Southern Brooklyn Assemblyman William Colton shared a post on his public Facebook page calling Black Lives Matter a “hate group” and equating it to the Klu Klux Klan — which, he said, started out as a group of “well intentioned people” before becoming the notoriously violent white supremacist institution that it is today.
“I support my Black friends but not BLM. I support my white friends but not the KKK. I don’t support hate groups,” the Aug. 9 post reads.
When asked about the post, Colton — who has represented Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, and Gravesend in the state’s lower chamber for 23 years — claimed that he shared the message simply to “generate discussion,” and said “racism is never okay.”
“I did share them because I wanted to generate this discussion,” Colton told Brooklyn Paper on Aug. 14. “I think that Black Lives Matter is certainly not a hate group or a terrorist group.”
Colton said that while he supports Black Lives Matter’s core message of racial equality, he believes there are actors who aim to corrupt the movement and spread “hate” and violence against police and property.
“Those people should not be representative of Black Lives Matter, and I don’t think they are. But when Black Lives Matter organizes a protest, they have to make sure that those people don’t blend themselves into Black Lives Matter.”
Colton warned that “bad actors” could take over the social justice movement, presenting the risk that it could become a hateful organization like the Klu Klux Klan — which Colton said he believes was founded on idealistic, non-racist ideals.
“I think initially the KKK, when it was formed, they were well intentioned people who felt they were hurt, discriminated against … but then they chose to band together to form a group that [preaches] hate,” said Colton about the white supremacist hate group founded by Confederate army officers in 1865.
Some commenters supported Colton’s shared Facebook post, but many decried it as “racist” and “pathetic.”
“You have largely ignored the messages portrayed during the BLM protests, and have done nothing but speak out against BLM without addressing anything towards systemic racism in policing. Now you are comparing BLM to the KKK? Horrible!” wrote Ramon Guadalupe, a Coney Island native. “You need to apologize to the black community. Your outdated rhetoric is the reason people protest.”
The president of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn called Colton a “privileged bigot” and said the post justifies his removal from office.
“He is part of a platform that seems to want Black people to not gain equity and empowerment,” said Anthony Beckford, the president of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn, and a council candidate in Flatbush. “I condemn William Colton’s dog whistle tactics and bigotry and call for his immediate removal from office.”
The post comes weeks after pro-police rallies and Black Lives Matter counter-protests converged in nearby Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, where counter-protesters said they were attacked and were told to “get raped.”
“There was a lot of men who just kept screaming at us, ‘Go get raped! Go get raped and see who you’re going to call then!’” said Black Lives Matter demonstrator Vanessa Cavanagh. “People were following us saying, ‘We’re going to find out where you live, we’re going to f—k you up.”
Weeks later, a group of Asian-American leaders spearheaded a march through Bensonhurst after an 89-year-old Asian woman was set on fire by strangers and police declined to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
“We’re often silenced when we express our grievances, and when we express our pain, the outside perception is, ‘Why don’t you speak up?’” said organizer William Lex Ham about the march. “We’re done with being invisible in our own country.”
Colton condemned the attack on the 89-year-old, which occurred just outside his district.
“Hate directed against any one group will result in crimes impacting us all,” he tweeted on Aug. 11 in reference to the attack. “Enough is enough in our city.”