In Foley Square, officials and union leaders mark a councilman's arrest by criticizing Bloomberg and Cuomo
9:00 am Nov. 16, 2011
Liberal elected officials joined union leaders and Occupy Wall Street protesters Tuesday afternoon on the steps of Foley Square to denounce Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s clearance of Zuccotti Park and to call for the release of Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the second member of the City Council in ten weeks to be arrested by the NYPD.
Rodriguez was arrested during the early-Tuesday morning surprise raid of the park, and was reportedly injured in the process. When Rodrguez was released last night, several hours after the press conference, he said he had been "assaulted by a police officer," and would be holding a press conference today to provide further details.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, who happens to have been the other member who was arrested recently, said he arrived at Zuccotti Park just in time to see his colleague “being walked into a paddy wagon with blood on his forehead.”
“I asked him what happened and he pointed to the police officer,” said Williams.
Williams was joined by other members of the City Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, members of the Council's Progressive Caucus, Working Families Party head Dan Cantor, and three prospective mayoral candidates positioning themselves to the left of Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the run-up to the 2013 election.
Quinn did not make an appearance at Foley Square, though shortly after the press conference, her office issued a statement that indicated support both for Rodriguez and for Bloomberg.
"We must protect the protestors' right to peaceful assembly and the local community's right to a safe and secure neighborhood,” she said, echoing many statements the mayor has made on the topic before.
“Today’s actions include reports of excessive force by the NYPD, and reports of infringement of the rights of the press," she continued. "If these reports are true, these actions are unacceptable. The Council will seek answers to questions surrounding these reports and clarifying information regarding the arrest and treatment of Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez."
Her colleagues in elected office had far harsher words for the mayor.
“The media was kept away from the actions by the police this morning quote-unquote to protect the media,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who’s considering a run for mayor in 2013. “It sounds like George Orwell.
“We really have to stop the habit in this city of assaulting and arresting elected officials,” he continued. “I think Jumaane can speak to that.”
“I concur,” said Williams, whose own altercation with the police led to similar denunciations of existing police policy and calls for reexamination of the administration's oversight of police conduct.
The public advocate went on criticize the mayor for failing to find an alternative site for the protesters.
“The mayor and his team never have done that, and that’s a mistake,” he said, “And there’s still a chance to do that going forward. If they don’t, they’re just going to be asking for a prolonged conflict in lower Manhattan.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who’s also running for mayor in 2013, started out by congratulating “the young people at Occupy Wall Street” for handling themselves “with great dignity" when the police came to remove their encampment at 1 am Tuesday morning.
Then, like de Blasio, he took aim at Bloomberg’s refusal to allow the media to witness the clearance of the park.
“I have been involved in politics and government for 30 some-odd years,” said Stringer to the assembled press. “I do not recall a protest or an incident, and we’ve had many, where some 10 reporters have been arrested. The media was purposely kept away from Zuccotti Park. This does not happen in dictatorships around the world. And when it does, we all speak out against it.”
Comptroller John Liu, whose prospects for a 2013 mayoral run look ever dimmer, was also on hand.
“It is simply outrageous that this action was taken under dark of night, with a show of force that resembles what the military would call 'shock and awe,'” he said.
Some press conference participants also took the opportunity to criticize Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has cracked down on Occupy Albany in recent days.
"Despite the temporary dismantling of Zuccotti Park, this movement, which is global, which is national, which is statewide, will not be dismantled," said Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. "Let’s not forget in New York City, let’s not just put the focus on our mayor. We need to put the focus on our governor as well"
She said his willingness to let the millionaire's tax lapse “is unacceptable.”
The press conference underscored the increasing identification of the labor movement with Occupy Wall Street.
Steven Kramer of 1199 SEIU, a health care workers union, spoke at the press conference, along with Kyle Bragg of 32BJ, which represents doormen, and representatives from the faculty union at City University of New York, the United Autoworkers, and the Teamsters.
"It’s too late to shut down Occupy Wall Street," said Barbara Bowen, president of the faculty union, called the Professional Staff Congress. "Something historic has already happened. And what has happened is the coming together of the labor movement, the immigrants movement, the people’s protest movement, the student movement, to make a fundamental change."