8:16 am Nov. 14, 20111
Occupy Wall Street intruded on new congressman Bob Turner’s district swearing-in ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
Just as the Honorable John Ingram was administering the unofficial oath of office to Turner at a Forest Hills high school, (his actual swearing-in ceremony was in September in Washington), an angry voice rose from the crowd.
Ingram: I, Robert Turner.
Turner: I, Robert Turner.
Ingram: Do solemnly swear.
Turner: Do solemnly swear.
“Bob Turner! You’ve only been in office for two months...,” yelled a young man bearing a red-lettered sign reading, “Turner’s Colombia trade vote equals more assassinations of union organizers. Three thousand already killed.”
Almost instantaneously a Turner volunteer with a high-and-tight flat-top haircut named Kevin Hiltunen leapt from his seat and charged the protester, slamming him into and then through the auditorium doors, shoving him to the ground, and then dragging him by his shirt out of the building. The NYPD then made the protester leave school property, under threat of arrest for disorderly conduct.
The protester, a 33-year-old unemployed Astoria resident named Adam Weissman who said he was an Occupy Wall Street organizer told reporters afterward that he had a sprained right ankle and bruises on his left shoulder.
In an interview after the ceremony, Hiltunen said he had acted appropriately.
“There is a time and there is a place to exercise your First Amendment rights, and this wasn’t one of them, I’m sorry,” said Hiltunen, wearing a gold tie and sport coat, in an interview after the ceremony. “I mean, you have a swearing-in by a judge. You have dignitaries and politicians here, you have friends and family and supporters of Mr. Turner, and I didn’t think it was the venue or the time for this man to decide that he wanted to disrupt something very important to the citizens of this great nation. I took appropriate action.”
When asked if he had volunteered for Turner’s campaign, Hiltunen, who is reportedly a former NYPD officer and a former Marine, said, “I did support Bob Turner on his campaign, yes.”
For his part, Weissman said he is a member of Occupy Wall Street’s "trade justice working group" and that he opposes recent free-trade pacts with Colombia and South Korea that Turner supported (along with virtually all other Republicans in the House, an overwhelming majority in the Senate and the White House).
Notwithstanding the protest incident, Ed Koch was the clear star of the event. The Democratic former mayor, of course, created the campaign argument that made Bob Turner a celebrated cause in the first place, which was that anyone in the heavily Jewish Ninth Congressional District who cares about Israel should vote against the orthodox Jewish, Israel-supporting Democratic nominee in order to signal disapproval to President Obama.
When Koch walked to the podium for his remarks, he got a standing ovation.
The event, which was attended by a mostly white audience, with a sprinkling of Hasidic Jews, featured an honor guard, the Pledge of Allegiance, "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America." There was also an invocation by Rabbi Yonoson Hirtz, of Utopia Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows, who encouraged Turner to act like Abraham and do that which is right, and a benediction by Monsignor John McGuirl of Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church in Forest Hills, who asked God to bless the Ninth Congressional District and make it "renowned as a welcoming place for all people, no matter race, nationality, and color or religion."
Representative Peter King of Long Island acted as M.C. of the event. He was introduced by Turner’s seven-year grandson Mikey.
During his remarks, Turner recited many of his campaign hallmarks: capitalism is good, socialism and Obamacare and overregulation and Dodd-Frank and the stimulus package are bad.
He said Occupy wall Street protesters were “on the wrong track.”
“Socialism has been tried and tried again," said Turner. "It doesn’t work.”
He also faulted President Obama ‘s decision not to have more actively supported Iran’s Green Revolution.
“Here’s a fight against tyranny and oppression on the one hand, and democratic forces on the other,” said Turner. “That was not an appropriate response.”
In the wake of the foiled bomb plot against the Saudi ambassador, and the latest reports that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, Turner issued the following advice to Obama: “Be aggressive, is all I can urge.”
The ceremony was followed by mingling and refreshments.
In a brief interview about the presidential race, Koch, who for the moment is back to being an Obama supporter, said he didn't believe there was actually much of a contest on the Republican side.
"I think Romney is superior to all of them and will ultimately be the Republican candidate, because what they want is not only someone who represents their values, but they want someone who can win, and most of these people, if not all of them other than Perry, have no chance of winning," Koch said.
About Romney's closest competitor in the polls, Koch said, “Cain is a joke and will go down the drain shortly."