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Guardian Angel Founder Curtis Sliwa takes on NYC mayor race, refunding police

The founder of the volunteer crime patrol nonprofit is running for mayor as a Republican on a pro-police, anti-crime platform.

Updated: March 24, 2021 - 10:05am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The founder of the Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa, has announced that he will run in the New York City mayoral race as a Republican.

Sliwa started the Guardian Angels Safety Patrol nonprofit organization in 1979 while Ed Koch was the New York City mayor and the crime rate in the city was high, as policing was insufficient to control it.

His organization often found itself at odds with police in the past, but now he is championing refunding law enforcement in the midst of the defunding by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"Luckily, there was no social networking back then because Ed Koch was the master of the 30-second soundbite, and he tried to bury us with those soundbites — he called us vigilantes," Sliwa told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "He called us Hell's Angels. He called us a ragtag gang. And as a result, the police were confused."

When the police "had seen their colleagues laid off," Sliwa explained, "they thought, 'Oh my God, the Guardian Angels beginning to ride the subways, there goes our job security.' So their union actually told them to go out and arrest us for disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, unlawful assembly, obstruction of government administration — you name it, they charged us. Within the first 13 years in this baptism and fire, I personally was arrested 76 times."

Sliwa detailed the history of the Guardian Angels' interaction with New York City police and mayors. "Yeah, on occasion the cops would give me a wooden shampoo and a concrete facial and added some readjustments on the way to the lockup," he recalled. "So when it comes to mayoral candidates who talk about, you know, prisons, jails, law enforcement — I've experienced it both ways.

"So I think I'm the fairer arbiter of what is excessive and what isn't excessive, but it certainly was a great launching pad for us. We survived against all odds. And then when Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor, thank God, in 1993, he gave the city a badly needed colonic against all the crime. And he embraced the Guardian Angels, and we haven't had a problem since in New York City.

"In fact, we're now in 13 countries, 130 cities, we've got 5,000 members, and it's the same code of operation, except we use local people in each and every one of the venues. It's all about self help — don't depend on government, don't complain, take responsibility for what's happening in your streets, your subways, and your neighborhoods."

The idea for starting the Guardian Angels began in the late 1970s when Sliwa was a night manager at a McDonald's on Fordham Road in the Bronx. He asked his fellow employees to join him in patrolling their restaurant's street one night per week to help clean it up and instill community pride.

Sliwa later changed the mission of the 13-member group to protecting subway riders in the roughest areas at night, and it became known as "The Magnificent Thirteen." They watched for gang members who would rob commuters and detained them until the police could arrest them. As word of the group spread and others joined, it became the Guardian Angels.

He also stood up to organized crime in the city, according to Sliwa's bio on 77 WABC Radio, the station where he hosted a show until his mayoral candidacy was declared.

"He was kidnapped and shot five times by junior associates of mob boss John Gotti in 1992," 77 WABC Radio's website says. "The mobsters stole a cab and grabbed the unarmed Sliwa off the street. Gravely wounded, he was able to escape the cab and was hospitalized for a month. The attack resulted in multiple surgeries during a two-year period and permanent internal injuries."

During the Black Lives Matter riots this past summer, Sliwa was on the New York City streets, protecting businesses from looters.

"I was out there in the streets on June 1st and June 2nd, where many of your listeners actually saw the looting — the brazen looting that took place in the streets of New York," Sliwa said. "As like locusts through a cornfield, they invaded Macy's in Herald Square, the largest department store in America.

"The police were not there, and they went throughout the various boutiques and designer shops and just were looting at will. And the only one stopping them were me and the Guardian Angels. I got a broken jaw, some other Guardian Angels were seriously injured."

Sliwa talked with the rioters, who were claiming they didn't want to hurt the Guardian Angels.

"But we also were telling these thugs and thugettes and their followers, because what they were saying was, 'Look, get out of our way. We don't want to have to hurt you. We know you guys and gals.' And I said, 'Look, first you come for the property. Then you come for the product, then you're going to come for the people.' 'Oh, what do you care? They have insurance.' I said, 'No, because this kind of looting and anarchy will just lead to more of it being replicated,'" Sliwa recalled.

"And even though we suffered a lot of injuries, we didn't surrender, we didn't retreat, we set an example for New Yorkers. The police apologized to us because they were told to stand back — let the crowd vent — by our mayor, we call him Comrade Bill de Blasio, the part-time mayor, the dope from Park Slope."

Sliwa discussed the issue of defunding the police and how he is campaigning on refunding law enforcement.

"It's like, how come elected officials are not standing strong — from all different parties, whether they're Republicans, Democrats, or Independents — and supporting the police? In fact, my whole campaign is based on refunding the police — not defunding, refunding," Sliwa said.

"And see what happens is you have this cadre on the far left — the Democratic Socialists of America, the justice warriors, led by AOC, All-Out Crazy, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who want to disband the police, who want to defund prisons, and basically want criminals to run amok."

Sliwa said that all political parties should be against defunding the police because everyone calls the police when they're under assault.

"And so, I stand up and I say, 'Look, forget the political ideology or your party registration. Let's apply common sense to this.' When you have a problem, when you're under assault — your home or business is being invaded — don't tell me you're calling AOC or the justice warriors, you're calling 911. In fact, they do it themselves," Sliwa said.

"So why would we defund the one group of men and women risking their lives each day, who are ready to put themselves in harm's way to defend us and to take on those violators of our rights? Those people who want to steal, loot, shoot — why would we defund them? Certainly, if you're going to discuss that, what is your replacement? Social workers? Yeah, see how that works against the Uzi-toting, dope-sucking, psychopathic killing machines? Not gonna work."

Sliwa also mentioned the potential threat of another terrorist attack on New York City with the police department being defunded.

"You have the justice warriors and others who are concerned about police crossing the line — there's no better person to be able to understand that than me, because I experienced that myself first. But I realize you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Sliwa continued, "You can reform the police without neutering the police. And you have to have a strengthened police department — what nobody is talking about with all this defunding, New York City has been the target of terrorists since 1992, the first attempt to take down the World Trade Center."

"And I have asked consistently, 'Have we defunded the New York City Police Department Anti-Terrorism Task Force that has kept us safe and secure from acts of terrorism?' I can't give a straight answer."

Sliwa speculated as to what he thinks is happening with the counterterrorism department.

"I would have to assume, John, if you've taken a billion dollars from their budget, and you've eliminated other agencies or you've taken away personnel from other agencies, you probably did to the Anti-Terrorism Task Force, but they don't want to come forward. They don't want to acknowledge it and tell us what a dire situation — why we might be making ourselves more vulnerable to a third attack."

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