A Democratic candidate for the New York City Council has drawn criticism for his inflammatory rhetoric and attempts to stir up anti-Semitism in a race against a Jewish incumbent.
Thomas Lopez-Pierre, 48, is vying for the New York City Council’s 7th District, which spans much of north Manhattan and is currently represented by Mark Levine.
All three candidates running for the seat are Democrats, and the race will effectively be decided by the Democratic primary vote in September.
The election garnered national attention in recent days following a series of provocative statements by Lopez-Pierre targeting the New York Jewish community.
Lopez-Pierre kicked off his 2017 campaign with a video advertisement, spread on social media, decrying what he described the “ethnic cleansing” of upper Manhattan by “greedy Jewish landlords”. Lopez-Pierre also accused local Jewish landlords of exerting political control over the incumbent, Mark Levine.
“Mark Levine is controlled by Jewish landlords,” Lopez-Pierre claimed in the video. “Jewish landlords own more than 80% of the real estate in upper Manhattan, and they are at the forefront of pushing black and Latino people out of upper Manhattan. Together, if we organize, we can defeat Mark Levine, we can defeat Donald Trump, and we can defeat the Jewish landlords that are pushing black and Latino people out of Washington Heights and the Upper West Side.”
“Together we can defeat the Jewish landlords that are engaged in ethnic cleansing…I don’t take one dollar in campaign contributions from these greedy Jewish landlords.”
On Monday night, Lopez-Pierre pledged in a Twitter post to “protect Black/Hispanic tenants from ‘Greedy Jewish Landlords’,” citing the arrest of two Jewish landlords in 2015 to back his accusations.
Emails calling on supporters to donate to the campaign took a similar tack, with headlines like “SAVE HARLEM from Greedy Jewish Landlords”.
On his campaign website, Lopez-Pierre declares himself a “Christian man of Dominican, Puerto Rican and Haitian descent (born addicted to drugs, raised in foster care and group homes).”
In an interview with the Manhattan Express, Lopez-Pierre pushed back on accusations he was engaging in textbook anti-Semitism.
“I don’t see it as anti-Semitic, I’m not going to be ashamed to be committed to the political and economic empowerment of the black community,” said Lopez-Pierre. “Levine has no business representing a black community on the City Council.”
Despite his appeal to ethnic strife, local Democratic organizations have given Lopez-Pierre a platform for expressing his hateful views.
At an event held by the Three Parks Independent Democratic Club on April 12th, Lopez-Pierre compared the alleged “ethnic cleansing” of blacks and Latinos in Manhattan to Nazi efforts to annihilate the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
“This is how I would make it simple for Jewish people,” said Lopez-Pierre, explaining his opposition to Mark Levine. “If there was a candidate that was taking money from the construction managers who built concentration camps, the Jews would not look favorably upon that candidate.”
In previous elections, Lopez-Pierre engaged in similar race-baiting tactics, launching his 2013 bid with an email to supporters entitled “A White/Jewish City Council Member representing Upper Manhattan?”.
During the 2016 city council election, 14 New York officials penned a joint letter condemning Lopez-Pierre’s use of anti-Semitic imagery in his campaign.
The officials cited Lopez-Pierre’s “repeated references to ‘greedy Jewish landlords’ in your most recent email play on a long-established anti-Semitic trope,” as well as his references to his opponent as “the only Jewish candidate in the race”.