When Joshua Lopez saw his picture on the front page of the New York Post last month, he was anything but excited. “I felt like I was let down by my city,” Lopez confessed. The photo in question shows Lopez flipping off NYPD Inspector John D’Adamo during an October 24th march protesting police brutality. The word “DISGRACED” is superimposed over the image in all caps.
The front-page headline accompanying the photo of Lopez and D’Adamo refers to the fatal shooting of officer Randolph Holder in East Harlem.
“They put a target on my back,” Lopez told us. “And now every time I encounter a police officer I’m afraid.”
Yesterday evening, a small crowd of about 15 activists, Lopez among them, assembled outside the tabloid’s midtown office to call for a boycott of the newspaper for what they considered to be biased, pro-police coverage.
While the cover suggests that the timing of the march was insensitive to Holder’s death, demonstrators at last night’s protest pointed out that there is never an ideal time to fight police brutality.
“Don’t tell us we should postpone our protest until the NYPD postpones brutalizing and murdering people,” said Carl Dix, a member of the Rise Up October movement who helped organize both the main event and last night’s demonstration. During the peaceful 3,000-person march on October 24th, 11 people were arrested on their way from Washington Square Park to Times Square.
Others have argued that the Post should have done its research about Lopez’s personal connection to the issue of police brutality. In 2011, Lopez’s uncle John Collado was shot and killed by plainclothes NYPD officer James Connelly when Collado stepped in to break up a fightbetween Connelly and another man. Connelly was not indicted.
A statement released by demonstrators argues that the NY Post’s coverage indirectly infringes protestors’ right to freedom of expression: “If peaceful protesters can’t express their first amendment right to protest without being targeted by the media, then it’s not only police officers that aren’t being held accountable—it’s the news media as well.” At the rally, “New Yorkers Against Bratton” organizer Josmar Trujillo said, “In a country that calls itself a democracy, the first organization coming out to cover up the murder of police officers is the media.”
To be sure, that same Constitutional amendment protects publications’ right to publish accurate, if opinionated, stories. As protestor Noelle Harris put it, “We have no say, so they can publish whatever they want.”
“They’re always blaming the victim, no matter how clear the evidence is,” Nicholas Heyward Sr. echoed. In 1994, Heyward’s son, Nicholas Heyward Jr., was fatally shot by a New York City housing cop after he was seen playing with a toy gun.
“The Post chose to call me and Joshua a disgrace because we stood up to this injustice,” said Heyward. “Well, guess what? I’ve been standing up for the last 21 years, and I’m gonna continue to stand up… The Post is guilty. The whole damn system is guilty.”
The NY Post did not respond to requests for comment.
Published by The Gothamist