Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels are facing condemnation from New York’s political class after Sliwa misidentified a man as a “migrant” on live television and members of the volunteer vigilante group started roughing him up.
Sliwa, the bombastic founder of the Guardian Angels who ran for mayor as a Republican in 2021, was giving a live interview to Sean Hannity on Fox News Wednesday night when he noted that members of his group had “just taken down one of the migrant guys” on the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue.
what the fuck did i just watch pic.twitter.com/FxVUPmEDte
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 7, 2024
The camera then panned around to show members of the group roughing up the man as Sliwa exclaimed “they’ve taken over!”
Police told the Associated Press that the man was not a migrant, but actually a resident of the Bronx. They said he had tried to disrupt Sliwa’s interview and was issued a summons for disorderly conduct. Sliwa would later tell the AP he suspected the man was a migrant because he was “speaking Spanish.”
Reaction was swift from New York’s political class.
“You cannot take the law into your own hands,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in an interview on CNN. “This is not the wild west, this is New York State.”
Others were more pointed in their criticism, both of the vigilantism practiced by Sliwa and his group and of xenophobic rhetoric about migrants practiced by much of the political right.
“This kind of vigilantism is the predictable result of Republicans’ relentless vilification of the migrants,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “It is wrong. It doesn’t make anyone safer. It needs to stop.”
“This is what the anti-migrant hysteria amounts to — a racist hate crime broadcast live on national television,” said Congressman Dan Goldman. “There must be swift action taken and consequences for Curtis Sliwa and his band of xenophobic, lawless thugs for their brazen actions. Shame on all involved.”
The incident occurred just a day before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced indictments against seven migrants for attacking NYPD officers in Times Square. At a press conference announcing the indictments, Mayor Eric Adams said the police and prosecutor had conducted a methodical, “frame-by-frame” investigation in contrast to Sliwa’s shoot-from-the-hip approach.
“The wheels of justice must move at an appropriate pace,” said Hizzoner. “We don’t have the luxury to do what we saw Curtis Sliwa do, see someone on the corner and, based on their ethnicity, automatically identify them as a migrant, an asylum seeker, and not a longtime Bronx resident. That is not what we can do. We have to get it right.”
Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels in 1979 as a volunteer patrol force to deter crime on the city’s streets and subways. Sliwa has become an indelible New York City character since then, though he has previously admitted to fabricating parts of his and the group’s history.