Thursday, August 19, 2004

New York, New York

On Monday 16th Glenn Thrush of NY Newsday reported:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, already under fire for his tough stance against anti-GOP protest groups, Monday suggested that First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly are "privileges" that could be lost if abused…

"People who avail themselves of the opportunity to express themselves ... they will not abuse that privilege," he said at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "Because if we start to abuse our privileges, then we lose them, and nobody wants that."

The mayor's comments drew immediate criticism from protest groups and came amid reports that federal agents and city police have been questioning activists, monitoring Web sites and dropping in unannounced on organizational meetings."The right to protest is not nor has it ever been a privilege -- it is a constitutionally protected right that everybody in this country enjoys," said Leslie Cagan, head of United for Peace and Justice, which has locked horns with the city over its attempt to stage a 250,000-person protest in Central Park. "I have no idea what he's talking about. I'm completely flabbergasted."

Two days later Bloomberg's attitude appears to have softened considerably:


NEW YORK Aug. 18, 2004 — Mayor Michael Bloomberg turned down requests to allow an anti-war demonstration in Central Park on the eve of the Republican National Convention, but he offered protesters something else: cheap tickets to a Broadway show.
All they have to do to get discounted tickets, reduced hotel rates and other perks is play nice when they come to town.

"There is no reason we shouldn't welcome them in the same way we are welcoming the delegates and the press," Bloomberg said Tuesday. "The right to protest is a basic American right ... and New York City is a place where you can come and get your message out."

Buttons showing the Statue of Liberty welcoming "peaceful political activists" will be given to protesters who obey the law and groups that have permits to demonstrate. Participating restaurants, museums and others will provide the treats.
"It's no fun to protest on an empty stomach," Bloomberg said.

What could have happened to inspire Bloomberg’s newly conciliatory attitude towards protestors? Perhaps he read the New York Times on the 17th August:

City officials have promoted the Republican National Convention as a $265 million wave on the becalmed sea of New York City's summer economy, but now that the convention is two weeks away, signs point to a modest economic boost for a handful of businesses rather than a tide that lifts all boats.

Rooms at some of the city's hottest hotels and tables at some of its most exclusive restaurants are still available, and seats are still there for the taking at hit Broadway shows like "Hairspray" and "Movin' Out." The producer of "I Am My Own Wife," a Pulitzer- and Tony-winning critical hit about a German transvestite, is closing for a week during the convention rather than face many empty seats. Other shows are closing for good.

With the prospect of large political protests, extra security and skittish residents planning to leave town, many businesses, far from banking on a boom, are simply hoping that the four-day convention, which starts Aug. 30, will not make what is always a tough week worse.

Boston, which played host to the Democratic National Convention last month, set a grim example - its streets were deserted and its delegates spent little. A research institute there said the convention provided a tenth of the economic boost city officials had promised.

Add to this Shut it Down ‘s call for all New Yorkers to down tools on September the 1st and ongoing discontent in the ranks of the New York police and firefighters who are considering picketing the Republican Party Convention themselves, and one can see why Bloomberg might wish to resort to bribery. This is about as likely to work as his previous attempts at intimidation. A couple of cheap Broadway Show tickets are not much compensation when murder is being committed in your name.

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