By Herb Boyd, New York Amsterdam News
Was it Trump? Was it Obama? Nope. The surprise visitor last Sunday to the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn was former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Not until the mega church’s Senior Pastor, the Rev. A. R. Bernard, introduced him to the crowded pews, was anyone aware it would be Bloomberg.
“I hope you don’t mind that a good friend of mind has stopped by this morning,” Rev. Bernard said to his congregation and then announced Bloomberg’s presence. Many of those in the front pews of the church knew he was there but the press lodged in the balcony had no idea he was there. Bloomberg mounted the stage, greeted the audience, and moved quickly into his remarks after accepting rather polite applause. He said that this wasn’t the first time he had been to the church, “in fact, and my mother didn’t know this, I spent more time in church than the temple.” But Bloomberg’s purpose, as his candidacy for president becomes more and more a reality, was to clear up some missteps in the past during his three terms as mayor.
“We didn’t get everything right,” he admitted after citing various achievements during his administrations and warming to the central topic of stop-and-frisk. He said he could have acted faster on stop-and-frisk. “I was wrong, and I am sorry.” He said he was too “focused on saving lives…and hindsight is twenty/twenty” and that he gradually began to halt the arrests of an overwhelming number of Black and Latino men.
Again, the response was lukewarm and the balcony, which earlier rocked when the gospel singers lifted their voices, was now calm. The listeners attentive. The press was given a handout showing a 39 percent reduction in incarceration during Bloomberg’s mayoralty; that murders were cut by 50 percent, while the national average only experienced an 11 percent reduction; and as he noted during his brief speech, racial and ethnic minorities became the majority of the NYPD.
While Bloomberg admitted that his first term in 2002 was terrible, he didn’t mention that there were more than 92,000 stops and that by 2011 there were more than 685,000 stops, the majority of whom were Black and Latino, and 90 percent of them innocent of any wrongdoing. His critics viewed these tactics as a form of terrorism, a fear factor that played well to those opposed to his measures of gun violence.
And after his apology, he returned to the theme of gun violence which was at the top of his comments. According to the handout he is among the nation’s leading advocates on gun control. He said his Young Men’s Initiative to reduce violence, prompted President Obama to create his My Brother’s Keeper program.
“So that’s why the press was here,” one of the church members seated nearby observed.”