I taught Getting It Wrong to my undergrad black politics class. The book is a real tonic. --Adolph Reed, University of Pennsylvania
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Algernon Austin speaks on Challenging the Bill Cosby Consensus, Connecticut College, Blaustein 210, February 27, 4pm.
Rudolph W. Giuliani is not fit to be president of the United States. As mayor of New York City, Giuliani revealed himself to be a callous man with little respect for civil liberties. In an America already suffering from the Bush Administration’s weakening of constitutional rights, he will only worsen the situation. In an increasingly racially diverse America, we need someone who can defuse racial conflict, not incite it. The Republican Party should say no to Giuliani for president.
Selections from “A Legacy of Giuliani Years: Civil Rights Suits Against City,” New York Times, December 24, 2004.
In the three years since Michael R. Bloomberg succeeded Mr. Giuliani, the city has spent close to $2 million to settle lawsuits brought by residents and city workers who accused the Giuliani administration of retaliating against them for exercising free speech or other constitutional rights.
Among them is a limousine driver, James Schillaci, who had complained in a newspaper article about a red-light sting set up by the police in the Bronx. The same day, police came to his home to arrest him for a 13-year-old unpaid ticket. The next day, the mayor obtained -- illegally, Mr. Schillaci said -- the record of his arrests from decades earlier and discussed it, inaccurately, at a news conference. The city settled with him for $290,000 in 2002.
Dantae Johnson of the Bronx has charged in a lawsuit that after he was shot by a police officer in May 1999, Mr. Giuliani and the police commissioner, Howard Safir, falsely described him as a criminal to justify the shooting. The officer was convicted of assault. The city has denied responsibility.
A former member of the police Street Crime Unit, Yvette Walton, was fired in 1999 after publicly criticizing the unit's operations. The police commissioner, Mr. Safir, said she was dismissed for abuse of sick leave, but testimony showed that her commander had planned to punish her for that infraction simply by docking one day's vacation. When she began speaking out, the matter was abruptly transferred to the commissioner's office.
Mr. Safir "removed Walton's case from the jurisdiction of her commanding officer, and, without hearing or trial or consideration of her overall performance, dismissed Walton as a police officer," Federal District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled. "I find that Walton's dismissal was in retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment rights."
Mr. Safir disputed that finding, but in November 2002, the city paid Ms. Walton $327,000 and allowed her to retire with her pension, according to Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented Ms. Walton.
In March 2000, after Patrick Dorismond, a Times Square security guard, was shot to death in a confrontation with an undercover police officer, Mr. Giuliani responded to criticism of the shooting by releasing Mr. Dorismond's sealed juvenile record. In a wrongful-death suit against the city, his family cited Mr. Giuliani's release of the criminal records as part of a pattern of smearing people hurt by the police. The city paid $2.25 million to settle the suit in 2002.
Derek Sells, the lawyer who represented the family, could not say precisely what role Mr. Giuliani's release of the juvenile records played in the settlement. "It was an embarrassing issue for the city," Mr. Sells said. "It was very clear that it was a breach in the law."
People assign Giuliani responsibility for reducing crime in New York City, but most, if not all, of the crime decline in New York was the result of factors that produced a decline in crime in cities across the country in the 1990s.
People were impressed by Giuliani’s leadership ability after 9/11, but they were also impressed by George W. Bush’s leadership skills at the time. The emotions around 9/11 distorted perceptions.
The best measure of Giuliani is his record as mayor, and it not a good one if one values civil liberties and racial harmony.
--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.
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