On this occasion, the regulars were matched in number by those, myself included, there to protest the misuse of the Precinct's Community Affairs officers as, in the words of more than one speaker, "henchmen" for a corrupt Community Board so at odds with the community they are sworn to represent over the issue of gentrification. Speakers demanded to know why Alicia Boyd of MTOPP (Movement To Protect The People) was arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct at Monday night's ULURP meeting, when a committee member who shouted the MF-word into the public record was not?
There is no doubt that the presence of a half-dozen or so officers at every meeting is intended to silence dissent, and it is effective. "It's not good for Black people to go to jail," even on a violation, a Black neighbor with a very responsible job said to me recently. The ULURP meeting was barely 5 minutes old when the committee chair asked for Alicia to be removed. For the record, she received a warning, and was arrested the second time the chair asked for her removal, maybe 20 minutes later.
Presiding over the council meeting, Commanding Officer George Fitzgibbon had little to say in response to so much voiced disapproval of his officers, even though almost everyone began their remarks by saying, in all sincerity, how much they respected the police, appreciated what a difficult and dangerous job they have. Fitzgibbon reported that his officers are accompanied by a "legal advisor," and read aloud the legal definition of "Disorderly Conduct," the part about disturbing lawful assemblies or meetings, but leaving out the part about using obscene language. Read the law here.
Another in the audience observed that MTOPP is indeed pursuing civil remedies, having brought CB9 to court to defend themselves from a long list of well-founded accusations. At some point, my hand in the air was recognized. I began by noting CB9's reputation for corruption, how it operates in defiance of its own rules and asked the officer, what's the opposition to do when they are being steamrolled? Be polite? I decided to play the "Irish Card," if there is such a thing, being of Irish extraction, with a cop (long dead) in my family, St. Patrick's Day, and all. "When the Irish asked the English to leave their country, they were ignored," I said, not putting too fine a point on it. "But once they turned to more extreme measures, the English had a new, enduring excuse to ignore them. This happens again and again in circumstances great and small, all around the world." He had no response; instead called upon another, who spoke eloquently of her dismay and dissatisfaction with the misuse of Community Affairs officers to silence and intimidate people trying to speak their minds about matters that directly affect them.
The monthly Community Board meeting is on Tuesday, when there will be an attempt to vote on yet another illegal resolution to City Planning. We'll see then whether the anger and frustration in the room last night was expressed in vain.