NYPD to John Liu: No room at the Inn
My family was invited to attend John Liu's announcement for his mayoral bid yesterday on City Hall steps. So we headed out despite the cold only to find that the NYPD decided to keep people out. Only about a half of the people who showed up were actually let in. The rest were left to stand in line (blocking the sidewalk because there were so many people) in the cold. This included staff members of John Liu's campaign.
Now I have been to these kinds of announcement events before and NEVER before have I seen the NYPD stop people from coming in to the City Hall steps to show their support. The crowd that came for John Liu WAS a particularly large one, I will grant that, but there was still plenty of room on and around the City Hall steps. Bottom line WAS there was indeed room at the inn but the cops for whatever reason did not want to let people in. Many of the people I talked to who were blocked from entering blamed it on Bloomberg. Since Bloomberg wants to anoint Christine "Slushgate" Quinn as his successor to the throne, the city is being hostile to other mayoral campaigns. Whatever the truth to that, I have never seen this kind of behavior by the cops towards a permitted campaign event on the steps of City Hall so it either means John Liu drew an EXCEPTIONAL number of supporters, creating a unique event, or it means somehow John Liu is being treated differently by the city than other campaigns I have seen make announcements, perhaps because of Bloomberg's pressure to help out Quinn.
So, even though we stayed through the whole event and even talked to people afterwards, I can't tell you who spoke or what they said because I was outside observing and talking to the crowd the NYPD turned away.
So, before I get to my own observations and comments, here is the speech I didn't get to hear:
As I said, since we were kept waiting outside the security check, we basically were blocking the sidewalk. Needless to say this was not appreciated by anyone. Eventually someone from Liu's campaign suggested that since they were refusing to let people in, we should just move to the park where we a.) would no longer block the side walk, b.) could actually see the event from a distance, and c.) could get a better sense of the crowd that was not let in. I can say that my estimate of how many showed up in the park alone was about 300, very roughly, and that doesn't count anyone who got in (AT LEAST as many, probably a fair number more), those who stayed by the security gates, and those who left after being turned away.
Once we were in the park I got to talk to a lot of people. Many were angry at the city for keeping us out and it was here I was hearing considerable speculation about Bloomberg's motives as well as people remembering when City Hall really was a public area, before Giuliani and Bloomberg started restricting our rights.
I was once again, as I am at every large John Liu event, struck by the diversity. There were brawny guys wearing union sweatshirts who looked like they may have been to a pub for a St. Patrick's Day pint before coming to the event. There was a group of Nepalese supporters who were particularly enthusiastic supporters. Many blacks and Chinese, often large components of Liu's support. There was a groups of very enthusiastic kids carrying "Kids for John Liu" signs and somewhat older kids carrying "Students for John Liiu" signs. There was a group of at least 25 Sikhs as well as several Muslims, including a couple with henna-dyed beards. Inside the event I also saw a man I have seen at Liu events before who looked from his outfit that he was a Pashtun. The diversity at Liu events cuts right across the city.
When people asked why they supported Liu, in general the response was simply that he was the best of the main candidates with particular emphasis on how bad the other main candidates are. Quinn the Bloomberg clone, de Blasio the sleaze, and Thompson the irritating one. One person put it, "New Yorkers finally want a mayor who can actually do math," citing Liu's superb record as Comptroller. One black woman I was near agreed with the "mayor who can actually do math" statement and later was saying her reasons for not liking Thompson was that he was too much like Dinkins and would not be able to get anything done. I found this interesting since Thompson is my second choice next to Liu, mainly because he just plain seems better than Quinn or de Blasio. But my fellow Liu supporters didn't really agree with me. My feeling was for a lot of them, Albanese or de Blasio would be their second choices next to Liu.
When the issue of Liu's campaign finances came up, most supporters (biased of course) feel he is being singled out by a Bloomberg (and hence Quinn) biased media and wondered why Quinn's slushfund scandals are being forgotten and why Bill de Blasio's own campaign finance scandals are being ignored. Quinn and de Blasio get livid when their scandals are brought up and have done everything they could to cover them up. Liu has consistently welcomed the investigation and feels that a.) he and most of his campaign are innocent of wrongdoing, and b.) if the investigation finds any wrongdoing Liu himself would want to know so he can clean house. Personally I find Liu's approach the most mature and honest and from what I can tell, any financial problems were not associated with Liu himself. Certainly Quinn was at the very center of the slushgate scandal. Yet the press ignores this. Personally, I would like to see the finances of ALL of the campaigns get the same level of scrutiny that Liu's campaign is getting.
Afterwards I did hang with some Liu staffers and supporters, eventually some of us winding up at Shanghai Asian Manor for some good food. I got to see the inside of Liu's Chinatown office (for a bathroom break) and can vouch for the enthusiasm (usual after any candidate's big announcement) of the group. One thing that stood out was the pile of forms filled out by new volunteers was huge, suggesting a big boost of enthusiastic supporters hitting the streets. I didn't overhear any campaign secrets, but the talk I heard of most was about John Liu's efforts too end stop and frisk. From what I can tell he is the only mayoral candidate making this a priority.
So overall the event can be called nothing but a success for John Liu. The crowd was huge and enthusiastic and not being let in didn't deter people from staying and shouting their support. Liu came over to re-give his speech to the crowd in the park (over what seemed to be initial objections by the cops), but without a sound system only the front rows got to hear it. But people, particularly the kids, were pushing to hear and see. So it seemed Liu got two campaign events for the price of one, as it were, and signed up a whole slew of new volunteers as well.
As one campaign volunteer said as the event (the announcement to the park after the official one) was breaking up, commenting on the cops trying to interfere with the event, "This guy [Liu] isn't going away."