Brian O’Neill, concejal republicano de Filadelfia. Archivo particular.
Brian O’Neill, Republican City Councilman. File

[OP-ED]: Philadelphia City Council Members Condone Police Union Bigotry

Brian O’Neill, the Republican City Councilman who’s represented Philadelphia’s Northeast section (Tenth District) since 1980 has achieved many distinctions…


O’Neill achieved another distinction recently albeit a dubious distinction. 

O’Neill endorsed disgusting racial bigotry.

O’Neill joined Philadelphia police union president John McNesby during a late August rally to support a policeman who fatally shot a black man in the back where McNesby assailed Black Lives Matter protesters as “a pack of rabid animals.”

Characterizing blacks as animals is a repugnant practice with deep racist roots.

It’s Ok that O’Neill backed McNesby’s blast against anti-police brutality protesters demonstrating in front of the back-shooting cop’s house. O’Neill termed that demonstration a “stain” on Philadelphia during his remarks at the ‘Back The Blue’ rally.

It’s not Ok that O’Neill remained silent about McNesby’s racist rant even after McNesby’s rant ignited outrage locally and nationally. O’Neill failed to respond to repeated requests for comment on whether he supported or rejected McNesby’s rant.

There is bi-partisan support on City Council for McNesby’s latest display of bigotry. Council’s Democratic Majority leader, Bobby Henon, also attended that ‘Back The Blue’ rally. Like O’Neill, Henon has neither voiced concern about McNesby’s rant nor responded to requests for comment. 

Award-winning writer/radio host Solomon Jones tried to contact O’Neill and Henon last week about McNesby’s rant. “The failure of Councilmen O’Neill and Henon to denounce the racist rhetoric of McNesby reflects a disdain for the black taxpayers who help to pay their salaries,” Jones said late last week.

Jones did receive a response from Democratic City Councilman Mark Squilla, another ‘Back The Blue’ rally attendee. Squilla said he didn’t hear McNesby’s rant but [now] considers it objectionable.

The collective silence from City Council members on McNesby’s bigoted outburst is despicable considering Philadelphia’s sordid history of police union backing of brutality – misconduct that costs City government millions annually.

This silence is especially appalling from non-white Councilmembers whose black and Latino constituents have historically borne the brunt of Philadelphia police brutality. 

In 1977, for example, black police officers demonstrated outside the police union’s former headquarters against the beating of black policemen and their wives inside that HQ’s basement bar. In 1993, drunken police badly beat then Latino Philly prosecutor Victor Ventura inside that same basement bar.

City Council has leverage. Council could cut the City budget allocation for the police union’s legal defense fund that McNesby’s union often uses to defend indefensible acts of police brutality.

McNesby’s union endorsed the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump despite Trump’s flagrant bigotry. In September 1968 then Philadelphia police union president John Harrington sparked a ruckus when he delivered that union’s endorsement to the presidential candidacy of avowed racist George Wallace.

Late last week the Police Department began dismal procedures against Ryan Pownall – the honoree at that ‘Back The Blue’ rally – for committing multiple violations of police policy in his June 2017 fatal shooting.

Seven years ago Pownall shot another fleeing suspect in the back leaving that black man paralyzed.

  • brian o'neill
  • Philadelphia

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