The day after the 9/11 Memorial & Museum announced they would be canceling their annual Tribute in Light memorial, the Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City said they would create their own.
The SBA, an active and vocal police union for sergeants of the NYPD, is comprised of 13,000 active and retired officers. Their president, Ed Mullins, has held the post for 18 years and has been vocal about his opinions and lack of regard for his critics. Recently, his comments have amplified his well-known disapproval of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, anti-police efforts by protesters in New York.
In an announcement on Friday afternoon, Mullins slammed the 9/11 Memorial & Museum for their choice to suspend the Tribute in Light, a high beam light installation that has paid tribute to those lost to terrorism in September 2001 every year since the attack. He also laid the blame at the feet of Mayor Bill de Blasio for not speaking out in defense of the light tribute or offering an immediate alternative.
"Mayor de Blasio has once again failed to represent the people of this city with his inability to provide a viable alternative to this sacred annual event,” said Mullins.
“He allowed mass protests and riots in the city with no concerns whatsoever about the pandemic. He has shown time and again that he has no allegiance to crime victims in this city, whether they are killed in street encounters or by terrorists.
The 9/11 attacks was an act of war on our nation, and the Tribute in Light remembrance paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 innocent victims who were murdered that day, as well as all of the people that continue to die from 9/11 related ailments and illnesses. These victims include members of the NYPD, PAPD, FDNY and other First Responders, as well as all of the people who went to work that day and died for our country.
"The mayor won’t find a way to honor these heroes, but the SBA will pay tribute to all of the fallen victims by arranging for a Tribute in Light. A twin beam of light will shine on the evening of 9/11. The men and women of the Sergeants Benevolent Association will make sure of that.”
"The mayor might have a short and selective memory, but the members of the NYPD will NEVER FORGET the sacrifice of every person who lost their life that fateful day."
NYC Belongs to the People, The Lights Will Go On... pic.twitter.com/vaAmUbM1lV— SBA (@SBANYPD) August 14, 2020
The Museum cited concerns over COVID-19 infection for the workers needed to create the light display, a crew of about 40 "stagehands" who painstakingly assemble the memorial each year. As I reported earlier today:
The Museum announced late on Thursday that because of the risk of COVID-19 infection for the 40 or so workers it requires to install the lights each year, they would be canceling the display. Their announcement was met with disappointment and outrage; the Museum had already announced the cancellation of the annual reading of victim names, saying they would instead be using footage of the reading from prior years.
Most critics of the decision said the explanation of risk to the workers, who could easily wear the proper protective gear during installation, did not stack up.
"There's just no rhyme or reason here. Bad decisions like this seem completely arbitrary," [NYC Councilman Justin] Brannan said via Twitter. "At a time like this, rituals and touchstones are even more important for so many New Yorkers. If construction has resumed in New York City, how is this different?"
Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat, and fellow councilman Joe Borelli (R- Staten Island) announced they were working with the AFL-CIO to assemble a group of volunteers willing to take on the risk of infection to complete the installation.
New York City Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who is running for congress against incumbent Max Rose, said she too would assist in getting the installation up. But in order to see the display as designed in its normal location, she said, the Museum and the light designer Michael Ahern Productions would need to cooperate.
I reached out to @911TribMuseum & offered my assistance in recruiting volunteers to complete the necessary work. We need both the museum & Michael Ahearn Productions, which owns artistic copyright to come to the table & work w/ elected leaders. I’ll do everything I can to assist.— Nicole Malliotakis (@NMalliotakis) August 14, 2020
The mayor has championed the protests taking place throughout the summer across New York City and commissioned five Black Lives Matter murals throughout the city, requiring dozens of city workers and volunteers to accomplish. The Museum did not mention the elected leaders of New York as wielding any influence in their wildly unpopular choice to cancel the Tribute in Light. They did offer, instead, to light up smaller buildings in Manhattan as a substitute honor.
Neither de Blasio nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo have commented on the decision by the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Cuomo is considered an honorary member of the Museum's board of trustees.