Op/Ed Fridays: Bloomberg’s most infamous legacy?
This week I came across the news that
The city of New York has agreed to pay $18m to settle a civil rights claim from hundreds of protesters who were rounded up and detained in overcrowded and dirty conditions after they rallied outside the 2004 Republican National Convention.
For those who don’t remember, the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, shortly after the Iraq Invasion, faced protests by hundreds of thousands of people—a sizable portion of American voters, certainly of voters near New York. According to the article, “Hundreds of thousands marched against Bush and the war in one of the largest expressions of public dissent against a president.”
But New York City was led by a Republican Mayor, Governor, President, and police Commissioner. The police sometimes violently and apparently illegally punished and jailed many protesters, who seem to have been non-violent. They also disallowed a protest in Central Park with specious reasoning that it would have been too big, despite being smaller than events previously held there, echoing the lies and bogus reasoning to invade Iraq.
The city had already spent more than $18m fighting legal battles in the aftermath of the convention: $2.1m to resolve 112 of the total of 600 individual claims, and a further $16m in legal fees. The final settlement brings the total cost of the police over-reach to $34m.
Given that Bush’s absolute victory margin (approximately 3 million votes) was the smallest of any sitting president since Harry S. Truman in 1948, this illegal police action may have swayed the election. I participated in some of the protests and felt the chilling effect on our rights amid the flimsy excuses the police made for their illegal behavior. Though I’m sure he faced enormous pressure from his party, ultimately Mayor Bloomberg was the head of the executive branch that led the police. I’ll always remember him most for leading apparently illegal behavior stifling non-violent free speech at a critical time, with global ramifications.
The cost to the city in cash, human rights, and democracy, however sizable, pales in comparison to the cost to the world in Bush’s continued Presidency. This recent news reinforces how illegal Bloomberg’s administration’s behavior was.
EDIT: I asked a friend who was there at the time to review the above before I posted it. I’ll include what he added:
It looks good to me. I think you’ve nailed it, though most of the protestsÂ were non-violent, and some of the police responseÂ was violent. Your use of the word “seems” in both cases weakens your text.
It’s also worth noting that this settlement will not touch the police budget in any way. The police union has made sure of that. So not only is there no accountability here, but the cost is not just to “the city,” it’s really coming out of the pockets of we, the tax payers and other city-funded programs like libraries, schoolsâ€¦ and the parks they are so fond of protecting.
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