These Awful "I Can Breathe" T-Shirts Mock The "Black Lives Matter" Movement
The rise of #BlackLivesMatter protests in New York City over the last several weeks has given way to a deep schism between New York City police officers and, well, everyone else. Following Saturday's heinous slaying of two NYPD officers who were out on patrol in Brooklyn, to say that divide has escalated would be an understatement. Now, it seems like the NYPD and their supporters have adopted the #BlackLivesMatter protest chant "I Can't Breathe" and, in a stunning display of tone deafness, turned it into their own. On Friday night — just hours before Saturday's tragic shooting — New York City police officers and their supporters arrived at a rally at City Hall in black "I Can Breathe" T-shirts.
The shirts take the last words Eric Garner, a Staten Island resident who was killed by a chokehold administered by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in July, and alter them to prove... what, exactly? That they're on the other side of the law? That they have privilege other New Yorkers aren't afforded?
As you can see, the T-shirts of the pro-NYPD protesters bear the same design — right down to the Comic Sans font — of the "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts worn by NBA players Derrick Rose and LeBron James. Although the T-shirts may have been well-intentioned, the obvious mimicry makes the pro-NYPD protesters look like they're mocking New York's people of color communities. According to social media reports, the (mostly white) pro-NYPD protesters were also chanting, "Hands Up, Don't Loot" as a response to the Ferguson chant, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot."
Although only a small faction of New Yorkers have been seen around the city clad in these shirts, the movement against the #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations is growing more vocal each day. In the wake of the senseless murders of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, two New York police unions have accused Mayor Bill de Blasio for inciting violence against those in uniform. The presidents of both unions said the mayor has "blood on his hands."
A MoveOn.org petition also surfaced Saturday night, calling for de Blasio's resignation. The petition had nearly 60,000 signatures by Monday morning.
Heeding warnings from the police unions and his critics, de Blasio asked protesters to suspend their demonstrations this week in light of the recent tragedy. “Put aside protests. That can be done another day," the mayor said during a Monday afternoon press conference.