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Local NYCLU leader clarifies "We know where your children go to school" remark


The head of the local chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union on Friday sought to clarify a comment she made a day earlier while protesting outside the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office that was construed by many to be a threat against public servants working in the building.

Iman Abid-Thompson, who has played a leading role with the activist group Free the People Roc in organizing demonstrations, was among 30 or so people outside the office calling for the resignation of District Attorney Sandra Doorley and that charges previously brought against protesters be dropped or reduced.

At one point, Abid-Thompson took a microphone that was being passed around among the leaders of the demonstration and lamented that a police barricade had kept protesters away from the courtyard leading to the front doors of the offices.

“I don’t know who the fuck Sandra Doorley thinks she is, but she made this . . . courtyard a trespassing zone? Is she out of her fucking mind?” Abid-Thompson said, adding, “You’re lucky that I work for the fucking ACLU ‘cause litigation is about to pop off.”

“This is white supremacy at its best,” she went on, “when people think that the law is within their side that they can do whatever the fuck they want.

“We’ve been watching them. We’ve been reading their damn policies,” she said in addressing the crowd, before turning toward the building and adding, “We know your names. We know where your children go to school. Don’t you fucking worry.”

Her remarks, which were captured on a Facebook Live video, were met with indignation on social media, as many people, even some sympathetic to the demonstrators’ cause for police reform, likened her comments about children to a threat and suggested she had gone too far.
Protesters marched from City Hall to the Monroe County District Attorney's Office on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Protesters marched from City Hall to the Monroe County District Attorney's Office on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
In a phone interview, Abid-Thompson offered context to the statement. She explained that, at a previous demonstration, several protesters had mentioned having attended the same schools as some of the children of staffers in the District Attorney’s Office.

“It was never about targeting or threatening anybody, it was more about understanding where these people come from and where their children went to school,” Abid-Thompson said. “We weren’t targeting or threatening anyone, that wasn’t it at all.”

Doorley has been a target of protests since September, in part for charges that have been leveled against some protesters that activist groups have regarded as either heavy-handed or downright unnecessary, and in part for her perceived inaction toward prosecuting the officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death.

Abid-Thompson said her comments were meant to illustrate that, despite the children of officials and police officers growing up alongside protesters, the officials and their families are detached from the issues at the forefront of the demonstrations, like systemic racism and racial injustice in policing.

“I would never threaten a child,” Abid-Thompson said. “The point of mentioning families is to reference that some of us have grown up with these cops’ kids and it’s so important to remind ourselves of how so far removed the families and the children are from the issues surrounding Black Lives Matter.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected] or (585) 775-9692.