Municipal Government

Big Guns Come Out for Big Bill

September 9, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

Harry Belafonte defends Bill de Blasio against charge of racism at Borough Hall

Harry Belafonte defends Bill de Blasio against charge of racism at Borough Hall

Brooklyn, NY—Less than 48 hours remain before voters go to the polls to vote for their candidate to be the next New York City mayor. At Borough Hall on Sunday, the big guns came out to show their support for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio who reiterated his major campaign positions as volunteers nearby eagerly awaited to go stumping in Brooklyn. (Watch Video)

The celebrity big guns included Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City stardom, Brooklynite Marisa Tomei and legendary crooner Harry Belafonte, who retorted Mayor Michael Bloomberg for saying that the Public Advocate is running a racist campaign. (The mayor said this in an interview when asked by a New York magazine reporter whether Mr. de Blasio is running a class warfare campaign based on the Public Advocate's "tale of two cities" campaign mantra.)

"A gauntlet has been laid down. I am told that Bill de Blasio is racist. That can only be an observation from the blind. Not only the blind intellectually, but obviously blind when it comes to our struggle. Bill de Blasio is not a racist," said Belafonte. 

Without mentioning him by name, Belafonte also countered Mayor Bloomberg's comment that Mr. de Blasio's "tale of two cities" is a "destructive strategy for those you want to help the most" and that more billionaires living in New York City would be best for everyone.

"He also declared that we are in a class war. Well, all my life, when I was born in New York City 86 years ago, and all my time here in America it has been a consistent class struggle." 

Mr. de Blasio laid out his positions on the issues of income inequality, education, health care and public safety. 

Back in May this reporter asked Mr. de Blasio about how would he reform the controversial police tactic of stop and frisk to rebuild trust between affected communities and the police department (a federal judge ruled last month that the policy violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city). 

He said then, "I think you can't eliminate the basic police tactic of stop and frisk because it's a valid policing tactic, pursuing a suspect description, for example, but doing it in a constitutional and appropriate manner; that's something you have to do as part of policing. But the notion that we can fundamentally reform the approach; we can make it fair. I know we can do that." 

(Last week Christine Quinn's mayoral campaign released an attack ad against Mr. de Blasio's position on stop and frisk that featured a snippet of this reporter's interview with Mr. de Blasio, which the de Blasio campaign, in turn, responded to the ad as "misleading and "selective editing.")

At Borough Hall on Sunday, Mr. de Blasio said he would end the stop and frisk era. He was asked if ending stop and frisk is his new position. 

"I've been consistent. I want to end the stop and frisk era. I want to get a new police commissioner who's devoted to fixing relationships between police and community. I want a strong implementation of the profiling bill to make sure we stop profiling and I want a strong and independent inspector general. When we do all those things, we're going to have community policing," said de Blasio.  

Labor's big guns at Borough Hall included George Gresham, President of SEIU1199, Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress and Chris Shelton, Vice President of the Communications Workers of America.

Follow Marc Bussanich on Twitter marc@laborpress.org

September 8, 2013

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