New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (D) signed a vaccine mandate order on Aug. 17, requiring everyone over the age of 12 to present proof that they are vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter indoor restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters, concert venues, museums, and event spaces.
According to the New York City Department of Health, only 38% of black New Yorkers are vaccinated, compared to 49% of whites, 51% of Hispanics, 76% of Asians, and 78% of Native Americans.
Hawk Newsome, the co-founder and chairman of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, argues that the vaccine mandates are racist.
"I think, in a perfect world, [vaccine requirements] should be business by business. But it could be a slippery slope, so the mandate should be removed completely," Newsome told the Washington Examiner. "It's not gonna be white men in suits on Wall Street who are gonna get stopped. There's such hypocrisy in this thing."
"It's black people who have a natural distrust of the vaccine," Newsome said, citing the Tuskeegee Syphilis Study.
"We are not anti-vaxxers. Some of us are vaccinated," Newsome said of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. "It's an individual's choice. No one should be forced to put something in their body."
Newsome, a Baptist, is especially bothered that the vaccine mandates do not allow for religious exemptions.
"How dare they remove religious exemptions? It's the most disrespectful thing I've ever seen," Newsome said. "Now the government has decided your God doesn't matter? I love God."
"It fits a narrative to say crazy Trumpsters are the only ones who don't want to take the vaccine," Newsome said of the media coverage of those who are vaccine-hesitant.
Newsome said he wasn't aligning with conservatives who are against vaccine mandates because he says the GOP is built on the oppression of black people. But he also said he is wary of liberals.
"I'm a follower of Malcolm X," Newsome said. "Malcolm X didn't trust the Republicans, but he also didn't trust the Democrats."
Newsome told the New York Times that restaurants "are using vaccine mandates to enforce their racist beliefs and excluding black patrons." He was referring to an incident at Carmine's restaurant in New York City, where three black women from Texas got into a physical altercation with the staff at the Italian restaurant over COVID-19 vaccination cards.
The women allege that a hostess – an Asian woman – used a racial slur, but no proof has been presented yet. Security video shows one of the women attack the restaurant employee.
"Three women brutally attacked our hostess without provocation, got arrested and charged for their misconduct, and then, over the last several days, had their lawyer falsely and grossly misrepresent their acts of wanton violence in a cynical attempt to try to excuse the inexcusable," Jeffrey Bank, the owner of Carmine's, said.
Black Lives Matter of Greater New York organized a protest outside of Carmine's on Monday, where they chanted, "Carmine's is racist!"
"Seventy-two percent of black people in this city from ages 18 to 44 are unvaccinated," Newsome said during the BLM protest. "So what is going to stop the Gestapo, I mean the NYPD, from rounding up black people, from snatching them off the train, off the bus?"
Chivona Newsome, a fellow co-founder of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, was much more militant about the vaccine passports. She threatened an "uprising" to the likes seen across the country following the George Floyd murder.
"We're putting this city on notice that your mandate will not be another racist social distance practice," Chivona Newsome declared at the protest. "Black people are not going to stand by, or you will see another uprising. And that is not a threat. That is a promise."
"The vaccination passport is not a free passport to racism," she proclaimed.
Kimberly Bernard, the co-founder of the Black Women's March, also slammed the Democratic mayor and governor for the vaccine passports.
"We are serving notice on the mayor, on the governor, on the restaurant industry that we will not allow for you to use this pandemic, vaccination cards, and masks as another reason to be racist, to put us in prison — because there's enough of us in there," Bernard said.