Bill Thompson Jr., a candidate for mayor in New York City, said that Trayvon Martin was killed because he was an African-American teenager and that the New York City’s Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy reflects a pattern of racial profiling.
Thompson, a former city comptroller and the only African-American mayoral candidate in a crowded Democratic primary, made his remarks over the weekend, speaking to worshippers at the Abundant Life Church in Brooklyn.
His remarks are widely seen as part of a strategy to win support among voters in his base: African-American, Latino and progressive white New Yorkers. Thompson was the Democratic candidate four years ago and came within five percentage points of defeating incumbent Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Thompson has been generally supportive of the police department’s stop-and-frisk initiative, but saying it needs to be modified. His comments over the weekend offered a strongly critical critique of the highly controversial program.
He said that the police department has “institutionalized” suspicion of young men who are Black and Latino.
“Here in New York City, we have institutionalized Mr. Zimmerman’s suspicion with a policy that all but requires our police officers to treat young Black and Latino men with suspicion, to stop them and frisk them because of the color of their skin,” Thompson told the largely Black congregation.
“If our government profiles people because of skin color and treats them as potential criminals, how can we expect citizens to do any less?” Thompson asked.
Thompson is hoping to increase his standing in the polls, which generally show him behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former congressman Anthony Weiner, who has been embroiled in controversy regarding racy text messages sent to women.
Thompson has put together a broad coalition of support from some unions as well as a number of the city’s Black and Latino elected officials in the six-candidate Democratic primary.
Thompson has called on Weiner to drop out of the race following disclosures that the former congressman continued to send sexually charged messages more recently than he had previously disclosed.
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(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)