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New York City Council Members Rebuke Mayor Bloomberg's Exploitation of Boston Attack

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A group of Muslim leaders on Friday boycotted an annual interreligious event held by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pictured here on December 15, to protest alleged police spying on members of their community.

 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is exploiting the Boston Marathon attacks as a way to defend the New York Police Department’s tactics to fight terrorism. But two progressive City Council members are having none of it.

Bloomberg crassly used a press conference yesterday to take a jab at opponents of the NYPD’s counter-terror tactics--tactics that include widespread surveillance of Muslim communities with no regard as to whether who they are spying on are guilty or innocent of a crime. “The moment that we let our guard down, the moment we get complacent, the moment we allow special interests to shape our security strategies, is the moment that the terrorists are waiting for,” the New York City mayor said. “As a country, we may not be able to thwart every attack. We saw that yesterday. But we must do everything we possibly can to try.”

It was a subtle way of defending the NYPD’s surveillance program. Even though he did not name the spying as one of the “security strategies,” it’s pretty clear he was talking about the NYPD program. It’s also pretty clear that the “special interests” he was referring to are opponents of the NYPD’s massive and probably unconstitutional surveillance program. That program, which was exposed by the Associated Press, is now being challenged in court. The NYPD itself has acknowledged that the widespread spying on Muslims has not produced any leads on potential terrorist plots, so it’s unclear where Bloomberg gets the idea that spying on Muslims is doing something to stop terrorism.

Two City Council members are now speaking up about Bloomberg’s comments. The progressive Brooklyn politicians Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams sent a letter to Bloomberg today. Both of them are sponsors of the Community Safety Act, a set of bills pending in the City Council that would bar discriminatory policing and institute an Inspector General that would provide oversight of the NYPD. Here’s an excerpt from their letter:

We find it distressing that you would politicize the memory of those killed in the tragedy in this way. To suggest that New Yorkers who stand both against terrorism and for civil liberties are “special interests” that “the terrorists are waiting for” is both inappropriate at this tragic moment and degrading to our public dialogue. We ask that you reconsider your comments...

We believe that we can and must keep New Yorkers safe without violating fundamental Constitutional rights. If we have a “special interest,” it is simply equal justice under the law. We are concerned that the NYPD’s Stop, Question and Frisk policy targets African-American and Latino young men, and LGBTQ residents, without reasonable suspicion, the vast majority of whom are guilty only of fitting a bias-based profile. We are concerned that the NYPD’s intelligence program profiles Muslim mosques and student associations for undercover surveillance, even in the absence of any specific leads.

Bloomberg is hardly the only politician exploiting the Boston Marathon attacks. The mayor now joins the likes of Republicans Louie Gohmert and Steve King, who both made anti-immigrant remarks in the aftermath of the Boston attack and implied Muslims had something to do with the bombs with no evidence to back their claims up.

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