Open letter to all New Yorkers voting in the February 26th Public Advocate Election

3 Mothers Who Lost Sons to Police Brutality and Voting For Different
Public Advocate Candidates Unite On “ANYBODY BUT VIVERITO” (ABV) Call

Open letter to all New Yorkers voting in the February 26th Public Advocate Election.
Three Latina mothers whose sons were killed by white racist gang and NYPD. We are releasing the letter today and asking New Yorkers to vote against Melissa Mark-Viverito in the Public Advocate race.

  • Iris Báez, mother of Anthony Báez, murdered by NYPD in 1994
  • Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario & aunt of Hilton Vega, murdered by NYPD in 1995
  • Altagracia Mayi, mother of Manuel Mayi, murdered by white racist gang in 1991

Open letter to all New Yorkers voting in the February 26th Public Advocate Election: We’re asking you: Please DO NOT vote for Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Iris Baez and Anthony BaezOur names are Iris Báez, Margarita Rosario, and Altagracia Mayi. We are Latina mothers whose sons were murdered over 20 years ago. Long-time New Yorkers know our sons’ names and remember the racism, police corruption and cover-up that made it impossible to get justice for our families. Two of our sons – Anthony Báez and Anthony Rosario (and one of our nephews, Hilton Vega) – were murdered by the NYPD: one by choke-hold 20 years before Eric Garner, and the other two were shot execution-style while they laid on the ground. One of our sons, Manuel Mayi, was beaten and murdered by a white racist gang of 10 in Queens. Two of Manny’s murderers became police officers.

We’ve known Melissa Mark-Viverito for over two decades. She used to come around to some of our meetings back in the 1990s when she was a student. While we would love to see a Latina woman become New York City’s Public Advocate, we feel we must make it clear: Electing Melissa would be a big mistake for our city. We will not be voting for Melissa and we are speaking out to call on all New Yorkers to vote against her in the Public Advocate race. We don’t need a Public Advocate who has a history of advocating against the public.

All of us became activists, not by choice but because we were forced to fight for justice for our children – and we have continued to fight for justice for our sons and for the children of other families who have been murdered by racist and police violence for over 20 years.

As Latina mothers, as activists, and as New Yorkers, we are asking New Yorkers to vote against Melissa in the Public Advocate race. Melissa likes to claim that “the Puerto Rican community” supports her “fervently.” Well two of us are Puerto Rican leaders and we oppose Melissa, we don’t trust her and will be voting against her. We know from personal experience that when the pressure is on and when it’s not politically easy, Melissa has been too willing to sell out communities in backroom deals. We don’t need someone to have a title like “Public Advocate” who has used their power to advocate against the public.

Here are just three of many examples from when she was City Council Speaker – when Melissa Mark-Viverito had actual citywide power – where she chose to please the NYPD and Mayor instead of fighting for the needs of Latino and other communities of color:

MothersIn 2015, even though our city hadn’t put enough money into issues like affordable housing and youth employment, Melissa made a deal with Commissioner Bratton to increase NYPD officers even though there was no need for this. She even lied to her own Council members by saying she would increase only by 1,000 – but she ended up increasing the budget for 1,300 more cops.

In 2016, Melissa made a backroom deal with de Blasio and Bratton to try to water-down and kill a vote on the Right To Know Act, police accountability bills that families who had lost loved ones to police murder were fighting for. Basically, she did a handshake deal with the Mayor and Bratton for the NYPD to do a bad, watered-down version of the bills. She tried to sell this as progress, but we the people weren’t fooled – Melissa was immediately called out for her shady attempt to kill the bills by police brutality families and activists across NYC and even media outlets like the New York Times.

Even though Melissa tried to undermine the anti-police brutality movement, we kept fighting to make sure a strong Right To Know Act became law. And in 2017, when we knew the City Council had to pass the bills because of the non-stop organizing and public pressure, Mark-Viverito once again betrayed the movement and families whose loved ones had been murdered by NYPD. Behind closed-doors, and at the last minute, Melissa worked with the Mayor, NYPD and Council-member Ritchie Torres to take out the most important parts of one of the Right To Know Act bills before it was voted on. We tried to get her to drop this second betrayal on the bills, but she refused.

We cannot have a Public Advocate with this kind of track-record of betraying the movement, of betraying Latina mothers whose grief Melissa has opportunistically claimed to understand, and of prioritizing her own political ambitions over the needs of the people.

We need a Public Advocate who has shown they will stand with New Yorkers when it comes to racist violence, police reform and accountability, even when it’s difficult, even in opposition to the Mayor and the NYPD. We want a Public Advocate who has demonstrated that they will work in partnership with activists, especially the families, to do a real platform for racial justice and police reform in New York City. Our Public Advocate must be committed to real actions to support families like ours that lost loved ones to racial violence and the police in our demands  for justice for our loved ones – not just photo-ops.

The three of us Latina mothers are voting for different candidates in the Public Advocate election – but none of us will be voting for Melissa Mark-Viverito.

On February 26th, we’re asking New Yorkers to vote for a true champion of the people as Public Advocate – that means voting against Melissa Mark-Viverito who has betrayed us too many times.

Pa’lante,

Iris Báez, mother of Anthony Báez
Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega,
Altagracia Mayi, mother of Manuel Mayi

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EDITOR’S NOTE

We have removed an offending image of Melissa Mark-Viverito and her long-time crony, which we came across online while researching an op-ed written by the mothers of black and brown men killed by police. Now, folks are falsely trying to argue that we are solely focused on female politicos, so we will respond: Those who (really) know us know that we go after ANYONE who fucks with our community and we go after them HARD. We got up in de Blasio’s face when he came to East Harlem (at Melissa’s invitation) and told us we didn’t know what we’re talking about regarding rezoning and gentrification (while Melissa stood by smirking). We have challenged EVERY SINGLE elected official “misrepresenting” East Harlem (Serrano, Rodriguez, Perkins, and Benjamin). Unlike Melissa, who usually sides with her male colleagues at City Hall, we also fought Bloomberg at every turn. Melissa knows this so she needs to stop pretending that she’s being singled out because she is a woman. We need real progressive LEADERSHIP, not desperate gender-baiting tactics from a neo-liberal, cynical political hack. Melissa Mark-Viverito does not support women in her community. She has de-funded practically every single Puerto Rican woman founded/led organization in her district (and turned those funds over to white or male-led groups). She has regularly challenged the petitions of every single woman running for a seat in El Barrio.

Her local allies are very much aware of this history, but don’t seem to care and have NEVER stepped up and demanded that she do the right thing! Instead, they choose to play “respectability” politics without responding to any of the charges outlined by the aggrieved mothers. You know what? We’re also offended! We are deeply offended by politicos (and their sycophants) sucking the life out of our communities (and nation) to further their careers. We are deeply offended by politicos who stay silent as this government attacks sovereign nations in its quest for global power, and then uses our own people (albeit colonial “gubernatorial” puppets) to do so. We will never vote for (or back down from) anyone who refuses to use their power to take a firm stance against police brutality, poverty, homelessness, racism, and imperialism. We do not support women who cynically march with Zionists and police and the same ruling elite that is destroying everything in its path. We are deeply offended by “progressive” candidates who have nothing to say about the U.S. invasion into Venezuela, and who still insist that Hillary Clinton is our only salvation. We are deeply offended by women who betray Latina women seeking justice for their murdered sons. We are outraged at the hypocrisy of candidates who trash female community activists at every turn, who ridicule and belittle our efforts, and who sabotage our attempts to change the dynamics in favor of working people.

With all that is going on the world, in this country, in Puerto Rico, and in this city, offending Melissa Mark-Viverito (and anyone who supports her) is the least we can do. We will not be silenced by deflective charges of sexism and misogyny. Melissa Mark-Viverito has NEVER supported strong INDEPENDENT women in her district! She is a wealthy, entitled, and vindictive carpetbagger who needs to stop pretending she cares about other women. In East Harlem, she surrounded herself with the worst: corrupt misogynists who’ve controlled local political clubs for years, rather than supporting women challenging the all-boys club she is so comforted (and insulated) by. We are offended at the fact that she funded thugs who threatened and assaulted local women who protested rezoning and never said one word about it. That anyone would choose to ignore all these offenses in the face of everything Melissa has done is an example of the sort of latitude she has been undeservedly granted by Nuyoricans.

For the record: We are not supporting ANY candidate and have never (and never never will be) a candidate for political office. We are supporting the mothers of black and brown men who bravely issued an op-ed column condemning Melissa Mark-Viverito for her failure to support their cause with effective policy and legislation. Anyone who defends Melissa Mark-Viverito as the “savior” of East Harlem needs to seriously consider their priorities.

Marina Ortiz, Founder
East Harlem Preservation