City Council Member Antonio Reynoso speaks at a rally in support of the Right to Know Act in April 2016 (Photo: Kavitha Surana)

City Council Member Antonio Reynoso speaks at a rally in support of the Right to Know Act in April 2016 (Photo: Kavitha Surana)

On the heels of President Trump signing three executive orders “designed to restore safety in America,” City Council Member Antonio Reynoso is condemning the actions as “deeply concerning.” In a statement, he says it was “only fitting” that Trump signed the orders “while swearing in noted racist Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.”

While Trump said that the measures are designed to “break the back” of drug cartels and put an end to violence against police officers, the orders have been roundly criticized as outdated, out of touch, and bizarrely vague. The New York Times noted that the orders “turned out to contain few specific policy steps, and critical voices in the media have warned of a “coming police state.”

The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety also seems like an amorphous attempt to continue with measures that oppose every last policy initiative of the Obama administration. In this case, the findings of Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing are on the chopping block. Reynoso guessed that, unlike Obama’s task force, which organized meetings between police department officials, civil rights leaders, and community activists, Trump’s effort would be monolithic. In the statement, Reynoso said, “If the makeup of the mandated violent crime task force looks anything like Trump’s cabinet, we can rest assured it will be predominately white and underqualified, and that it will recommend policy that will set us far back from the positive work that President Obama accomplished with his Task Force on 21st Century Policing.”

Supporters of the Right to Know Act in April 2016 (Photo: Kavitha Surana)

Supporters of the Right to Know Act in April 2016 (Photo: Kavitha Surana)

As we’ve seen across the board with Trump, the outcome of the executive orders are unpredictable. However, the latest measures send a clear message to advocates of community policing, the Black Lives Matter movement, and others who are critical of police violence and systematic racism seen throughout the criminal justice system. Reynoso said that the blurriness of Trump’s orders are all the more disconcerting in light of the confirmation of Jeff Sessions, “in whose hands these broad directives are even more dangerous.”

Reynoso has repeatedly criticized violent police tactics and advocated for stronger rights for citizens in dealing with the police. Along with Council Member Ritchie Torres, he introduced The Right to Know Act back in November 2014, and has fought for its approval ever since. In light of the new executive orders, and New York City’s “role as a leader in resisting the Trump agenda,” he argued that now is the time to get this thing moving. “One step we can take immediately is to pass the Right to Know Act, which will further improve the relationship between police and communities by ensuring that New Yorkers who are stopped by police without legal justification understand who is stopping them and why, and clearly understand their right to deny a search,” he said.

Trump’s fearful rhetoric contradicts the reality of a dramatic decrease in serious crime in New York City, and a number of new initiatives aimed at improving NYPD training and police-community relations which seem geared toward changing the culture of the department. Add to that, a new police commissioner who seems to be just a bit more flexible than Bill Bratton, who retired in September. As the Mayor noted yesterday, New York is “the safest big city in America.”

Meanwhile, Trump has praised constituionally questionable tactics like stop-and-frisk, claiming that they were effective in reducing crime. In an op-ed De Blasio wrote for CNN back in September, he refuted Trump’s claims. He pointed out that crime is at an all-time low across the city, and noted that, at the same time, the NYPD has reduced the use of  stop-and-frisk by 97 percent since its “high point” in 2011: “Stop-and-frisk was not a driver of that public safety progress. Donald Trump’s refusal to admit this and his willingness to inflame tensions for political purposes isn’t just foolish. It’s dangerous.”

 A rally in support of the Right to Know Act in April 2016 (Photo: Kavitha Surana)

A rally in support of the Right to Know Act in April 2016 (Photo: Kavitha Surana)

Overall, the City Council has been pretty on top of Trump’s actions. Jumaane Williams, another member of the Progressive Caucus, was just one of the council members who were quick to denounce Trump’s highly controversial first package of executive orders. Those sparked a number of protests here in New York City and among other things, enacted a moratorium on immigrants and visas for “Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern,” the temporary suspension of refugee entry, and indefinitely banning Syrian refugees. (Yesterday, February 9, a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals came to a unanimous decision to uphold an earlier stay issued by a lower court.)

Williams said that, as a representative of the 45th District, which has a significant population of immigrants, and a second generation American and “the son of Grenadian immigrants,” he felt Trump’s measures amounted to “an assault on immigration” that is “offensive and shows the worst of America.” On the whole, he cautioned that the new administration’s policies and rhetoric of “hyperbolic threat” draw straight from “a playbook of fear that is used in every authoritarian and fascist regime.” Like many civic leaders and activist, Williams pressed “the time for anger and disbelief is over. Now is the time for action.”