The Yonkers Times reported on Thursday, that during an interview on WVOX Radio 1460 AM, with Phil Reisman and Matt Richter, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said that Congressman Jamaal Bowman’s “political philosophy is not in line with the people that live here” and said that he was “looking at” a possible challenge to Bowman in a democratic primary this June.
“They should have arrested him (Bowman) for his no vote on infrastructure. I’m a hardcore moderate in the middle, and that is where most of us are and end up. But the democratic party over the past two year has been pushed to the left, and the reforms, like bail reform, have gone too far,” Yonkers Times Dan Murphy attributed to Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.
Just four days into the start of Black History Month, many feel we are already seeing racism rear its ugly head, here in our own backyard in Yonkers. Several organizations immediately began to release statements pushing back against the Yonkers Mayor including the Black Dems of Westchester, The Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus (WBWPC), Yonkers and New Rochelle branches of the NAACP, NYCD16-Indivisible and the New York State Working Family Party, just to name a few.
“We are only four days into celebrating Black History Month, a time where we are supposed to be uplifting black voices and contributions. Mayor Spano had the gall and audacity to say he would put a sitting Congressman in jail for the way he voted. That is not only disgusting but unacceptable, especially coming from a Democratic mayor running a city where residents are overwhelmingly people of color. Many of us did not agree with Congressman Bowman’s decision to vote no on the infrastructure bill, but never would anyone left or right of the political spectrum dare arrest him for it.” Terry Clements, the Chair of the Black Democrats of Westchester shared with Black Westchester.
The organizations feel Rep. Bowman and all Black people in NY-16 deserve an apology from Mike Spano, the Mayor of the City of Yonkers, the third largest city in the state of New York. An apology for his disgusting words that many feel perpetuate the threat against Black people. Mayor Spano’s words mean something. He is the Mayor of Yonkers, where Congressman Bowman lives. Let’s forget about the political office he holds; Bowman is one of Spano’s constituents. Spano as the mayor oversees the Yonkers Police Department. This is the man who appoints the Commissioner of the Yonkers Police Department that is supposed to keep the Congressman, his family and other constituents of color safe.
Mayor Spano saying that Rep. Bowman should have been arrested is not just a comment, it’s a threat and unfortunately a threat that far too many Black Americans have heard before, especially in the racial polarized world of politics we live in these days. The story of a white person threatening Black bodies with arrest is one that is all too familiar in this country. We have a history of police being weaponized against Black men in this country, and Mayor Spano whether he meant it or just merely used these words in an effort to capitalize on his potential run for Bowman’s seat are just not acceptable to many African-Americans.
Unacceptable to say not just to a sitting Congressman but to a Black man who experienced one of his first interactions with law enforcement when he was being beaten by police at the age of 11 years old or being profiled and accused of stealing his own car, as Jamaal Bowman and far too many Black Men have. This is the kind of rhetoric we’ve come to expect from Donald Trump and the cult that follows him – saying your opponent should be arrested. Democrats are supposed to be better than that, these are not the comments we would expect from the Democratic Mayor or the third largest city in New York State.
Spano, however, released a statement to The Riverdale Press, saying “while being interviewed by a reporter who mentioned Jamaal Bowman’s recent arrest during a protest, I expressed my disappointment with his ‘no’ vote on the infrastructure bill, which ultimately hurts working families across the state — an issue that can’t be ignored.”
But the Working Families Party demanded Spano apologize to Bowman, calling his comments “dangerous and racist,” they expect Mayor Spano must make a full apology to Rep. Jamaal Bowman.
“We strongly condemn the statements made by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano calling for Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s arrest. This is sadly a threat that too many Black New Yorkers have heard before. Rep. Bowman has fought tooth-and-nail for our communities in Congress, and it’s entirely unacceptable for Mayor Spano to threaten his safety and livelihood. We expect Mayor Spano to issue Rep. Bowman a full apology immediately.”
Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus also strongly condemned the language used by Mayor Spano about Congressman Bowman (the first Black person to represent NY-16). “The statement reflects a fundamental level of disrespect for an African-American elected official and in these racially and politically polarizing times. It is extremely disappointing for the Mayor of Yonkers, a diverse community that includes a sizable and historical African-American community, to allow his political ambition to engage in hateful rhetoric.”
The Black Democrats of Westchester County stated that they respect Mayor Spano’s choice to run for Congress but they strongly denounce the mayor’s insinuation that Representative Bowman should be placed in jail for how he voted.
“Black Americans have had to fight and die for the right to vote. The right to use the ballot box to have our voices heard in local and county government chambers, in our statehouses, and the hall of the U.S. Congress” Clements continued. “The Black Democrats of Westchester County strongly believe Mayor Spano owes Congressman Bowman a sincere apology for his words. There have been many votes that the Black Democrats did not agree with Mayor Spano’s decisions during his tenure as Yonkers Mayor or while in the Assembly, but we would never call for him to be arrested for it. Mayor Spano needs to recognize that in a democracy we do not put elected officials in jail for their voting records. We are a country built on democracy, not an autocracy where officials are punished or persecuted for what they believe in. Men and women like Dr. King, Rep. John Lewis, or Rep. Shirley Chisholm did not work their entire lives for black leaders to be placed in jail when others disagreed with them.”
The Yonkers NAACP Unit #2188 is outraged over the comments that the first black person to represent the City of Yonkers in the 16th Congressional District should have been arrested, not for a crime that he committed but for a vote that he’d taken. The Yonkers NAACP condemned the statement made by Mayor Spano, calling for others to stand with them and Representative Bowman to demand a public apology from the mayor. Issuing a call to action to elected officials, civic and community-based organizations, and stakeholders in and around the city of Yonkers that ‘it’s time to take a stand.’
“We have witnessed, far too often, how law enforcement and the criminal justice system has profiled, arrested, convicted, and sentenced African-Americans disproportionately to all others in this country. In 2020, The NAACP and The Links, Incorporated released a joint statement to express their shared outrage in response to the murder of George Floyd and the killings of Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and many others at the hands law enforcement officers. The call for policing reform was expressed by residents all over the country. Today, we are calling for reform in our government starting with the mayor. Mayor Spano has gone on record acknowledging that bail reform in some form is necessary and pointed out that Black and Brown people have been unfairly subjected to the injustices within our criminal justice system. To then comment that Representative Bowman should be arrested is not only irresponsible but deplorable and will not be tolerated. Last year, following what Connecticut police described as “one noose and possibly five others” were found in an Amazon warehouse, the CT NAACP released a statement condemning what happened and calling for others to stand with it. “We want action. We want accountability. We want to make sure that everyone in this particular community is safe,”, and the Yonkers NAACP is demanding the same.”
The New Rochelle branch of the NAACP issued a statement in solidarity with the Yonkers branch;
“The NAACP New Rochelle Branch joins the Yonkers Branch in expressing our disgust and outrage at the comments made by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano,” Minister Mark McLean, President NAACP New Rochelle Branch shared. “Mayor Spano called for the arrest of Congressman Jamaal Bowman the first African-American Congressman, from the16th Congressional District, for simply doing his job. These comments, made during a WVOX radio interview on Thursday February 3, 2022, with Phil Reisman and Mike Richter, are not only irresponsible, it is rhetoric that conjures up the racial stereo type that all Black men are criminals and should be incarcerated. We stand with the NAACP Yonkers Branch in demanding Mayor Spano issue an apology, not only to Congressman Bowman, but to the entire African American Community.”
State Senator Allesandra Biaggi who is the Chair of Committee on Ethics and Internal Governance questioned what Mayor Spano stands for in a tweet,
Other groups that express outrage over Mayor Spano’s comments include The Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFRJ)
The Jewish Vote, a group dedicated to electing transformational, progressive leaders against big money also tweeted,
Another group called Make the Road NY, dedicated to building power of immigrant, Black and brown communities to achieve dignity and justice, expressed their thoughts
“Mayor Spano’s attack on a sitting member of Congress, Jamaal Bowman saying ‘they should have arrested him,’ was reckless, irresponsible & blatantly racist,” Make the Road New York Co-Executive Director, Theo Oshiro tweeted Friday afternoon.
Rev. Dr. Stephen W. Pogue, Pastor of Greater Centennial A.M.E. Zion Church in Mount Vernon said he felt that Mayor Spano’s comments were both disturbing and outlandish especially since too often African-Americans are targeted for arrest simply because of darker skin tone in the country.
“I am very disturbed about the comment from Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, who suggested that Congressman Bowman should be arrested for his vote on a bill in congress,” Rev Pogue shared. “This is a disturbing notion; that Congressman Bowman, a black man should be arrested for voting. As many in this country are actively trying to take away the voting rights of Blacks and other minorities in this country, to have a sitting member of congress arrested for his vote is outlandish. Too often in this nation Blacks are being targeted for arrest simply because of the color of their skin. Mayor Spano needs to apologize for this egregious comment. What further exasperates this comment is that Congressman Bowman lives in Yonkers where Mayor Spano oversees the police department. If he would target a member of congress with arrest for voting, what will he do to other minorities in his community. In the middle of Black History Month such comments do not uplift the major accomplishments of Blacks in this nation, but they remind us of the Jim and Jane Crow era, where Blacks were often threatened with arrest for exercising their rights as citizens of the United States of America. An apology for these disturbing and disgusting words is the very least that Mayor Spano can offer.”
The NYCD16-Indivisible also issued a statement to express their disapproval of Mayor Spano’s comments
Congressman Mondaire Jones called Spano’s comments “irresponsible, unproductive, and dangerous,” and echoed that Mayor Spano owes Congressman Bowman an apology.
“Mayor Spano’s comments about Congressman Bowman are irresponsible, unproductive, and dangerous. Political debate is a hallmark of our democracy but calling for a Member of Congress to be arrested because of a vote he took is completely unacceptable, especially in light of Republicans’ continued attacks on our democracy. As elected officials, what we say matters. Mayor Spano owes Congressman Bowman, and the people of Yonkers, an apology,” Congressman Jones shared with Black Westchester.
BW Publisher Damon K. Jones who has known Mayor Spano for years also feels he owes the Congressman an apology.
“As a Black man, the comments of Mayor Spano shocks the conscious. I had known the Mayor as far back as he was a state Assemblyman. I am sure he knows that the Congressman does not vote about the NYS Bail Reform law. Second, to say that Congressman Bowman should be arrested for a vote is unsettling when he has never said that about any white Congressman that he might have disagreed with or any Democrat that has been accused of corruption. Mayor Spano doesn’t only owe Congressman Bowman an apology, he also owes the Black Community an apology. If not, we must reevaluate our relationship with him when he decides to run for higher office.”
More and more statements are coming out as we speak. Black Westchester will be discussing this on our Sunday talk radio show, People Before Politics, Sunday, February 6th, 6-8PM, and on The Black Westchester Power Hour on WVOX 1460AM, Monday, Feb 7th 11am-12noon, you do not want to miss it. Also stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story. We will also be reaching out to Mayor Spano this week for an interview. As always feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.