NEW YORK >> Dozens of current and retired officers from the New York Police Department rallied this morning in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers player lionized and reviled for refusing to stand during the national anthem.
The gathering in Brooklyn Bridge Park was organized by Sgt. Edwin Raymond and attended by about 80 officers who wore black T-shirts emblazoned with “#IMWITHKAP.” Frank Serpico, a former officer who exposed corruption in the New York Police Department in the 1970s, attended.
Speakers, including City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, D-Brooklyn, linked the backlash against Kaepernick’s gesture — no team has signed the quarterback for this season — to the violence last weekend during a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and more generally to issues of police accountability.
Kaepernick, 29, stopped standing for the anthem last season, saying he was protesting violence against minorities, particularly by the police.
“As members of law enforcement, we can confirm that the issues he is saying exist in policing, and throughout the criminal justice system, indeed exist,” Raymond said of Kaepernick. In 2015, he joined 11 other officers in filing a class-action lawsuit against the Police Department for policing practices they said discriminated against minority communities.
The rally coincided with a wave of mostly peaceful demonstrations in Boston and other cities today, in which protesters addressed white supremacy, Confederate statues and free speech.
Raymond said in an interview later today that he had been planning the rally before the clashes in Charlottesville. But the violence made especially clear the need to address racism in the United States, he said. That the rally was being held by police officers would send a loud message, the sergeant said, because a frequent criticism of Kaepernick has been that his protest was an affront to law enforcement.
“They said he disrespected law enforcement,” Raymond said. “Well, I’m law enforcement, and he didn’t disrespect me.”
At the rally Williams praised the officers for risking their lives to protect the public. He drew ire last year when he refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance during City Council meetings.
“People use the terms ‘antipolice,’ ‘unpatriotic,’ to scare people from stepping forward,” he said later in an interview. “It takes courage to say, ‘I’m going to do it anyway, because it’s what’s right.’”