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Local NY Republican leader rallies troops in support of Jordan Neely's killer

Bruce Blakeman hit a new low when he bused in veterans to support Daniel Penny, who's been charged with manslaughter.

As I sat on the subway en route to cover a rally for veterans in support of Daniel Penny, I thought about his victim, Jordan Neely. I thought about how Neely had his last breath snuffed out of him on a train car that looked exactly like this, in the middle of a day just like this, surrounded by fellow New Yorkers, just as I was.

I scanned the car, checking out my fellow passengers and wondering if any of them were capable of doing what Penny had done. I wondered if such a violent person were in our midst, was there also a person who’d be willing to put their body on the line to prevent them suffering the same fate. Would that person be me?

A woman passed by selling gum and candy, while a mother and son rode silently next to each other, and a group of tourists waited expectantly to get to where they were going. Further down, there was an older man with a bushy grey beard and neon orange sunglasses, and younger man wearing a durag.

Swiping into the subway is agreeing to an unspoken contract that all riders have an equal right to be there—there’s no first class, no upgrades, no priority boarding. Just long benches and doorways where we find space to wedge in and make it wherever we’re headed. But as vigilante justice is increasingly championed by the elected officials who are supposed to protect us, the subway can no longer be seen as a democratizing force. There are people who, in fact, believe it’s theirs to use and enjoy—and theirs to police.

I first heard about the rally for Penny on Tuesday night via a post by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. The Long Island Republican wrote, “Join me tomorrow in NYC to support U.S. Marine Daniel Penny, who ran into danger to help others.”

“While the death of Jordan Neely is an unfortunate tragedy,” Blakeman continued, “Marine Penny shouldn’t face charges for trying to help fellow New Yorkers.” He then listed the time and place for a rally and press conference at Collect Pond Park in downtown Manhattan.

And later Tuesday evening I learned that not only would Blakeman be in attendance, but that he was chartering buses from Long Island to transport local veterans for his cynical photo opp. In an email sent to vets, he invited them to join and “show our support for our fellow veteran Marine Veteran Daniel Penny.” Coffee and bagels would be provided, and vets were told to wear organization hats and attire.

As I approached the park Wednesday morning, a school bus with two small billowing American flags affixed to the front whizzed by, and a few paces later, I’d come upon an area cordoned off area where the out-of-town 40 or so vets and local Republican politicians clustered for their close-up. A few yards away, a handful of counter-protesters—one carrying a large sign with a photo of the late Neely—came face-to-face with a wall of NYPD officers. The cops coalesced into a line and moved ever-closer to the counter-protesters while they chanted “let them go!,” referring to their fellow counter-protesters who’d been arrested moments before I arrived.

“We’re not going to let it go down in history that nobody was fighting for Jordan Neely; that nobody was fighting for the homeless people on the subway system and the people in this country who don’t have anywhere to go,” shouted activist Karla Reyes of the Party for Socialism and Liberation as at least 20 cops advanced on her and the other counter-protesters. The cops remained unmoved in the face of the counter-protestors’ pain, as the image of Neely floated above them.

I left the protester area to scope out the veteran pen and listen in on Blakeman’s remarks, but the cops wouldn’t allow me in because I didn’t have an official press badge. So I observed the scene from afar, and watched back a recording later.

“Daniel Penny is a Marine, he is a hero, he is somebody who was a good samaritan, and jumped to the cause of making this city a safer place,” Blakeman said in his prepared remarks, surrounded by mostly older white men wearing military insignia and waving the same kind of flags I saw on the bus. It should be noted that Blakeman is not a veteran himself.

Right wing NYC Councilwoman Vickie Paladino also took the podium to declare the situation was “a sad one for all involved.” Sad, indeed.

Once the press conference ended, another swarm of cops guarded the exit from the park to ensure safe passage for Blakeman and the vets onto their bus and back to their island. These were outside agitators who came to our city for the express purpose of causing controversy, and the red carpet was rolled out for them via salaries funded by our tax dollars. This wasn’t a typical police presence at a public gathering: there was a one to one ratio of cops to attendees, and the alliance was clear.

Seeing cops support Republicans is nothing new, but seeing cops support Republicans supporting extrajudicial killings by civilians was less familiar. But after the trial and eventual acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin, the floodgates were opened. Now not only are we surrounded by actual cops—we’re surrounded by a bunch of fake ones ordained online.

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