AOC criticises Michael Bloomberg over ‘unconstitutional, devastating’ stop and frisk past

Graig Graziosi
Ms Ocasio-Cortez in Washington last month: REUTERS

Valerie Jarrett and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aren’t impressed by presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg’s apology over his role in New York’s racist “stop-and-frisk” policy.

Ms Jarrett, a longtime adviser to former President Barack Obama, said that Mr Bloomberg “needs to do a lot more than just apologise” for the policy during a segment on CBS This Morning on Thursday.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez was stronger in her condemnation of the former New York City mayor.

“Will people get their records expunged? Will young people sucked into the spiderweb of incarceration get their lives back? Unless there is restorative justice, there is no ‘moving on’ from Stop & Frisk. It’s just a billionaire trying to cover up authoritarian & racist policy,” she tweeted.

Ms Jarrett sat in on a call between Mr Bloomberg and a number of African American business leaders in recent days.

“We were very concerned about the impact that had on so many black families right here in New York,” Ms Jarrett said. “He apologised as he had done publicly, and he said look, he inherited it, got way out of control on his watch, and then he reduced it dramatically.”

She said she encouraged Mr Bloomberg to “go further” and meet with families affected by the programme.

“One of the things I recommended is, why don’t you sit down with some of the families who were impacted by it? And look, even families who weren’t impacted were worried about what would happen to their son, and so I think there’s a lot more conversation to be had,” she said.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez demanded more from Mr Bloomberg.

“People’s lives were ruined. So, are those folks going to get their records expunged? With a tweet? They’re not. So I think that we need something a little bit more than that,” she said.

A native of New York City, Ms Ocasio-Cortez lived in the city during Mr Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy.

“New York City is about 60% people of colour. Stop and Frisk was an unconstitutional, devastating practice for the entire city that intentionally exempted White people from harm,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said. “It was one of the most racist policies I’ve ever lived through that deeply impacted the entire city.”

Stop and frisk isn’t the only cloud hanging over Mr Blomberg’s head regarding his views on race.

The Associated Press reported that Mr Bloomberg blamed the elimination of redlining – discriminatory housing practices meant to keep black and white populations separate – for the 2008 economic collapse.

Mr Bloomberg’s statements came during the height of the economic crisis.

“It all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone. Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighbourhoods and said ‘People in these neighbourhoods are poor, they’re not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas’,” Mr Bloomberg said at a Georgetown University forum.

He suggested that stopping Congressional meddling could have prevented the collapse.

“And then Congress got involved – local elected officials, as well – and said ‘Oh that’s not fair, these people should be able to get credit.’ And once you started pushing in that direction, banks started making more and more loans where the credit of the person buying the house wasn’t as good as you would like,” he said.

Debra Gore-Mann, the president and CEO of the Greenlining Institute, rejected Mr Bloomberg’s analysis.

“It’s been well documented that the 2008 crash was caused by unethical, predatory lending that deliberately targeted communities of colour,” she said. “People of colour were sold trick loans with exploding interest rates designed to push them into foreclosure. Our communities of colour and low income communities were the victims of the crash, not the cause.”