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After a Long History of Activism, Latchmi Gopal Turns to Local Politics

Ready to make her mark in municipal politics is Latchmi Gopal, running for City Council out of the Bronx’s District 15. The Knight News sat down for an exclusive interview with Gopal, touching on topics like her platform, her background, and current events.

Gopal hopes to bring her experiences in community outreach to the City Council. Previously, she worked with Whedco, an organization which helps women and builds up neighborhoods in the South Bronx. She also served, according to her website, as the “National Distributed Organizer for the Bernie 2020 Presidential Campaign”. This latter work inspired her jump to City Council aspirations, as she related: “I was taking a step off of the Bernie campaign, thinking through: ‘Where can we actually shift power?’” Gopal felt that, because of her already-existing relationship to the South Bronx, City Council was the ideal place for her to set out to bring about positive change in her community.

There are several intriguing tenets of Gopal’s platform. One of the most distinctive of these is her push for municipal voting rights for citizens aged 16 and older. Asked about her support of this, Gopal explained, “We are making decisions on a municipal level that directly affect them now. Their lives are local, and they want to be active.” In particular, Gopal singled out Greta Thunberg as an example of the legitimacy of teenage political activism. 

Gopal’s website also revealed that she is a signatory to the Renewable Rikers Act, which calls for the transfer of the island from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Environmental Protection for use as a solar farm. Gopal believes that this is the best course of action because the plan laid out in the Act is the only one which takes a “multi-faceted approach… not just (towards) reimagining safety, but… (also) land utilization.”

Most pertinent to students citywide is Gopal’s pledge to fight for zero-cost CUNY tuition, a cause she described as an investment in the community. “CUNY should be an extension of our public education,” Gopal argued, lamenting the “astronomical rise” in tuition costs that has occurred in recent decades. It’s an issue she takes very personally; Gopal had to pursue an education out-of-state because the tuition put CUNY out of reach for her. 

Gopal is keenly attuned to current events. The hypocrisy of the lackadaisical response to January 6’s Capitol break-in was not lost on her; she was herself arrested following a pro-impeachment demonstration in 2019. Reflecting on the comparison, Gopal noted that “Within 14 minutes, we were arrested. All we were doing was singing. It was a peaceful protest.” She added that, by contrast, “what happened (on the 6th) was a violent attack on the government… Folks needed to be held accountable and they weren’t.” To Gopal, this was a microcosm of a greater double standard in policing in which whites receive preferential treatment compared to people of color. 

Gopal feels that what ultimately sets her apart from the field of candidates is her understanding that the role of the representative is not to decide what is best for their constituents, but rather to bring their voices before the Council. Her community members deserve better “than a baseline of survival in the Bronx”, and this is precisely what she aims to deliver.

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