September 3, 2004
This great article in the Washington Post covers all the important issues related to the prolonged and illegal detention of the protesters -- and non-protesters -- this week. They were finally freed last night after a judge placed the City in contempt-of-court for not releasing them after his previous order yesterday afternoon.
A police official quoted in the article has the gall to blame the protesters themselves for the length of their detention, calling them "pampered." Pampered for expecting police to comply with the LAW of the state of New York and release or arraign them within 24 hours? Pampered for being a teenage girl and expecting not to be kept in a pen with grown men overnight? Pampered for not expecting to be arrested on your way home from work and then being held for 2 days?
Conspicuously absent from the article is a response from Mayor Bloomberg or any of his city hall staffers. Bloomberg was all over the tv last week "welcoming" protesters and telling everyone how we all had a right, blah blah blah. It's been clear since before the convention even began, however, that this was merely lip service. Bloomberg put the satisfaction of the national Republican party ahead of his own constituents, and the 1,700 people arrested this week suffered for it, involuntarily sacrificing their civil rights for his benefit.
Bloomberg owes the detainees and the city an apology, which will never come. It's especially ironic that the contempt fines could end up costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars -- because Bloomberg, a renowned fiscal conservative -- was too pig-headed to order the police to release everyone earlier in the week. And I suppose it'll cost the city -- meaning taxpayers like us -- a lot more if the protesters (justifiably) decide to sue. Democrats like me who have cut Bloomberg some slack because he was a life-long Democrat before running for mayor will have to reconsider and hold him accountable for this in next year's election.
Which leads me to my next point. WHERE THE HELL WAS GIFFORD MILLER?? The 34-year-old speaker of the city council goes out of his way to nitpick Bloomberg all the time, usually in front of a million cameras, and has made it clear he plans to challenge Bloomberg for mayor, and yet this week, while his own core constituency is being locked up illegally, he's been absolutely invisible. Reports have abounded all week about the detentions and wrongful arrests, and a call for action from Miller -- or even a behind-the-scenes push -- earlier in the week might have saved those people several nights in jail. But Giff's been nowhere to be found, causing me to wonder whether he -- like all other establishment Dems -- has caught a case of Liberalitis and is afraid to stand up for people's civil rights because he's afraid he'll look soft on crime and terrorism.
Dubious? While he should have been advocating for the release of the protesters, guess what he was issuing press releases about. That's right! Issues that concern rich potential donors! On Wednesday, the ole Giff Miller publicity machine turned out this gem: "SPEAKER MILLER SHOWS SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES BEING STIFLED BY THE RNC" [pdf] Businesses! I can't wait for him to dig that one out at the Chamber of Commerce's fundraising galas next spring!
Now that the convention's over, it seems probable that Giff will try to score some easy political points by standing up and demanding an investigation into how all these detainees were "lost" in the system, but that's just more lip service. Instead, I would like to demand an investigation into how Giff Miller's political integrity got lost this week.