2004-07-16 / Columnists

From the Editor's Desk

By Howard Schwach

From the Editor's Desk

City Council Speaker Giff Miller is really afraid that the mayor and the police department are stepping on the toes of those who want to disrupt and perhaps destroy New York City.

Miller, who plans on running for mayor against Michael Bloomberg (unless Tony Weiner gets there first), is playing a dangerous game of politics with the lives of every city resident. I mean that literally, because Miller and his political gambits might put anybody who visits Manhattan during the Republican National Convention in jeopardy.

Even a cursory review of the websites of several organizations that plan to demonstrate at the convention makes clear the fact that these are not the proverbial "little old ladies in tennis sneakers" who want to protest against the Republicans and President Bush, although certainly some of those who show up in late August will fit that bill.

A good number of those who come, however, will have only one thing in mind - disrupting both the convention and the city.

Look at what the same organizations have done in the past in other cities around the world:

Seattle (December 1999): Facing a police force that was not ready for them, tens of thousands of demonstrators broke windows, destroyed property and held pitched battles with police trying to protect the city's citizens from the largely outside groups.

Quebec City (April, 2001): More than 25,000 demonstrators disrupted the city for days as police used rubber bullets and water canon to keep them away from a 2.3 mile fence that protected a meeting of the Summit of the Americas.

Genoa, Italy (July, 2001): A protestor is shot dead as 100,000 rock-throwing demonstrators destroy much of the city's center.

Personally, I have a bad feeling about both our Republican Convention and the Democratic Convention that will be held in Boston earlier in the summer.

After the terrorist's success in altering the outcome of the Spanish elections, I really believe that they think they can do the same with our election - although I doubt that they can do it no matter what they do.

Think about it for a minute. Do they go after Bush in New York City and make a martyr of the president, or is it easier and move reasonable (from the terrorist's point of view) to go after the leading contender, John Kerry in Boston.

Kill Kerry and blow up hundreds of local Democratic Party luminaries in Boston and what happens to the November election?

Can the Democrats mount a new candidate in time, or is the election postponed? According to recent news accounts, there is already talk of postponing the election because of the perceived terrorist threat.

Nixon tried that in the 1960's, arguing that the turmoil of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement made an election and a possible change of government untenable. What a way to try and steal the government. Now, Bush is looking at the same kind of gambit.

A horrendous event at Boston might just do what Nixon could not do - disrupt the election and bring the democratic process to its knees.

I know that there will be those who complain that I shouldn't write things like this, that it will give the terrorist ideas.

I doubt many Al Quada operatives read The Wave, but I am sure that this is not a new idea in the world of terrorism in any case.

Now, most of the people who will demonstrate in New York City are not terrorists in the strictest sense. While they have no compunction about destroying property and disrupting lives in the pursuit of the hate of government, I do not think that they plan on actually killing anybody.

They plan lots of other things, however, according to their published statements and what is posted on their websites and those of people who support them.

For example, one website (I am not providing the URL's for any of these sites, but they are easy enough to find for anybody who is computer savvy), urges people to volunteer to assist the convention and then not show up.

The same website provides the names of all of the delegates to the convention and urges like-minded people to contact them and warn them not to come to New York City because of the danger they will find here.

Another website tells of ways to fool bomb-sniffing dogs on the subway. I wonder what kind of idiot would want to fool bomb-sniffing dogs in light of what happened in Spain, but there are always some who are willing to see others die in the name of whatever cause they think is important at the moment (and that sometimes includes government officials).

The website urges people to go to a rifle, pistol of skeet shooting range right before getting on the subway.

"Saturate your clothing with the smell of gunpowder and then go directly to the LIRR or a subway train headed for Penn Station," the site urges. "Try to have at least two people on a train in different locations. Try and get near the police and dogs. Loiter for as long as you can, even petting the dogs."

"It is important that the police call in all possible resources," the website continues. "This will result in maximum disruption and with any luck, the [Madison Square] Garden will be evacuated."

I have to wonder if this foolishness, putting all of us at risk of a real terrorist act, can be considered as a right that is protected by the Constitution.

"What separates our country from those our government so freely criticizes - indeed, sometimes attacks - is our constitutionally protected right to take to the streets to protest our leaders and their actions without fear of persecution of worse," writes Donna Lieberman, the director of the New York Civil Liberties Union in a Newsday op ed piece. "As the world watches, the Republican National Convention will become one of those signature events that test our commitment to the fundamental liberties on which our nation has been founded."

Is the Constitution a suicide pact? Some people seem to think so.

Ray Kelly, the NYPD commissioner, does not think so. He has the real-world responsibility of protecting lives.

""Where is the legitimate protest in trying to endanger the public," Kelly asks. "It is the height of irresponsibility. These hard-core groups are looking to take us on and they have increased their level of sophistication and violence.

"Come Labor Day, let's hope that we can be proud of what we will have learned about ourselves and our city," says Lieberman.

Come Labor Day, let's hope that we are not looking back at another 9/11-type event. If we are looking at another tragedy, it will largely be due to the protestors and their supporters, who talk a lot about the Constitution, but do not understand that valid protest has to be tempered with some common sense.

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