How are civilian groups like the Guardian Angels taking it upon themselves to protect their cities and their street blocks?
And, why have New York police had trouble dealing with all of this?
In this episode, we sit down with Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Curtis Sliwa, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Curtis Sliwa: Didn’t think I’d be here after the last few nights, but hey, you get first bite at me before the looters get a chance to actually put me six feet under.
Mr. Jekielek: Oh gosh, I really certainly hope that doesn’t happen. But I’ve actually seen some of the footage of what was going on over the last few nights. Actually, why don’t you just start by telling me, what’s going on out there?
Mr. Sliwa: What’s going on is total anarchy and chaos, and it comes at different levels. … We’re talking New York City here, but in some instances, I’ve seen it also in Chicago and LA and Philly where we have Guardian Angels. You start off with your demonstrations, a series of them. “No justice, no peace. Black lives matter. F the police.” A huge group of diverse people. But then again, remember, they don’t have work now because of the pandemic. They’re not in school. There’s nothing to do. Can’t go to a bar, can’t go to a beach, can’t go to a park. This is the place to be. And by the way, if you’re a guy looking for females, that’s where all the females are.
So it starts out nice, adversarial towards the police but no physical stuff. Then all of a sudden, you detect a major change by four o’clock. Guys have gotten up, who the night before were looting. They went to work. They had to make their loot. They don’t even know the name of the black guy who was killed by the four police officers on the streets of South Minneapolis. It doesn’t matter to them. So they get into whatever gatherings are taking place, because they can track it on WhatsApp and everything. They know exactly where it is. By six o’clock, they’ve already scouted locations, what they call jewels in the crown, places they want to hit that night.
And then the armies descend starting at about six. They’re going up and down the streets. They’re on bicycles. They’re on mopeds. You got the Beemers [BWMs] and Benzes [Mercedes Benz] that are the equivalent of jackals and hyenas. They wait in the rear, on the side streets. They let the lions go in first. The lions are the young men, mostly African American, who come in with ball-peen hammers, claw hammers. They come in with bolt cutters. They come in with aluminum baseball bats, and I say, “Yo, where’s the softball game? Where’s the hardball game?” They haven’t played baseball a day in their life. They come in with golf clubs all in their backpacks so they aren’t carrying it. The NYPD is still [saying], “Don’t do anything. Don’t intervene.”
And then they start picking their targets. So the lions go on the attack. Let’s say they go into Niketown, or they go into Foot Locker, because sneakers are the currency of the streets. And so they’re able to get in—pull the plywood off, break the windows—they start rolling in. They go like locusts through the cornfield. Then whatever’s left, you got the guys in the Beemers and Benzes ready to fill up their trunk, fill up the car, and ride back to New Jersey, because they’re all coming in from New Jersey. Because it’s all about making money, looting.
The elected officials have jack diddly squat, no idea. They have no street smarts. They won’t listen to the cops, so the cops have been made impotent. Finally, after putting in place a curfew, the reality of the curfew took place last night. That meant if you were on the streets after eight o’clock, [and] you didn’t have a legitimate reason to be there, you got arrested. Before that, curfews meant absolutely nothing, because they just continued to either protest or they veered off and started looting.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. So you’re talking about these different groups that are out there. First of all, this group that you’re describing, the people that come out at 4am, this feels like it’s highly coordinated. Who is that group?
Mr. Sliwa: 4pm, in the afternoon. Remember, at 4am, they just about finished their looting, so they got to go home. They got to get eight hours [of sleep]. They got to get some food, some grub, and then come out and do it again. They are gangs. Now remember, a gang is a paramilitary operation. Guardian Angels, we’re the alternative. We’re a paramilitary operation. There’s a chain of command. So what you do is, your leaders are telling you, “We’re going to hit Soho. We’re going to hit Midtown. We’re going to get the royal jewel in the crown, Macy’s in Herald Square. Doesn’t matter how much plywood they have. The NYPD is not there,” because they want to empower themselves. And you see, the videos have done that.
You have seen the massive numbers that they can assemble. Flashmobbing, taking use of all the technology of Silicon Valley, right. All of a sudden, brrrr [sound effect] and people are assembled. All it takes is like eight young men. Black hoodies, black pants, white masks, and then they start roaming. And then they go on the attack. There is so much loot out there. They don’t have to fight one another. This is not Darwinian. They actually communicate: “Yo yo yo yo, I got the East Side. You guys go to the West Side, man. I don’t want no conflict with you.”
I’m like, “And where are the police in all of this?” And the good people, they’re locked into their homes, because they’ve already been sheltered in because of the pandemic, so they’re chained to their radiators. And now hhhhhh, [sound effect], they’re in morbid fear: “Guardian Angels, save us, save us!” Now I’m saving them.
I’m saying to myself, “What the hell do we have government for?” Government’s primary role is to provide public safety. Who needs to be paying all these taxes if you cannot provide the basic element of what government is about: public safety? So people would say, “Oh, Guardian Angels, you’re taking the law into your own hands.” No. This is self-help. This is self-empowerment. This is what America is all about. When government fails you—which is almost all the time; they’re a dollar short a day late—it’s the people who have to take matters into their own hands and do what we have always done.
That’s what I’ve always believed: self-help. I trust the people. Government does not trust the people. That’s why they don’t know what to do with the demonstrators, the looters… They’re like blblblbl [sound effect]; they’re trying to catch up. You got to have street smarts; you got to be crawling into the belly of the beast to understand who’s who in all of this; and you have to have a history.
I grew up in the ’60s. I’ve seen this whole story before. All we are seeing is history repeating itself, except now, you have the modern advantages of technology that gives you instantaneous connection with people all over the world. All over the world. That never happened years ago in the ’60s where I was brought up. “Don’t trust anybody over 30.” And by the way, where’s the next protest today where we could go out and afterwards become hoodlums after being peacemakers? There was no thing like “No justice, no peace.” It was the anti-war effort; it was civil rights efforts. But there was looting, and there were problems in the aftermath.
There were young men and young women who decided peace is not the way to go. That’s why they formed Students for a Democratic Society, took over Columbia University [with] Mark Rudd, I remember seeing that as a kid. And then those whites decided to become more radicalized were the sons and daughters of privilege, of college professors, of the wealthy. Very liberal, very progressive—although that term did not exist then—and almost to the point of wanting to overthrow the government. They tried to [overthrow the government] through the Weather Underground. And then they decided to merge their efforts with the Black Liberation Army, which was an offshoot of the Black Panther Party.
Remember, they declared war on America. And they didn’t go for sneakers or jewelry or liquor. That’s no budget. … Willie Sutton said the reason that he went to rob from banks, as public enemy number one in the ’50s, was because that’s where all the money is. They robbed Brink’s trucks. They robbed banks. They were out to destroy America. And the only thing that stopped them was intel, when the federal government started working with local and state authorities, and then there was a massive police effort to find them, track them down.
As we’ve seen, some of their remnants, like JoAnne Chesimard of the Black Liberation Army, fled behind the sugar cane curtain of Fidel and Raul Castro, where they are embraced to this day. So it was an international effort, along with a local effort. They thought that they had a synchronized idea, and then a lot of the people who participated in all that went on to become executives, live in Scarsdale, move out to Silicon Valley, and join the wealthy and the privileged in their gated communities.
So we are going to see this entire cycle take place again, whereas my credibility is in the street. You know, I didn’t graduate high school. I’ve been in the belly of the beast. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly. There’s a lot of good, but there’s a lot of bad, and there’s a lot of ugly, and people up in their suites have no idea, in many instances, what’s going on.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned a few different groups. First of all, we have the peaceful protesters, let’s call them the legitimate protesters. They’re out there, they see a social problem, they feel they have to do something and they have the opportunity, perhaps they’re at home and so forth, so they have the opportunity to do it. Then you have the gangs, which are taking advantage of everything, looting, basically taking crown jewels, however you describe it. But then this other group … I’m thinking of Antifa when you talk about this movement. How does Antifa fit into this whole picture of what’s happening at night?
Mr. Sliwa: Well, when I was a kid in the ’60s, it was cool, it was chic, it was hip, it was happening for everyone to have The Anarchist Cookbook. You had to have that as part of your library, whether it was a library of comic books or actual novels. Remember, we didn’t have Wikipedia then, we didn’t have the internet. We had the Encyclopedia Britannica. That was our source of information. But you had to have The Anarchist Cookbook.
Now how many of the young huckleberries like me actually decided to start making bombs like the Weather Underground did? Very few. But it was cool. “Yeah, that’s right. Right on, blow it up! That’s right. Fight capitalism! All power to the people! It’s a class struggle!” Boy, remember those? Yeah, because you would utter them over and over. You didn’t even know what the hell they meant. But it was cool, it was chic, it was happening.
The girls were out there, so the guys were out there. So you were able to socialize and you really felt you were making a difference in the world. Later on, you realized that you wanted the fall of capitalism. Well guess what? People who were looting, where do you think they went with all that loot? Do you think they played Robin Hood and his merry men? Do you think they went out into the streets and said, “Yo, brothers and sisters! We got loot here! We’re going to empower the poor and impoverished!” No, they sold them out in the streets. They became third-party sellers.
They were street capitalists, except they weren’t willing to go through the normal process—wholesalers, you know, commodity exchange. They just said, “We ain’t going to go through all that nonsense. We’re just going to steal it and then sell it in the streets and keep the loot for ourselves and drive fancy cars.” Back then they didn’t have the Beemer and the Benzes, but you know, drive the Cadillac, drive the Lincoln LTD, ride in style, and people were like, “Yeah, power to the people.” No, no, no.
All you were empowering is these self-appointed community activists and leaders back then. And I remember, you would walk into a college dorm or some kid’s room naive but very idealistic. There was a picture of Che Guevara. “Oh, a very handsome man!” And notice, you didn’t see pictures of Fidel Castro. Not as handsome. But Che Guevara was the figure. “Oh, masculine! Oh, he was romantic!” I say, “You know what Che Guevara stands for?” [The reply would be]”Oh yeah, he was a doctor from Argentina. He wanted to help the people.” [I would say] “He’s calling for world revolution! You are the enemy to Che Guevara. He wants to come in and take everything you’ve got at the point of a gun, and if you don’t capitulate to him, up against the wall. Two bullets to the back of your head.” “Oh, Sliwa, that’s nonsense. What are you talking about?”
And then the other classic was Huey Newton sitting in that wicker chair. A handsome black man he was. Boy, he’s telegenic. They had those posters in almost every room. I say, “Huey Newton, Black Panther Party, they hate white people. Their Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver, wrote in Soul on Ice, rape of a white woman is a revolutionary statement [“Rape [of white women] was an insurrectionary act”] and you suckers believe that?” They couldn’t get enough of it. “Oh, no, no, no, no.”
They were apologetic for Eldridge Cleaver, who turned out to be a complete whack job. Huey Newton turned out to be a crackhead, right? And we know what happened with Che Guevara on that burrow in the hills of Bolivia as he was trying to spread world revolution. But you look at all those young men and women who had really good educations and where are they now? In the centers of power. They’re the shot-callers. They will tell you, “Oh, you know, that was misspent youth. I was very idealistic. It was like Don Quixote.” Okay, I get all that, because I was a part of that.
But now that you see it cycling back again with hipsters and millennials, and Generation Y and Generation X, why aren’t you telling young people that? And think of it: during the pandemic here. I can speak of New York City, where [Governor] Cuomo and [Bill] de Blasio were putting fear and fright into you: “If you don’t stay in your house, if you don’t socially distance, if you don’t mask, we going to arrest you, we’re going to write you up.” Boy, you didn’t see young people running in the streets defying authority. No. In fact, the parents made sure that they were in the house, whether it was a public housing project, tenement, high rise, condo or co-op, it was empty at night.
Now all of a sudden, looters go out at 4, with backpacks, dressed all in black with hoodies, and you mean to tell me their mommies and daddies don’t know what they’re up to when they come back at 4 in the morning with all that loot to do it all over again? Where is parental control? You hear anybody blaming the parents? How could you have thousands of young adults out there, teenagers, on the loose? And you mean to tell me parents are not sitting at home saying, “Yeah, where’s Johnny? Where’s Sally? Where’d they go?”
And by the time they show up at 4, say, “You ain’t going out again. In fact, forget sheltered-in. You’re grounded. That’s right. You’re staying in this house, you’re not going out. If so, let’s see who’s going to feed you, who’s going to give you a roof over your head.” You’d see how fast these young kids would all of a sudden, although they suck in their bottom lip, they’re rebellious, they would be in the house instead of running the streets, looting and causing all kinds of anarchy and craziness. That’s not the political element.
But Antifa gives them the vehicle, helps to instruct them. [It] is The Anarchist Cookbook of my lifetime, by implementing ways. “This is how you do it. This is what you do. It’s all part of a world struggle.” And it ain’t about race. It’s about fighting the man. Now who’s the man? They’re not even saying “F Trump.” In all the demonstrations in New York that I’ve been in, it ain’t been “F Trump.” [They’re saying] “F the police.”
Because what is the symbol you see of government that you’re angry at? You don’t see the politicians. In fact, they’re protected by armed police when they walk out, if they walk out into a crowd. You see the police. So the police have to take the brunt of all that anger and angst. And then it becomes very cool to say “F the police.” And then they have words like “all cops are bastards.” “ACAB,” you see that everywhere. And then “F 12,” [referring to the police drug unit] which is the new norm for “F 5-0,” which was undercover cops. You see it everywhere, spray painted everywhere.
And you say, you know, in a few years, believe it or not, some of these kids are going to be signing up at the academy. They are going to become police officers. And if they happen to have been arrested in all this—even though there’s no bail here, you get released from jail—it might disqualify them from a job, disqualify them from getting into civil service, disqualify them for getting into a career in which they can take care of themselves and the children they’re going to have.
Mr. Jekielek: No, it’s incredibly fascinating what you’re describing. Now, so, are the Antifa tactics out there from what you’re seeing the same as the gangs’ or, how’s that different?
Mr. Sliwa: No, no. Antifa is different because they can reach you through social networking. They’re anonymous. You don’t know if they’re white or black. They’re anonymous. Remember, they made it very chic to wear a mask. There was a law in New York City, you could not wear a mask walking around the city if there were two of you, other than for Halloween, you know. But other than that there was a law that you can’t do that. Why? Because of the Ku Klux Klan, who had parades in New York City, who actually had a convention in Madison Square Garden, who were part of the Democratic Party in the nominating process years and years ago. So you say to yourself, “Okay, good law.” But now it’s no longer cool and fashionable to wear a mask because we all have to wear masks, or at least some choose to wear masks. I’m not going to wear a mask, but hey, it’s up to each person.
Antifa had their cool chicness about them but [they’re] anonymous. You don’t know who Antifa is, but they can reach you. You’re sitting in your public housing apartment, you’re sitting in a tenement, you’re sitting in a condo or a co-op. You got nothing to do, you’re getting stimulus checks. You’re getting more in unemployment than you should be getting, which actually benefits you, so you say, “What do I need to go to work for? I’m getting more on unemployment.”
Or if you’re actually still working, and you’re videoing, you’re conferencing, you could get everything done before 1 or 2, and then you can join the demonstration and go, “Fight the power. No justice, no peace. Black Lives Matter.” Wow, what a great world it is. You get to do all of that and get paid to do it.
Then the guys at night, totally different. Like I said, there’s no political ideology there. It’s all about making your money, getting paid, going to work. Antifa knows how to stoke those fires by giving them the ability to do it, by setting out the tools and the implements of destruction that they can use—putting bricks out, stones, giving them an idea of where to go.
Mr. Jekielek: So you’ve seen that, the weapons caches out there and so forth?
Mr. Sliwa: Oh yeah! All of a sudden, mysteriously, out of nowhere, a man or a truck drops off some bricks, drops off some debris, and then all of a sudden, trtrtr [sound effect], Antifa lets everybody know, “Hey, this is where the weapons are.” Or they let you know where the cops are. “Undercover today. They’re wearing orange armbands, beware.” Trtrtr [sound effect] They share that information, so in essence, Antifa becomes intel. And who is the most valuable member of any movement? People who can do intel against the perceived enemy—in this case, the police.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. You’ve been doing this since 1979. I was reading that. That’s an astounding amount of time. … How did you start being interested in this? Presumably a similar situation? What is the idea of the Guardian Angels?
Mr. Sliwa: Well, [to] give you a little context, I grew up, as I said, in the late ’50s, early ’60s, my teenage years in the ’70s, in a place called Canarsie, Brooklyn—blue collar, working class area, the last enclave for white ethnics before they packed their bags and fled. And why was this flight, white flight taking place? Because there had been a series of urban riots which led to looting and burning down buildings.
Now it’s interesting. In the ’60s, [among] the elected officials who were in place in New York City was a guy named John Lindsay, [who] had moviestar looks. They thought he’d be President of the United States. Richard Nixon almost chose him as his vice presidential candidate in ’68 at the Convention, but Nelson Rockefeller, who hated him, because he was the governor of New York State—like Cuomo and de Blasio, fighting and bickering—said, “Richard Nixon, if you pick my adversary, John Lindsay, Mayor of New York, to be your vice president, you get no Rockefeller money, no Rockefeller support.”
Nixon needed that because he had a bitter, bitter election versus Hubert Humphrey, the Joe Biden of his era, and George Wallace, who was a populist, although a racist, a populist who said, “I’ll know how to take care of the rioters, but I want more social security. I want a Medicare program. I want more money for the poor and impoverished” Whoa, this is a guy. Richard Nixon stole his thunder. And then he chose [Spiro] Agnew from Maryland instead of Lindsay.
But Lindsay had no control of the streets, so whenever he would go into an area that was riot-torn right next to me, Brownsville in East New York, they would say, “Well, what did you think of the riots last night and the looting?” He said, “No, no, no, no. There’s no rioting and looting. It’s just people are upset. This is their venting.” “But there was rioting and looting.” “No, no, no, you got it all wrong. It’s not an insurrection. No, no, no, no, no.” So they wouldn’t even use the terms back then, so basically candy-coated it over.
John Lindsay in the ’60s [corresponds with] Bill de Blasio [and Mayor Eric] Garcetti in LA; we can go right on down the line. The same kind of individuals in place who catered to the rioters and the looters and against the people who are law and order, because they painted them as if they were supporters of George Wallace and Richard Nixon, the “Donald Trump” of [that time]. So it’s all cyclical, all cyclical.
That motivated me to say, “Wait a second. We have a common denominator here—whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians—and that is to fight for what we know is right: protecting people—the most vulnerable, the elderly, the women, the children, the infirm.” And at that time in the late ’70s, New York City was on the brink of fiscal bankruptcy, 1977. Where are we on the brink of now? Potential bankruptcy. So I’ve been through this before. So they laid off cops, firefighters, social workers, teachers.
There were no cops on the subways at night in the Bronx, which was burning down. People were fleeing who could. Others were just hunkering down. I decided to start a subway patrol late at night, thinking, “This is a great thing to do.” Couldn’t be more hopelessly wrong. We were labeled Hells Angels, Charlie’s Angels. We were thought to be a gang, because at the time, the cult classic movie came out, The Warriors, which talked about gangs overpowering the city, three gang members for every one cop. Gee, here are we hearing that now? Right now in the streets at night when the looters come running up the street, saying, “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!” So everyone thought we were cast characters of The Warriors, gangs patrolling the subways.
I got locked up a total of 77 times. Cops were giving me wooden shampoos, attitudinal readjustments, I was sucking concrete. And I was saying, “Gee, I thought I was going to get the Congressional Medal of Honor for all of this.” I couldn’t have been more hopelessly wrong. But I put together the seeds for the Guardian Angels, which has become an international movement now.
We’re in 13 countries, 130 cities. Nobody can say, “Oh, you only protect whites or blacks.” We’re available to all people who want to help themselves. And when people ask us, “Well, whose side are you on in these political battles?” We’re on the people’s side, because we don’t trust any of the politicians. We know how they can be fake, phony, fraudulent fugazis.They can say one thing one day, then they do a focus group or a poll, and then all of a sudden they flip the script! Many of them have no core value system. They want you to become dependent on government.
I want you to become dependent on the people and know that you’re going to have bitter debates. You’re going to have disagreements, but I trust people. That’s what the Guardian Angels do. That’s why we can survive without weapons, without any special powers or privileges. We can crawl in the belly of the beast and not end up six feet [under] in a pine box in potter’s field.
Mr. Jekielek: One of your Guardian Angels—I don’t have his name in front of me—got severely beaten up a couple of nights ago. You yourself, I’m impressed at how well you’re speaking. I know you’ve got a hairline fracture in the jaw. There’s some serious battling going on, and what does that actually mean? You said there were battles, so what does that mean? You’re not going in there with any kind of weapon from what I understand.
Mr. Sliwa: No weapons, but, you know, we have street cred. People know Guardian Angels are not eyes and ears. Eyes and ears. Who are you gonna call? 911? Police are not there because the politicians won’t let them be cops. They’ve been told to stand down. So six of us decided, we’re making a Custer’s Last Stand. This Foot Locker that they want so desperately, that they are circling like buzzards and vultures, is going to be a symbol of this neighborhood Soho, which has been attacked four nights in a row.
Now Niketown [is] interesting. Nike from Beaverton, Oregon—”Resistance, join the resistance” “[Just] Do It”—had Colin Kaepernick do a limited-edition sneaker in which Colin made like millions of dollars from that. The first night, they had armed security around all Nike storefronts, and they had double layers of plywood. What did Nike know that the rest of the merchants didn’t know? They knew that these looters would be coming out for their sneakers, that that’s currency in the streets, so they were going to defend what was theirs.
That did not translate, though, to the rest of the community, to the mom and pop shops, to the residents who were stuck in their homes from the pandemic, and now they were shivering, thinking that they were going to be burnt out of their domiciles. So we decided we’re making Custer’s Last Stand. So we threw 35 of them out of Foot Locker. [They said] “We’re coming back.” I say, “Yep, they are coming back, and we’re not going to give an inch. We are not letting them in Foot Locker.”
Now, a lot of people were, “Well, what are you crazy? They have insurance. It’s just sneakers. You’re gonna give up your-” No. It’s the principle. It is the principle. So an hour and a half later, they came back with 100 [people], all with weapons. And they told us straight out, “We’re going in there. You ain’t going to stop us.” Say, “Go ahead, go for it.” And then they did; they bum-rushed us. And we’re fighting left and right, we’re throwing guys out. I get hit with a ball-peen hammer. Another claw hammer goes right over my head—that would have been it for me. And so they retreat. And naturally, they tell us, “We’re coming back.”
This is like Scorsese’s Gangs of New York if you ever saw films out of that, except they were the ones, right, who were totally lawless, and we were defending law and order. So now they come back with 300. It’s 10:45 and remember, they can flashmob. They can assemble this group: “Yo, yo, got to get the Guardian Angels. We got to show we rule the streets.” They bum-rush us, and they’re throwing all kinds of fireworks at us. They’re throwing debris at us. It’s hitting us all over the place, knocking some of us down. We’re pulling ourselves up.
We did not let them get into the Foot Locker. One of our members [was] seriously injured. He ended up [with] a broken eye socket [and a] broken nose. He had to take 48 stitches in Bellevue [Hospital]. Took a licking, came back ticking. I equate it to a story I read as a kid, and I couldn’t believe they did it. Remember the Spartans, during that passageway against like hundreds of thousands of Persians, they knew they would all die [at the Battle of Thermopylae]. And I told the guys the last time, the third time, when the 300 were coming, “You know, that’s it. That’s gonna be it. You know, say goodbye to your mommy and daddy, because they’re going to turn us into speed bumps.”
They didn’t stop. It’s 11:15 pm. 600 [people] return. There’s only four of us now, because I sent one Guardian Angel with the injured Guardian Angel to Bellevue in the meat wagon, the ambulance. I know it’s over, but we ain’t moving. And out of nowhere, the cavalry came. You see police officers on bicycles, hundreds of them, bhbhbhbh [sound effect]. They’re in squad cars; they’re in undercover cars; they’re on scooters; they’re on motorcycles.
All of a sudden the looters, who had taken control of the streets, are running for their life: “Mommy, Mommy!” The cops are pulling out batons. “Boom!” Down they go, sucking concrete. All of a sudden they’re locked up. Unfortunately, with that show of power, which was effective because it, huuuuergh [sound effect] translated through the ranks, all of these jackals, all of these predators, all of these violators, looters, they would end up getting desk appearance tickets that night at the local precinct, because there’s no bail here.
All the progressives, all the AOCs, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. All out crazy, that’s what the acronym is. She doesn’t want any police. She doesn’t want ICE. She doesn’t want borders. She doesn’t want capitalism. That’s their queen. What was their queen going to do for them? She did something for them, because she helped lead a movement that affected Cuomo and de Blasio—no bail. So guess what? Last night, who [did] we see again? Same people that we had battled with, but now, at eight o’clock when it was curfew time, the cops were swooping them up and just arresting them, because they had no legitimate reason to be in the streets.
And boy, they retreated. They retreated, and that’s what the cops should have been doing initially. It’s not that they didn’t want to. They know how to do it. They did a great job last night. It’s because the elected officials handcuffed them. Cuomo, de Blasio. And now we’ll see if it continues, because remember, I don’t trust these politicians. I trust them to emasculate and neuter the cops even more so that they can make them less effective in the aftermath of what was a successful night for the city of New York.
But I feel we led the effort, because I know of communities all throughout the five boroughs that organized to patrol their streets, their blocks. They were not going to let loot-ery and thuggery come into their neighborhood. But they needed a role model, and we’ve been here 41 years. This is what we do. People felt empowered. If the Guardian Angels, with six, can hold off hundreds, we can save our neighborhood. We can save our retail strip. We can save our block.
Mr. Jekielek: So this is Thermopylae playing out in New York with actually a happy ending, so to speak, I guess. So what changed? … Governor Cuomo was criticizing Mayor de Blasio for basically letting the kind of thing happen that you’re describing. Is that what changed things? How was it that the police suddenly were able to do their job, and they weren’t before, in your mind?
Mr. Sliwa: Well think of it. We’ve had a pandemic of our lifetime, right? Have Cuomo and de Blasio met once? Nothing. Then we have this wave of protests, followed by looting in the aftermath of the police killing in South Minneapolis. Have Cuomo and de Blasio met? No. Cuomo has met with Donald Trump, his political adversary, twice in the West Wing of the White House, because he needs funds for New York. He understands that without Trump in the federal government, we’re in bankruptcy.
He hasn’t met with de Blasio and I say, “When has that happened in history before? Oh, I was there.” In the middle of the Rodney King riots [in Los Angeles], or as the congresswoman there blblblbl [sound effect] called it, “The Insurrection!” Constant rioting and looting. The only merchants who weren’t attacked were Koreans who came out with their AK-47s and fired rounds in the air. The looters avoided them. The other Koreans who got hit were the peace-loving ones. “Boom.” Their retail establishments burned to the ground, and they haven’t returned since.
Who was in charge? It was Mayor [Tom] Bradley. I know him well. African American, almost became governor of California, had been a lifelong police officer with meritorious duty. Who was the police commissioner? Daryl “Wayne” Gates I called him. Again, lifetime police officer. They never liked one another when they were cops. They never liked one another when Bradley was the mayor and he was the police chief. And you know, for three days, they didn’t even talk while LA was burning. So Bush 41 [George W. Bush] had to come in and bring in the Marines from Camp Pendleton and bring in the Army from Northern California to restore law and order. To that day, Bradley and Gates, who could have controlled the riots, chose not to talk. Both who were experienced police officers. They knew what to do in LA, [but they] wouldn’t even communicate.
That’s what’s happening in New York now, and they want to blame Trump. De Blasio wants to blame Trump, Cuomo [as well]. What the hell does Trump have to do with this? I’m telling you, I’ve been in the demonstrations. You haven’t seen any graffiti “F Trump.” It’s not like they love Trump, but remember, anarchists don’t like any politicians. They hate Cuomo, de Blasio. They hate Trump. They hate anything that’s organized. So everyone on the left, if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks that Antifa and anarchists like her, she needs to understand that her time will come. Anarchy means no rules, no regulations, no laws, unstructured, no government, AOC. It’ll be the Paris Commune. You’ll be Robespierre. It’ll be off with your head if they get their way.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay, so wow. A lot to unpack, I could talk to you for hours here, but we are going to have to finish up fairly soon. Right now you’re going back to talking about these anarchist elements. We call it Antifa. It’s probably a bunch of different groups that are active in doing this. But are you expecting things will be under control now in New York after what you saw last night?
Mr. Sliwa: It varies. It could be a police shooting of a civilian or a civilian shooting a police officer. Any number of flash bombs could go off to all of a sudden cause there to be a sort of re-energizing of looting and violation of people’s rights at night. That’s why we’re in a very precarious situation. But, again, I’ve seen this before.
I remember sitting with Tom Hayden, assemblyman from Santa Monica, California. He wanted to meet Curtis Sliwa, because he thought I was some kind of fascist, some kind of vigilante. And he knew we had a presence in LA, and he was thinking of running for governor at the time. Oh my God, what a mistake that would have been. Remember, Tom Hayden was the champion of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in California, and at University of Michigan way back in the ’60s. He was an iconic figure, married Jane Fonda. Ohohoh [sound effect] right? The merging of the two, Hollyweird trendoids, freakazoids, jet setters.
So Tom Hayden was saying, “You know, I understand the plight of the poor, the impoverished, the rioting, the looting.” I said, “You know what, they’re going to come to Santa Monica.” “Naw, they’re not coming to Santa Monica.” I said, “If you let them, eventually they’re going to figure out, ‘Why are we looting our own neighborhoods? Why are we burning down our supermarkets, our jewelry stores, our sneaker stores? Our liquor stores? There’s way more loot in Santa Monica, down Fairfax, Melrose, and Rodeo Drive.'”
And what did we just see? Boy, Curtis Sliwa was right 20 years later. They decided, “Hey, we ain’t looting in South Central, Compton, Watts, Inglewood. No, we’re going to go where the cash money is.”
And notice, all these rich people, all these people who typically support them, there was nothing they could do but watch their trendy shops get looted and burned up. And in LA, you get to watch it, because this is part of the news casting. Normally, they do police chases—that’s why they [have] helicopters—you get to watch them going in and out, cars rolling up, throwing all the loot.
Where was Kim Kardashian? Where was Kanye West saying, “Brothers and sisters, stop.” They were hiding. LeBron James, “Ooohoooh, [trembling sound effect] don’t come here.” Although they were tweeting out, “Yeah yeah yeah, solidarity.” These people have no idea. They are so idealistic, so simplistic, but they don’t understand the streets. I understand the streets. I was watching, I’d say, “Well, well-coordinated. Wow. Oh, they left Pink’s alone.” That’s where you get the trendy, dirty water hot dogs, because “Aayy, well, we don’t want dirty water dogs. We want things that we can sell in the street or put up on urban eBay.” Did you know they have an urban eBay?
Mr. Jekielek: No, I did not.
Mr. Sliwa: Oh hell yeah! It’s a commodity exchange in the hood. People have no idea. They are capitalists. If we can only channel all this energy, the looting and then distributing and then selling products in the street for cash money. Not Bitcoin yet, but in terms of normal retail and wholesale, these guys and gals would make good merchants. They’d be a good merchant class.
But nobody is teaching them this. Instead they’re saying, “We understand why you do this. You’re poor and impoverished.” How are you poor and impoverished if you roll up with a Beemer and Benz, if all of a sudden you’re wearing Gucci, you have designer glasses? It’s like, “Wait a second, that’s not poor and impoverished.” “Oh, no, no, no. They’ve been through the struggle. You don’t know what kind of life they might have had growing up.” I’d say, “And I’m gonna justify looting here?” And now they know where to go: where the rich people live.
Except, see, there was armed security with shotguns on Rodeo Drive. You notice, they didn’t pierce that. Why did the wealthy and the privileged of Hollyweird of Beverly Hills protect Rodeo Drive while they looked at nearby Santa Monica, Fairfax, Melrose, Highland, very trendy areas, burned down? Hmm. Oh, that’s right, because that’s their favorite place to go. Had to protect Rodeo Drive for all those trendoids.
Mr. Jekielek: So I can see our time is kind of getting to an end here. We’re going to have to finish up in a second. I guess the final question I have is for people out there in the cities, both for people that are seeking to peacefully protest, okay, and for people that are seeking to kind of just make it through here. What words would you have for them?
Mr. Sliwa: You must improve, you cannot move. It has been the basis of the Guardian Angels. Now in life, if you want to move and you want to improve your life, you want to head to Leave it to Beaver land, Father Knows Best, Little House on the Prairie, suburbs, rural areas. I get it. Only if you want to. But don’t leave if you’re being forced to leave, because that’s what the Antifas of the world want. They want you to leave so that they control this.
They want New York to become Detroit. Notice, where’s the rioting in Detroit? There isn’t. Where’s the rioting in Baltimore, and looting? I guess they remember Freddie Gray, just five years ago. Didn’t do anything for that city. That city is moving in the direction of Detroit. So people who have been through it before already know, “Yeah, No justice, no peace today, rioting and looting at night, and where did it get us?” Look at Detroit. Look at Baltimore, bodybag city.
That’s a lesson that if you look at those places, they haven’t had the kind of insurrection that we’ve seen in other cities. Gee, I wonder why? Because they experienced it recently and they know that’s a one way trip to Palookaville. So improve, don’t move. Fight for what you know is right. Trust the people, even though you’re going to get in arguments.
Don’t trust the politicians because they’ll sell you, as we say in the streets, wolf tickets [false promises]. Anything to get elected. They all over-promise and they can never deliver. Whether it’s Obama or Trump, it’s always the same. And then make your choice at the ballot box. We encourage people to vote, but don’t turn them into demagogues. Don’t think they’re omnipotent. Don’t all of a sudden support everything they say, when in fact, you realize, a lot of what they say is self aggrandizement. Trust the people, go out there, and do most of this on your own, and you won’t be as dependent on government which wants to promise you that they’ll take care of you from the cradle to the grave.
Mr. Jekielek: Curtis Sliwa, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Sliwa: Oh, anytime. And by the way, that’s what keeps this jaw from locking up from the fracture. I’ve been through this before. Look, I take a licking and always come back ticking. I rescue cats. I got nine rescue cats at home. My wife tells me, “You know, you’re like a cat with nine lives.” I say, “Yeah, Nancy, because I’ve used seven of them so far. Seven of them.”
Mr. Jekielek: Such a pleasure. Thank you.
Mr. Sliwa: Anytime.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.