A City Where Campaign Posters Can Promote Past Arrests
By KATE TAYLOR
The next New York mayoral election is two years away, but prospective candidates are already busy raising money, lining up endorsements and, in some cases, burnishing their rap sheets.
Ramin Talaie/Associated Press
In 2003, left, Bill de Blasio was arrested protesting a firehouse closing.
Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press
In 1999, Christine C. Quinn was arrested protesting the killing of Amadou Diallo.
Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Tom Allon, a candidate for mayor in 2013, slept in Zuccotti Park on Tuesday night with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement sets off a national conversation about protests and social change, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and the best-known of the likely Democratic candidates, has gone out of her way to say that she has been arrested ?numerous times? for civil disobedience and therefore understands the importance of protecting free speech rights.
Ms. Quinn, who routinely faces questions about whether her efforts to woo the business community have weakened her allegiance to liberal causes, had particular reason to emphasize her history of being handcuffed for a cause. But it turns out that she is not alone among the hopefuls in being able to flaunt a record of arrests.
Bill de Blasio, the public advocate and another likely candidate for mayor, has been arrested three times ? once in 2003, for protesting the closing of a firehouse in Brooklyn, and twice in the late 1980s and early ?90s, for protesting in front of the White House against United States policy in Latin America, his spokesman, Wiley Norvell, said.
And Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, was arrested in 1999 during protests against the police killing of Amadou Diallo, and in the 1980s while calling on Exxon to cease doing business in apartheid South Africa, his spokeswoman, Audrey Gelman, said. (Mr. Stringer was also detained and given a ticket in 1994 after arguing over electioneering rules with an officer at a polling place; he was not charged, and the ticket was dismissed.)
Three other prospective Democratic candidates ? John C. Liu, the comptroller; William C. Thompson Jr., a former comptroller and the 2009 mayoral nominee; and Tom Allon, a media executive ? said they had never been arrested. But Mr. Allon, eager to demonstrate his activist credentials, said he spent the night at Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, making him the first candidate to do so.
The current mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who as a young adult observed but did not participate in the protest movements of the 1960s, has never been arrested, his spokesman, Stu Loeser, said.
James Miller, a professor of politics at the New School for Social Research, expressed surprise that so many likely candidates had arrest records and were proud to share them, saying it was yet another sign that New York City differs from the rest of the country. In the 1992 presidential campaign, he noted, President George Bush criticized his Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton, for having organized two small protests in London against the Vietnam War in 1969.
?It wasn?t just a question of did he inhale or not, or was he a draft dodger, but had he been part of disorderly protests,? Professor Miller said.
Outside of New York City, he said, a record of having been arrested can be the ?kiss of death? for a candidate, unless the candidate was a black civil rights leader like Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia.
Mr. de Blasio, Mr. Stringer and Ms. Quinn were born in the 1960s and were too young to take part in any significant way in the antiwar movement of the Vietnam years. Ms. Quinn?s history as an activist is well chronicled, but her noting her arrest record came at a key moment in the brief history of Occupy Wall Street; she issued a statement arguing that the protesters should be allowed to remain in Zuccotti Park on Oct. 13, the eve of a planned cleanup of the park, where protesters have camped out since Sept. 17.
?As someone who has been arrested myself numerous times for civil disobedience,? Ms. Quinn said, ?I understand how important it is to make sure people?s First Amendment right to protest is protected.?
Her spokesman, Jamie McShane, said Ms. Quinn had been arrested at least half a dozen times, including during the protests in 1999 against the killing of Mr. Diallo, and that same year at a St. Patrick?s Day parade in the Bronx, when she and several other gay Irish-Americans tried to join the procession after being barred by the organizers.
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