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Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD cowardice at Zuccotti Park

JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS Council Member | 11/17/2011, 3:14 p.m.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD acted with cowardice by trying to use the cloak...
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD acted with cowardice by trying to use the cloak of night while people slept as a shield from the highly questionable tactics they engaged in during their raid on Zuccotti Park. I deeply appreciate the concerns of the surrounding community, including issues of health and public safety. It should be noted that whenever protesters were engaged on these issues, they responded by stepping up their positive efforts. In this case, Occupy Wall Street was not afforded such an opportunity to respond. Even Community Board 1 and local elected officials released statements in support of these efforts; it is my understanding that the board even passed a resolution asking for protesters not to be forcefully removed.

Furthermore, the mayor and his administration have exhibited cowardice by refusing to engage the protesters of Occupy Wall Street on the issues. It is far easier to ignore tough issues like economic and social inequality-legitimate issues that imperil so much of this city. However, considering Bloomberg's past refusal to stand up for New York City over his inner circle on the issue of the millionaires' tax, this cowardice should not be too surprising.

I am confused and disgusted by how this administration has chosen to treat a peaceful protest. Our country has supported protests all over the world in recent months. Nobody questioned whether Tahrir Square was public or private property. The only issue has been whether the protest was just, and it is without debate that Occupy Wall Street's message condemning economic and social inequality is just. Why is what is good for the rest of the world not good enough for New York City?

The actions taken against the media were particularly troubling. Freedom of the press is one of the most important inalienable rights we hold as a nation. It is beyond laughable that Bloomberg and Commissioner Raymond Kelly are claiming that the press were kept out of Zuccotti Park for their own safety. That was the same excuse given to Kirsten John Foy and I when we were inappropriately arrested at the West Indian Day Parade. Perhaps that is the NYPD's new go-to response when they realize they have done something wrong.

The truth is that the media were deliberately shut out from the worst of the NYPD's actions that night in an attempt to provide political cover. This is deplorable, and I am grateful that so many media outlets proved steadfast in their attempts to cover the sad and scary scene that night. The light of their cameras in the darkness that the mayor and others tried to hide behind was essential for those who could not be there to bear witness.

It appears that the NYPD planned well for how to handle the interior of Zuccotti Park but that they were not as prepared for the perimeter, which is a two-block radius where much of the arrests appear to have occurred. That includes Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who I encountered upon arriving to the scene. At that point, he was handcuffed and bleeding from a cut to the head, which he indicated was due to police force. He was then placed into a paddy wagon and released nearly 20 hours later, far longer than most protesters were held. I have little doubt that this was an attempt to teach a lesson to an outspoken elected official. It was disrespectful, and I look forward to standing with Rodriguez at the steps of City Hall at noon in support of him and of Occupy Wall Street.

Thankfully, you cannot arrest an idea nor can you evict a movement. Bloomberg and his allies miscalculated their raid, as Occupy Wall Street now has more energy than at any point before. This will be on display during the mass demonstrations tomorrow (Thursday) throughout New York City.