Thursday, July 20, 2006

Update on Your Ever-Ebbing Rights (and the Folks You Elect to Protect Them)

Tuesday’s news that the New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Mike Bloomberg have unilaterally decided to restrict our right to free assembly caused Jake at Gothamist to break out the “F” word (Fascist), and compelled The Wonkster at Gotham Gazette to. . . well. . . it compelled her to link to Gothamist and me (thanks, Gail!).

I cross-posted my take and call to action over at Daily Kos yesterday, and I got this interesting bit of news from HatchInBrooklyn:

I spoke to someone in the office of David Yassky, my representative for district 33 in Brooklyn. The person who answered the phone was very knowledgeable about this issue and said that he had actually been arrested during the 2004 RNC protests. He basically said that the City Council feels powerless to do anything about this because the Mayor has promised to veto any legislation it passes that interferes with the NYPD's efforts to "protect the public." He said that while the NYPD is technically within the bounds of the law on this, a lot of people on the City Council feel strongly that Ray Kelly is abusing his authority in this instance. He said that he believes the best way to fight this is in court, and that the NYCLU's RNC-related lawsuit against the City should get things moving in the right direction.

I don’t doubt Council Member Yassky’s staffer’s take on the legality/constitutionality of Ray Kelly’s move (though I would pursue it further with other members of the City Council), but what occurs to me right off is that if many on the Council feel the police commissioner is “abusing his authority,” why are they waiting for the NYCLU to take the lead? These are the elected representatives of us NYC residents—they are our legislative branch—can they not hold hearings on Kelly’s actions? Can they not draft a new law to override the NYPD’s rule?

Come on, guys and gals of the New York City Council, this is your job! Grow a spine! Exercise some oversight!

Don’t start reminding us of our federal representatives.

Update: Counsel Speaker Quinn takes issue with the NYPD’s proposal.


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