Did Bronx Defenders Endorse Cop Killing?

I’m not much of a connoisseur of rap music, but this video struck home with me.

It’s not that I endorse the line about a cop having to die. Obviously, I don’t and have made the point more times than I care to remember that no one should die. All lives matter. I feel no compulsion to prove myself now. I’ve always been clear about being against violence for everyone.

Yet, this video has sucked Bronx Defenders into a controversy for just that reason.

Two men appear, holding a gun to the head of a man dressed in a New York Police Department uniform. And as rappers sing about killing police officers in response to Mr. Garner’s death, two other men, portrayed as defense lawyers, are shown working on a case.

The men were not actors. They were lawyers from a city-funded nonprofit, the Bronx Defenders, and they had agreed to be part of the video.

This is just the sort of stupid mess that an organization like Bronx Defenders doesn’t need.  Not because there is any basis to believe that they in any way endorse harm to police officers, but because it will subject the organization to attack and controversy, putting its funding at risk as well as distracting it from the critical job it performs.

On Thursday, New York City investigators sharply criticized the two public defenders for participating, concluding that they knew beforehand that the lyrics endorsed deadly retribution for the death of Mr. Garner, in July after a confrontation with police officers.

The city’s Department of Investigation also determined that the founder and executive director of the Bronx Defenders, Robin Steinberg, approved the organization’s involvement without reviewing the lyrics and later misled city officials about her role. The city has demanded that the Bronx Defenders, known for its aggressive defense of low-income and minority clients and receives about $20 million a year in city funds, take disciplinary action against the two lawyers by Feb. 4.

This is, how can I say this kindly, complete bullshit. Robin Steinberg has her plate full with the zillion indigent defendants her group handles, in one of the toughest courthouses anywhere in the world.  Robin is not only a brilliant lawyer, but one of the smartest people I know.

She never would have allowed this had she known the entirety of the project, not because of the ridiculous notion that it suggested she or her organization endorsed killing cops (the idea is so utterly absurd as to be laughable), but because she knows better than to get embroiled in time-wasting controversy.

In a statement, the Bronx Defenders said its employees never saw the video before it was posted online or approved the images that were used. “The Bronx Defenders abhors the use of violence against the police under any circumstance,” the statement reads.

And to anyone who has any knowledge of how stuff works, the idea that two Bronx Defender lawyers played any more than a bit part in this video, and were either  told or shown its entirety as if the rappers wanted their approval, is almost as silly as suggesting Bronx Defenders endorses cop killing.

Indeed, this is music, and very powerful music.  I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that anyone associated with this video actually endorses anything of the sort.  Rather, it seeks to make a political point about the killing of young black men.  You may not like the way they make it, but it’s a point that needs making.

That police and low-self-esteem politicians and their appointees will decry that tiny part of the message while ignore the rest of it comes as no surprise. But leave Robin Steinberg and Bronx Defenders out of it.

24 thoughts on “Did Bronx Defenders Endorse Cop Killing?

  1. Mark W. Bennett

    It’s not that I endorse the line about a cop having to die. Obviously, I don’t and have made the point more times than I care to remember that the point is no one should die. All lives matter. I feel no compulsion to prove myself now. I’ve always been clear about being against violence for everyone.

    Gertruding about Gertruding. Very meta.

    1. SHG Post author

      Heh. I thought of you as a wrote that. I asked myself, did I just Gertrude about Gertruding, and will Bennett find it necessary to point it out to me? Then I thought, screw Bennett; I’ll write what I want to write.

          1. Mark W. Bennett

            Not quite. Apophasis is pretending not to raise a subject with the intent of raising the subject. “We aren’t even going to talk about Scott’s love of cop murders.”

            Gertruding is raising an irrelevant subject (specifically, denying some inappropriate conduct) with the intent of forestalling discussion of it. “I really do not approve of cop murders.”

            1. David M.

              Putting this and the def on your site together: Gertruding is raising X to avoid a discussion of whether X is true for you or you believe in X, but the fact you felt it necessary to raise X at all creates more doubt. That’s pretty cool, actually. Includes stuff like “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and “I totally get it”.

  2. blind guy

    Knowing Robin and her history, I am willing to leave her out of it. The two lawyers should have the good sense to resign. If nothing else, the 2 are guilty of felony stupidity.

    1. SHG Post author

      Nah. How would they know what else would be in the video? And so what? Free speechiness and all. It’s a music video.

      1. blind guy

        can’t minimize just because it’s a music vid. Tv seems to be reporting that Robin tried a coverup. Know anything about that?

        1. Tom

          The buck stops with her. She lied, she covered up. She should go. The other two lawyers are already cleansed from their website. Indigent defendants received great representation in the Bronx when she still a Legal Aid lawyer. The Bronx will be fine.

          [Ed. Note: Balance, a copy of a NY Post article, deleted.]

          1. SHG Post author

            This is significant, given the deep concern expressed by the NY Post for indigent defense, and the need for cop shills to run around the blawgosphere trying to spread the cop message. And quite definitive that “she lied, she covered up,” for your first comment here.

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  6. Judy

    Robin Steinberg, whom I met two years ago, is a totally committed attorney who cares a great deal about human life – everyone’s. My impression is that she was up-to-her-eyeballs-busy working for the 35,000 folks per year that Bronx Defenders serves with its holistic legal and social services – an exemplary program.

    How is it that people can get so upset about song lyrics (I personally think these were awful, but believe in freedom of speech), but have nothing to say about other lives mattering? This is a dream come true for the head of the police union: let’s just leave those poor folk un-defended.

    Please let’s keep Robin and Bronx Defenders doing their superior and important work. The two lawyers should have known better, but they didn’t. As a retired social worker and one-time executive director, I vote to let Robin and the work continue.

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