Letters to the Mayorby Theodore Hamm
Dear Mr. First Amendment,
I just watched the press conference in which you attempted to justify the city’s actions in clearing Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night. Your argument that it’s the Occupy Wall Street protesters who are the ones violating the First Amendment is a truly novel claim—perhaps even a prize-winning work of legal fiction.
The First Amendment, as you explained it, guarantees all of our rights to protest—as well as “to say nothing.” As anyone who’s been there knows, Zuccotti Park has provided a space for all manner of political views, including those of Kropotkin anarchists, Ron Paul libertarians, and Teamsters. Yet in your view, by exercising their rights to free speech and peaceable assembly, the OWS folks are denying the Wall Street lunch crowd’s equivalent right to sit on the benches in Zuccotti Park and say nothing. If every such mundane action qualifies as free speech, the protection loses all meaning whatsoever.
It was also curious to hear you argue against both those who “let them stay indefinitely” and those who would “wait for winter” to freeze them out, especially since you have been one of those very people. I suppose the First Amendment does protect contradiction, hypocrisy, and whatever Howard Wolfson tells you to say.
But I’ll give you this, Mike: You have mastered the art of the plausible. When you called last week for the repeal of all the Bush tax cuts, very few people seemed to notice that this would mean a tax hike for couples making under $250k. If nothing else, at least you gave the Wall Street folks something to talk about over lunch.
Here are three drafts of a letter presented at the Bowery Poetry Club on Sunday, October 16.
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
First, thanks for the bike lanes. It makes the city feel so European, like we’re in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.
I still marvel at your robust stance in the Ground Zero mosque controversy last summer. You really showed your deep and abiding respect for the First Amendment.
Since you are such a First Amendment warrior, I know how deeply you respect the rights of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Indeed, it’s not easy to balance the rights of private property owners, the need for public safety, and the rights of protesters.
I cheered last Monday when you said the protesters could stay indefinitely. I was concerned last Wednesday when you told them they would have to evacuate temporarily. But on early Friday, you beat back both Brookfield and the N.Y.P.D., and showed once again what a First Amendment champion you are.
So I just want to say thanks for standing by your principles. I’ll write again soon regarding your recent proposal to raise everyone’s taxes by three percent, so that the rich don’t feel “singled out.” The ladies on The View seemed a little skeptical about it, but I want to take more time to crunch the numbers.
P.S. I never got a chance to tell you this, but The Gates were really great.
Dear Mayor Mike,
First, thanks for the bike lanes. I’m so glad the city is taking cues from Portland, Oregon.
As you showed last year in the Ground Zero mosque controversy, you are now a strong believer in the First Amendment; maybe that wasn’t the case earlier in your administration, but now it’s really part of your brand. So I encourage you to stay strong on this one. Since your girlfriend, Diana Taylor, is on the board of Brookfield Properties, maybe she can wield some influence?
Also, one question regarding your three percent across the board tax hike proposal: Don’t you think the middle and working classes are already feeling pinched enough? High net-worth individuals like you and Warren Buffett did pretty well during the Bush years, so why not go with his plan?
P.S. I never did get a chance to tell you how much I appreciated The Gates. Friends of mine got engaged there and they’re still together!
Yo Mayor One Percent,
Props and all for the bike lanes. They remind me of when I used to live in Davis, California.
As the Ground Zero mosque conflict showed, you’re definitely willing to uphold the First Amendment when your developer friends are involved. I, for one, cannot forget when you stopped an antiwar march in early 2003 from ending at the U.N., or denied a permit to use the Great Lawn for an antiwar rally during the Republican National Convention. And when I see cops chomping at the bit to make arrests, it reminds me of the R.N.C., when you locked up the protesters at Pier 57 while you partied with the Bush crowd.
So I say to stop faking it, Mike. Everyone knows whose side you’re on, and your tax hike plan shows it. When you say the rich feel put upon by paying more taxes, and that we shouldn’t vilify the banks, and that Tim Geithner “walks on water,” at least you’re being honest about your principles—and your interest, too.
Ted from Brooklyn
P.S. If and when you do reclaim Zuccotti Park for the one percent, here’s a suggestion for you: since Diana’s pals at Brookfield are helping fund a certain eco-disaster project in Alberta, maybe you can fill in Liberty Plaza with tar sands. It will be a triumph of public art, just like The Gates!