Bloomberg Played Key Role in Stifling Protest During Republican Convention
Documents suggest that New York City Mayor Bloomberg lied when he denied that politics played any part in his decision to deny protesters access to the Great Lawn in Central Park during the 2004 Republican Convention. The Bloomberg administration claimed to be "motivated by a concern for the condition of the expensively renovated Great Lawn or by law enforcement's ability to secure the crowd," even though documents produced in a lawsuit show that the police preferred to have protestors gathered together in that location.
Those documents ... suggest that officials were indeed motivated by political concerns over how the protests would play out while the Republican delegates were in town, and how the events could affect the mayor's re-election campaign the following year. ...
[T]he documents, which are part of the lawsuit brought by the National Council of Arab Americans and the Answer Coalition, an antiwar civil rights group, indicate that politics and appearances were at the center of the administration's strategy and that Mr. Bloomberg was more intimately involved in the discussions over demonstrations in the park than he said.
"It is very important that we do not permit any big or political events for the period between Aug. 23 and Sept. 6, 2004," read one Parks Department e-mail message, referring to issuing permits for the days framing the convention. "It's really important for us to keep track of any large events (over 1,000 people), and any rallies or events that seem sensitive or political in nature."
Bloomberg denied having any knowledge "regarding the denial of a Parks Department permit to" the National Council of Arab Americans. He now claims to have forgotten receiving this email from the Parks Commissioner:
"Following your call, I spoke to Ray about 10 minutes ago," Mr. Benepe wrote, referring to Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner. "Coincidentally, our lawyer and Chief McManus and the Law Department are meeting at this very minute to agree on the language and strategy of the letter rejecting the Arab-American rally on the Great Lawn," Mr. Benepe continued, referring to Assistant Chief John B. McManus, who oversaw Police Department strategy for the convention.
Mr. Benepe's message added: "I assume the rejection letter will go out today. I will let you know."
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