By LOUIS FLORES
On the same day when Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) launched fundraising for his expected 2017 reëlection campaign, Quinnipiac University published its latest poll showing falling job approval ratings.
And as Mayor de Blasio was mingling with campaign contributors at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, over 100 protesters were gathered outside the hotel's main Seventh Avenue entrance, calling attention to the mayor's record of betrayals.
The activists protesting outside Mayor de Blasio's fundraiser denounced the mayor's support for a controversial policing theory used by the New York Police Department called Broken Windows, which has been described as race-based and neoconservative. The police reform activists invoked the memories of many people killed by NYPD officers. Amongst the chants the protesters recited included, "All lives will matter when #BlackLivesMatter." At one point, activists recounted the horrifying facts leading up to the homicide of Eric Garner, who was choked to death on a sidewalk in Staten Island in broad daylight. A video recorded of Mr. Garner being choked to death has drawn scrutiny onto the NYPD and police departments across the nation for their race-based policing and officer-involved homicides.
Based on Mayor de Blasio's support for each of Broken Windows, gentrification, and privatisation of strategic public assets, such as public housing properties, the protesters called into question Mayor de Blasio's self-described progressive façade. Activists referred to Mayor de Blasio as a "Trojan Horse," who exploited the language of social justice in order to get elected.
"He calls himself progressive," said police reform activist Josmar Trujillo, referring to Mayor de Blasio, adding that, "but his policies are aggressive against us."
Mr. Trujillo noted that contrary to Mayor de Blasio's self-professed progressive leanings, Mayor de Blasio was actually responsible for carrying out the conservative policies of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-New York City) and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-New York City). Mayor de Blasio was promoting former Mayor Bloomberg's blueprint for gentrification in the East New York neighborhood of Booklyn, and Mayor de Blasio was harassing and rounding up the homeless, just like former Mayor Giuliani, Mr. Trujillo said.
A sub-group of activists denounced Mayor de Blasio's support of land use policies that many tenant advocates complain are deliberately intended to further the ever-spiraling gentrification desired by real estate developers. Other activists expressed solidarity for other causes, including defense for the human rights of Palestinians. Middle East politics has melded into municipal politics after Mayor de Blasio made a controversial, privately-paid trip on official, city business to support Jewish causes in Israel. Mayor de Blasio made the trip to Israel in the face of a global social justice movement calling for a boycott, sanctions, and divestment from Israel until it complies with the United Nations' Fourth Geneva Convention, a treaty which bars a nation from transferring its own population from within its own borders into occupied territories. The violations stem from settlements in the West Bank.
A separate group of activists were present to protest Mayor de Blasio over his failure to follow-through on a key campaign promise to ban the horse-drawn carriage industry on Day One of his administration.
The activists had recruited key activist groups in New York City. Brandon Cuicchi, a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT-UP, presented a list of demands that healthcare activists, including members of ACT-UP, have been demanding from the de Blasio administration : (i) the creation of a community advisory board to oversee the city's Department of Health ; (ii) a restoration of AIDS funding that was cut in 2010 and that continues to this day ; and (iii) greater municipal healthcare policies that support the sexual health of LGBT men and women. Mr. Cuicchi noted that, ever since the de Blasio administration unilaterally closed the Ninth Avenue public health clinic in Chelsea, LGBT New Yorkers were not safe in city clinics, because LGBT patients were forced to seek healthcare elsewhere. At other clinics, the LGBT patients were denied healthcare, were profiled, and were being stigmatised.
The protest also featured remarks made by Alicia Boyd, a Brooklyn activist and a member of the anti-gentrification group, the Movement to Protect the People, who has been organising her community to beat back Mayor de Blasio's gentrification plans to upzone several communities. After speaking against Mayor de Blasio's plans for gentrification, Ms. Boyd led the group of activists in chants of, "One term mayor."
At one point, activist rushed the main entrance of the Sheraton. A small group made it into the hotel's lobby, before NYPD officers blocked the doors at the main entrance. After the small group was escorted out of the hotel, NYPD officers placed the hotel's main entrance on lockdown. Later, a second small group of activists were able to make into the hotel, possibly through another entrance, and when that second group exited through the main entrance and reunited with the activists, the second group was met with cheers of activists, who celebrated a second successful attempt to make it inside the hotel.
Participatants in the protest included members of several groups, such as New Yorkers Against Bratton, B.A.N., Jails Action Coalition, and Why Accountability. The impressive collection of activists and groups expressing political dissent portends political trouble for Mayor de Blasio, a situation not yet evenly reflected in the Quinnipiac Univesity poll results.
Whereas poll respondents believed by a 48 to 42 per cent. margin that Mayor de Blasio does not deserve a second term, the mayor's job approval ratings, clocking in at a low 45 per cent., revealed a continuing racial divide : 71 per cent. of Black voters and 51 per cent. of Hispanic voters approved of Mayor de Blasio's job performance. This contrasted with 65 per cent. of White voters, who disapproved of Mayor de Blasio's job performance.
The majority of activists protesting Mayor de Blasio's fundraiser were people of color, as observed by this reporter. As activists and community groups escalate political pressure against Mayor de Blasio, the mayor's relationship with communities of color stand to take a hit.
As it is, the latest Quinnipiac University poll showed an overall disapproval rating of 46 per cent., a slight uptick from 44 per cent., which was measured in the prior Quinnipiac University poll.