New York City Council Member Joseph Borelli (R-51) is the only city official to publicly support Donald Trump.
Borelli was brought into office as the South Shore Assemblyman on a wave of Tea Party reaction in 2012, coveting endorsements from conservative pro-lifer Marietta Canning as well as PBA police union head Pat Lynch. Raised in Staten Island, Borelli is the son of staunch Reaganites, growing up surrounded by Republicans. He centered himself in political debates at an early age, his high school AP government teacher noting Borelli’s persuasive and charismatic personality in class and interest in the law-and-order side of the American political process. At times in the City Council, Borelli comes across as abrasive and uncensored, regularly shooting down his Democratic colleagues ideas as “stupid.”
In October 2014, he criticized the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement for allegedly celebrating an axe attack on officers that month. Borelli claimed witnesses to the incident wished for the injured officers’ deaths:
“‘(Expletive) the pig. I hope that pig dies.’ It is absolutely INCREDIBLE that the only voice you hear from the bystanders filming is ‘___ the pig, I hope he dies.’ I don’t know what kind of world and city we live in where this would be considered normal. I can’t imagine waking up in the morning and going to work to try to protect a community where a person could possibly think this, and I do think police officers deserve to hear from people like me who appreciate the work they do.”
Borelli linked the isolated axe attack to police brutality protests leading to suggest the black community of Queens bore responsibility for the assault. In the months leading up to Donald Trump’s campaign launch, this line would be repeated by pro-cop advocates in response to similar anti-police blowback across the United States.
Borelli recently endorsed a New York State Blue Lives Matter law that would make aggravated assault of a police officer a Class A felony with up to 30 years in prison. New York already has strict penalties for assaulting cops, but this new law would expand these penalties for minor acts of self-defense, de-arresting, throwing bottles, and even damaging police property. For the past two years, he aggressively campaigned against police reforms creating a climate of fear among NYPD officers through “War on Cops” rhetoric. In July 2016, Borelli opposed a compromise with the City Council that would force officers to identify themselves and ask permission before conducting searches:
“It’s concerning to see that even a compromise between all parties does not go far enough for many of my colleagues on the City Council who are willing to write off many of their own constituents’ concerns about public safety in the name of being more progressive.”
This sudden push for Blue Lives Matter laws comes in reaction to the recent unrest in Dallas and Milwaukee to discredit Black resistance and further empower the police with more draconian legal authority. Backing Borelli is a group of racist NYPD officers organized behind Blue Lives Matter NYC.
Staten Island Blue Lives Matter liaison Detective Gregory Gordon came under fire in August 2016 for racist remarks on social media that included calling Mayor de Blasio’s wife Chirlane a “former crack addict,” telling black people to get over slavery, and slamming former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton for rejecting Donald Trump’s invitation to speak to officers. A week after the posts, the press reveled that Gordon almost killed a black woman in a drunk driving hit-and-run leaving her bleeding on the side of the road.
Blue Lives Matter Manhattan South liaison Sergeant John Giangrandi is a vocal Trump supporter. On Facebook he dismisses criticism of his endorsement hashing out old patriotic tirades about reviving the economy and crushing America’s enemies.
Blue Lives Matter NYC President Joseph Imperatrice started the chapter in the months after NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot dead by Ismaaiyl Brinsley in Brooklyn as a counterweight to what he saw as disgusting and abusive rhetoric coming from the Black Lives Matter movement. Imperatrice says the chapter registered as a non-profit with its main goal being to support police families who have experienced tragedy.
Yet, the rhetoric that has come from its members suggests virulent racism throughout the organization. The Brooklyn and Staten Island based motorcycle gang Hallowed Sons has shown up to Blue Lives Matter rallies and openly supports violence against police brutality protestors. In July 2015, Hallowed Sons members worked in tandem with the NYPD to disrupt a flag burning in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park. Even though the bikers were armed with hammers and knives, the police did not arrest them and in fact remained idle allowing the Hallowed Sons to assault and chase protestors. The Hallowed Sons actually boast membership of former NYPD officers. The fact a racist white biker gang can openly maintain such a close relationship with the police shows how deeply entangled white supremacy is with the culture of policing.
The cops that lead Blue Lives Matter NYC are not poorly compensated for their work either. John Giangrandi made $131,159 this year while Gregory Gordon made $143,462. With the material benefits that come with being subsidized by a state municipality, the privileges received from the law, and safety from living in protected parts of Staten Island, it’s clear these cops are not members of the working class.
Joseph Borelli became a Trump campaign co-chair for New York City during the primaries. His role was to actively turnout voters in the congressional district for Donald Trump and promote his agenda in the media. He has made over 35 TV media appearances campaigning for Trump and started vicious arguments with his colleagues on the City Council over the election. Borelli defended Trump’s bigotry saying:
“What is inherently racist about saying the laws that currently exist in the United States should be enforced and perhaps we’re doing a bad job of enforcing them?”
As the lone Trump supporter in a metropolitan area dominated by Democrats, Borelli represents the same syncretic ideology Trump himself has created merging urban liberal classism with nativist racism.
New York City’s liberal elite have enjoyed comfortable control over the city’s politics for decades but recent unrest has frightened the city’s Democrats, with their progressive stooge Mayor de Blasio taking flak from both Left and Right. As their power slips, a vacuum will open for any type of anti-liberal force to take power. Borelli is a vehicle for the Trump campaign and the Alt-Right movement to influence the New York City Council. With the national Democratic Party already drifting sharply to the Right, firmly embracing the neoconservative ideology, it really wouldn’t take much to convince New York’s moderate Democrats to support such an Orwellian measure as the Blue Lives Matter law.
Furthermore, Borelli and his alliance with the racist Blue Lives Matter NYC chapter show the nest of reactionary politics that find shelter in Staten Island. In June 2016, Dayshen McKenzie died from an asthma attack after being chased by a gang of racists in the borough. And even as the police champion increased legal protections for themselves, the NYPD refused to investigate the death as a hate crime. Staten Island is a safe space for cops and therefore a safe space for racism. Residents of color often feel like they’re occupied by a blue gang that has invaded their community and staked out territory. Racial slurs have also become more prevalent in the borough. During the primaries, Donald Trump won 80% of the vote in Staten Island.
While Joseph Borelli is just one lone voice in the City Council, the movement he helped organize in New York City has the potential to become a serious threat to the city’s local social movements. Borelli can legally enshrine reactionary politics espoused by this eclectic alliance of bikers, white supremacists, NYPD officers, and Trump supporters. Even if his efforts are blocked, he still serves as the figurehead for the New York City reactionary movement with both media and political access to spread pro-cop propaganda. The police organizing with other racist elements of American society for increased legal authority will prove dangerous, not just to activist communities, but also New York’s most vulnerable.
We will continue to investigate Blue Lives Matter NYC’s connection to gangs and hate groups and work with the anti-Trump movement to counter their political influence. In the meantime:
Tell Joseph Borelli that you will not stand for his police state agenda:
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