Beast of the Month - March 1999
Rudy Giuliani, New York Mayor
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
NYPD Blue Officers Justin Volpe and Thomas Bruder, to Abner Louima, a 30-year-old immigrant from Haiti, before shoving a plunger handle up his ass while calling him racist names, then shoving the bloodied and dirtied stick into his mouth, breaking teeth in the process.
New York City likes to be the biggest and best at everything it does. Among other things, it has the largest population of any city in the United States, and is the number one economic center thanks to Wall Street. In the past couple of years, Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York and our Beast of the Month, has tried to add another title to the list: the number one city in terms of racist and brutally fascist police officers. And, though he had to compete with Los Angeles (a city whose most famous cops are Stacey Koon and Mark Fuhrman), it appears as though, thanks very much to the grit and determination of Mayor Rudy, New York has succeeded. Indeed, the NYPD Blue now has changed its image more drastically than Rick "Don't Call Me Ricky!" Schroeder has, thanks to its strong-arm tactics.
Rudy Giuliani has long had a history of being a hard-ass, more interested in promoting his own career than serving the people and justice. He made a name for himself as a federal prosecutor during the Reagan years, nailing Michael Milken of Drexel Burnham Lambert on racketeering, fraud and insider trading charges (which many still insist had less to do with real crimes and more with a vendetta against a man who was democratizing finance.) Whatever the motivation, Giuliani soon became well known for his aggressive prosecution, in no small way aided by his self-aggrandizing showboating, a behavior that many suspect created the model for Tom Wolfe's unprincipled prosecutor in Bonfire of the Vanities. After losing to David Dinkins in 1989, he finally won the NYC mayorship in 1993, and was reelected in 1997. Now, he is eyeing the 2000 New York Senate seat being opened up by the retirement of Patrick Moynihan, and - if he should run - he will cakewalk through the Republican primary to face his Democratic opponent, who may be Lady Macbeth herself Hillary Rodham Klinton, or, amusingly, dim-bulbed John F. Kennedy, Jr. (editor-in-chief of the pathetic "political" magazine George and the Democratic Party's answer to Dan Quayle.)
To his credit, Mayor Rudy has seen crime radically reduced under his reign, though how much of that is due to his policies can most certainly be debated. Further, considering the widespread corruption that pervaded in Gotham under the reign of Ed Koch (who now is, of all things, judging others on The People's Court), he still has a far way to go in being the most crooked and unprincipled New York mayor of the century. This may be true, but such arguments defending him seem to fall under the brand of "Mussolini got the trains running on time" variety. The cost has been a crushing blow to civil liberties, and recently the blows have becoming more and more frightening.
Perhaps the brutal 1997 rape and beating of Abner Louima by the 70th Precinct stationhouse cops - who behaved in a manner that would be better expected if it was our Commander-in-Chief on a date - should have been a serious sign that things were terribly wrong in the Big Apple, as well as Giuliani's tepid response to the scandal: faced with an election battle, he appointed a 28-member task force, then, five months after being re-elected, he dismissed its report, saying its recommendations "made very little sense," agreeing to adopt only the one that called for changing the title of the NYPD's office of community affairs to community relations. "That's a good change," he said.
Or perhaps the violent September 5th clash in Harlem between NYPD and participants in Khallid Abdul Muhammad's "Million Youth Rally" should have been a wakeup call that police actions were being directed by Rudy himself. Muhammad, an admittedly fiery and controversial speaker due to his often hate-filled message, was nonetheless leading a legal assembly, which was only approved after organizers filed a lawsuit following a denial by city officials. After losing in court, the police closed all the subway stations and cross streets so nobody could join in along the route. Then, one minute after the rally was supposed to end, as Muhammad was concluding his speech, a police helicopter swooped low along Malcolm X Boulevard and riot police stormed the stage, shutting down the sound system. "If you want to know why the police came in at 4:01, go read the court order. This is all about creating a respectful society. The court said they had between 12 and 4; it meant exactly that."
If warning bells weren't ringing yet, the December 14th suggestion by New York police commissioner Howard Safir - that city police take a DNA sample along with fingerprints of every person arrested - should have made it very clear that New York police authorities were getting power drunk. "The innocent have nothing to fear," he said. "Only if you are guilty should you worry about DNA testing." When informed of the proposal, Giuliani called opponents of the plan captives of "old left-wing thinking." He then added, "The taking of DNA evidence -- from the point of view of anyone but the most excessive knee-jerk ideologues -- is a very, very helpful thing, it's a good thing." Norman Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, had a better response: "If someone wants to march and doesn't have a permit, or if someone goes to the steps of City Hall to read a proclamation, he or she will get arrested. Under Safir's DNA proposal, the government will obtain their DNA, and that's a frightening prospect. Why should the government have that information on that individual?"
In February, power-hungry Rudy and the NYPD blue were in full force: on February 4, four white officers of an aggressive Street Crimes Unit (three of whom have been involved in prior shootings) shot at a 22-year-old black man from Guinea, Amadou Diallo, 41 times, killing him. Diallo had no previous criminal record and was unarmed. A man who lives across the street from the shooting scene told investigators he heard three shots initially. "There was a pause between shots," he said. "Then it sounded like they all started firing at once." Despite the outrage of the incident, Rudy was naturally more interested in protecting the image of his shock troops than investigating a senseless killing. No surprise, since he previously earned even more wrath from the African-American community by saying of them, "They're going to have to learn to discipline themselves in the way they speak."
This alone would be enough to award Rudy and his gang of thugs, but Rudy being Rudy, he couldn't leave well enough alone. Giuliani announced that under asset forfeiture laws, city police would start immediately seizing the cars of people arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. Even if the person is found not guilty of DWI in a court of law, the city may still keep the car by taking them to civil court, where the standard of proof is lower. Such a civil proceeding could take "anywhere from days to years," according to a police department spokesman. Considering the rampant corruption and racism within the NYPD, such a policy could lead to rampant bribery of innocent drivers, specifically targeting minorities. The NYPD seized four cars during the first day of the new program. In response, the Libertarian Party - fresh off victory over the campaign to stop the FDIC's "Know Your Privacy" laws, which required banks to monitor customers deposits and withdrawals for suspicious activity - suggested a nationwide boycott of New York City until the city repeals the controversial law. "Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the New York City government need to be taught a lesson: If you steal people's cars, you will be punished," said the party's national director, Steve Dasbach. "If you go to New York City now, you'll send the message that you approve of the city government behaving like a stolen car ring, and the police force being encouraged to act like armed carjackers... The Big Apple is in the grip of a crime wave, and the criminals are sitting in offices at City Hall."
Perhaps there is something positive in this latest development. To begin with, it lays bare the blatant immorality and hypocricy of asset forfeiture laws and their basic violation of American civil liberties. Previously, such laws had been focused mainly on illegal drugs: now that the stakes are being raised to a legal high, more people may finally speak out against them. And well they should: as James Bovard points out in his new book, Freedom In Chains, the federal government alone now steals far more than all of the nation's bank robbers combined. In 1994, criminals committed 7,885 bank robberies nationwide and stole approximately $28 million in cash. That same year, federal prosecutors confiscated $2.1 billion in property and cash in asset forfeiture proceedings. "Americans spend a lot of time worrying about criminals -- but government actions are costing us far more," said Dasbach. "It's a sad day for America when the government is stealing more than the criminals they're supposed to protect us from."
In any case, these are just the worst of Mayor Rudy's excesses: he's waged war on cabbies (terming the often Middle Eastern profession to be a "terrorist threat"), squeegee men, licensed street vendors (350 banned during daylight hours), bicycle messengers and delivery boys, hookers and sex clubs, underage drinkers, aggressive panhandlers, Fourth of July Mafia fireworks, Chinese New Year's celebrations, salsa music, boom boxes and any press member who remotely criticizes him. Meanwhile, he has also abolished remedial classes at City University, tried to eliminate subway and bus passes for schoolchildren, closed libraries, cut every social service for the poor, slashed the budget for parks and recreation, hospital workers and after-school sports and enrichment programs, bulldozed the community gardens of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans to make room for condos, forced single-mother welfare recipients onto "workfare" even if they can't find child care, ordained that the disabled show up in downtown municipal offices to prove that they are indeed disabled, and abolished the methadone program.
The city stands to lose as much as $1 billion in damages from 53,000 illegal, pre-arraignment strip searches of "misdemeanants" arrested in 1996 and 1997 for such minor offenses as scalping a ticket, driving with a suspended license or selling a pair of sneakers on the sidewalk without a vending license. For those interested in First Amendment cases, he has also arrested protesting street artists who've been removed from city sidewalks, as well as Bill Weinberg, a radical journalist who spent a night in jail for pasting a "GIULIANI IS A JERK" sticker on a lamppost.
According to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), complaints against police have risen from 3580 in 1993, the last year of Dinkins, to 4975 in 1998, a 39 percent increase, (soaring to a Rudy-high of 5618 in 1995.) These numbers don't tell the whole story: a Dateline investigative crew using black "testers" found police resistance when they tried to file a complaint at a precinct in 1997 and 1998. The latest CCRB report, covering the first six months of 1998, found a 58 percent increase in police beatings compared with the same time period in 1997, as well as a 27 percent hike in "drag/pull" allegations and 39 percent jump in pepper-spray incidents. Even the Giuliani-appointed CCRB concluded that the recent rise was "troubling."
Though a city commission that investigated police misconduct recommended the creation of a permanent independent monitor, Giuliani has twice vetoed and bottled up in court city council-approved bills to create one, claiming, "A much better way to improve the police department, is to get it to investigate itself." Giuliani also dismissed a 1996 Amnesty International report that reviewed 90 police brutality cases as "exaggerated," saying the organization had "a viewpoint."
Meanwhile, Giuliani has cut City Hall off from virtually all public access, and continues installing more security cameras to monitor streets. Rudy seems to want to hole himself off in a bunker and continue to attack the freedoms of New Yorkers. The sad thing is, he may succeed. Despite his atrocious record on civil liberties, he remains a popular figure, due to his battling of crime, cheered on by supposed "populist" icons like Howard Stern. Perhaps it would be best if the people of New York City would listen instead to the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, who once warned, "Those who exchange liberty for security will soon find that they have neither."
In any case, we salute Rudy Giuliani as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Rudy!!!
Various Articles, The Conspiracy Newsline
Freedom In Chains, James Bovard
St. Martin's Press, 1999
Boycott New York City?
Letter From Occupied New York, John Leonard
Rudy Giuliani The Raging Bull, Wayne Barrett
The Village Voice
Post Office Box 24825
Los Angeles, California 90024-0825
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