
One mistake you are correcting this time is asking for the National Guard before riots erupt, unlike last time when for unknown reasons — progressive pride? — you failed to call for help. That error caused millions of dollars in damage and loss, and gave the city a black eye.
Your instinct to disarm the police of tear gas is misguided.
It is a non lethal tool. Take that away, and it raises lethal force a notch. Yours is a foolish notion.
Police by now should be trained in its proper use. While “you” have banned it, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is showing she’s got more guts than you by saying it will be employed, if necessary.
There were two things going on simultaneously last year and you must plan for the same this year.
1- Legitimate, peaceful protest. This is protected by the Constitution and must be protected by police.
2- Criminals taking advantage of the peaceful protest to loot and riot.
As for 1-, the police protection must end the moment the first window is broken, the first fire bomb is thrown, the first bottle is aimed at police. It ends when “peaceful” protestors — who were given access to major city streets — decide to unlawfully block an interstate highway. Tear gas aside, protestors had no business on I-676. None.
It’s not just that they were breaking the law. They were destroying civility and disrespecting their fellow citizens.
Several times, in a display of head-shaking sophistry, you write that you can’t understand what it’s like to be a Black person.
Mayor, you can’t understand what it’s like to be me.
Discovering your inner Chuck Berry is not your job. Your job is to protect the citizens of this city, all of them, and the city’s business, too, which are the blood that keeps us alive.
In your letter, I notice you are breaking new ground by capitalizing Brown people, along with Black, which previously had been accepted, with deeply flawed logic, by the AP.
This is something you might discuss in one of your “healing circles” — that make the jokes about kumbaya a reality.
Your lack of self-awareness is stunning.
Mayor Kenney Sends Open Letter to Philadelphians in Advance of Chauvin Trial Verdict
PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Jim Kenney today released an open letter to Philadelphians, offering his thoughts in advance of the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, accused in the murder of George Floyd.
“Waiting for the verdict is not the hardest part,” the Mayor wrote. “It is knowing that a life has been taken too soon and how unjustly Black and Brown people in this country are treated by law enforcement. It’s knowing that regardless of what the jury decides, the judgment rendered will retraumatize the victimized and remind us of the compounding effects of centuries of inequities and systemic racism that have brought us to this moment. It’s knowing that outrage may be felt once again.
“I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to be a Black person in this country. No white person can. But I do understand that the long history of Black people facing inequality and injustice, of being denied opportunities, and of being harassed, thrown in jail and murdered because of a broken taillight or mistaken glance–all of that must end swiftly.
“When the verdict comes, no matter the outcome, let us resolve to demonstrate peacefully, to voice the pain and anguish loud and clear but without destruction, and let us stay united working to ensure that Black lives matter today–and every day.”
The Mayor also announced that the City will be hosting six virtual community healing circles over the next three weeks, as well as resources for communities to host their own events to provide safe spaces for neighbors to come together in solidarity. More information can be found here.
Copies of the Mayor’s letter on his letterhead are available on request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the full text is below:
In the coming days, a verdict will be rendered in the criminal case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the murder of George Floyd. The decision will be reached almost one year after Mr. Floyd was killed on the ground under the knee of an officer sworn to protect and serve.
This is one of far too many cases of fatal police violence still happening across our country. Daunte Wright was shot and killed in Brooklyn Center last Sunday, and yesterday video was released in the police shooting death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo while his empty hands were raised.
Mr. Floyd’s killing was a tipping point for Black and Brown people and entire communities who have felt a life sentence of pain, fear, anger, and distrust for generations. It caused outrage, and in some instances, violence, by people desperate to be heard and understood.
Looking back to last spring and the demonstrations in our city, we know the police and my administration made mistakes in how we handled the protests. Tear gas should not have been used and we over-policed in some communities while others felt abandoned. As your Mayor, I vow to do better.
I’m committed to ensuring that we learn from our mistakes, demonstrate our accountability, and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Changing how we protect all of our residents is a priority of our administration. We are listening to members of the community–and in partnership with our Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation Steering Committee, we are reimagining our approach and efforts to keep ALL Philadelphians safe, while working to build a more equitable city for everyone. We’ve also made critical changes and clarifications to our policies, procedures, and training, with more to come.
We added mental health professionals to help screen 911 calls and identify signs of behavioral health crises.
We expanded Crisis Intervention Training for 911 dispatchers and officers.
We are piloting four co-responder teams that pair Crisis Intervention trained officers with behavioral health professionals, with plans for additional teams.
We made it explicitly clear that sitting or kneeling on someone’s neck, face or head is absolutely prohibited.
We implemented internal policies and procedures and consistent accountability measures to identify and remove dishonorable personnel more easily.
Waiting for the verdict is not the hardest part. It’s knowing that a life has been taken too soon and how unjustly Black and Brown people in this country are treated by law enforcement. It’s knowing that regardless of what the jury decides, the judgment rendered will retraumatize the victimized and remind us of the compounding effects of centuries of inequities and systemic racism that have brought us to this moment. It’s knowing that outrage may be felt once again.
In the meantime, we need to remember that we must still stand together as Philadelphians. We need to remember our neighbors who own small businesses and stores along our commercial corridors. We need to look out for each other.
All of us have the right to express our beliefs. We have the right to gather, march and protest peacefully and safely. Great progress has been made when we unite in a common cause for the greatest good, and peaceful protest is the American way. A “Know Your Rights” guide is available on the ACLU’s website.
If you need help, please know that mental and behavioral health supports are available. You can find them at healthymindsphilly.org or by calling 888-545-2600. We will also be hosting six virtual community healing circles over the next three weeks to provide safe spaces for neighbors to come together in solidarity, the first of which you can register for online.
And on the day of the verdict–whenever it may be–we will be calling for citywide prayer, so we can honor the memory of George Floyd and other Black Americans whose lives were tragically cut short because of brutality, racism, systemic failures, and deep societal inequities.
I have said many times: I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to be a Black person in this country. No white person can. But I do understand that the long history of Black people facing inequality and injustice, of being denied opportunities, and of being harassed, thrown in jail, and murdered because of a broken taillight or mistaken glance–all of that must end swiftly.
This is a call for active peace. So when the verdict comes, no matter the outcome, let us resolve to demonstrate peacefully, to voice the pain and anguish loud and clear but without destruction, and let us stay united working to ensure that Black lives matter today–and every day.
James F. Kenney