New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez talks about his frustration over being assaulted and arrested Tuesday during the early morning raid on the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park by Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD. Rodriguez vows to keep supporting the movement, saying, “I believe that this mayor is showing one more time that he is disconnected from the reality of average New Yorkers.”
Update: Full transcript below the fold.
OLBERMANN: There’s an old Charles Addams’ cartoon in which an octopus is shown climbing out from under a manhole cover, grabbing a pedestrian, who is then seen trying to batter it with his umbrella. The caption read, “It doesn’t take much to draw a crowd in New York.”
In our fourth story — you would think the arrest of a New York City councilman at Occupy Wall Street and his injury at the hands of the police and his detention for 17 hours without access to a lawyer might draw — if not a crowd — at least a comment from the mayor who ordered the raid that resulted in his arrest. Nearly 48 hours later and Mayor Michael Bloomberg is still silent.
Councilman Rodriguez says late Monday night, he heard that police were planning the raid, so he decided to go to the park to act as an observer. He was still two blocks away when an officer grabbed him from behind, threw him to the ground and pushed his face into the ground, he says.
(Excerpt from video clip) RODRIGUEZ: I was walking in the street, on the sidewalk, and this police officer — 7188 — started hitting my back (indistinct) . . . as one of those few opponents that we have in the NYPD department.
OLBERMANN: Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez was then held 17 hours without access to a lawyer. Yesterday, he held a news conference, flanked by other governmental officials and still bearing the evidence of his violent altercation — cuts and bruises on his face and arms.
(Excerpt from video clip) LETITIA JAMES: Throughout my 20 years of public service, no elected official has been held in detention for longer than three hours. His rights were violated. The Constitution was suspended today from Zuccotti to here at 100 Centre Street. And there needs to be a full and complete investigation.
OLBERMANN: And joining me now, New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. Well, thanks for coming in. I’m glad you were available this evening, rather than still in jail. My goodness! How on earth did this happen?
RODRIGUEZ: First of all, thank you for inviting me to this program.
OLBERMANN: Of course.
RODRIGUEZ: It is so unfortunate that, still today, there were people out in the court, waiting to come out from the system. And I mean this — this should not happen, and it is so sad that Mayor Bloomberg made this decision when trying to shut this Occupy down from the park.
OLBERMANN: Nothing from him, even though a member of the city council was arrested? Nothing from the police commissioner, even though a member of the city council is still bearing the visible scars of an altercation with the cops? Nothing? You have heard nothing from them?
RODRIGUEZ: Nothing at all. I know that the speaker of Queens, they made a phone call from yesterday to the mayor, deputy mayor, to the Commissioner Kelly. And I also was shocked on what happened, not only to me, but the more than 200, including nine members of the media.
RODRIGUEZ: In the same car, when I was taken to the NYPD headquarters, there were two reporters that they do freelance for the city press. And The New York Times, they also went through the same situation of being arrested without planning to be arrested.
OLBERMANN: Where do you go with this from here? Do you know? Is it legal action? Is it a hearing? How do you proceed?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of all, I’m here and also understanding that what happened to me didn’t have to happen, not because I’m a council member, but also because I’m a citizen who is protected by the First Amendment. I only went to the park to observe the situation, and suddenly I end up being in jail without having the legal right of having — speaking to my attorney. Even when I asked to speak to a supervisor of the NYPD, no one — it was not granted. As someone — as an elected official also, having been trying to work with the NYPD — it is so frustrating.
OLBERMANN: Where are average New Yorkers on this, do you think? So far, as near as we can tell, Occupy Wall Street filled up a public space, marched in a couple of streets, blocked a little bit of traffic. The NYPD has, in response, arrested about a thousand people, often with violence that was rarely necessary. They bulldozed the camp in the middle of the night. They brought paramilitary weapons out against members of the public, including huge sound devices, when the complaint was these people were making too much noise. And they arrested about 10 or 12 — the number varies — journalists who had New York City-issued police-press credentials. And they hit and arrested and detained a city councilman. Where is the outrage in the city about how the city is treating its residents, its journalists, its city council members?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, I believe that New Yorkers are frustrated. Especially because this movement is not only the movement of college students. This movement — the Occupy movement, the 99 percent — is a movement of the working class and the middle class that is tired, that is fed up on — on being affected every year when we have to make the decision about cutting the budget, it is only on the working class and middle class.
So, I believe this movement will continue growing. I believe that this movement is a movement for jobs, for affordable housing, for quality education. I represent one of those communities where the average income is 25 percent in the northern Manhattan area. So for me, my responsibility to support the Occupy movement is based on the need that I see every day in my community.
It’s because I feel that — here in New York City, as a typical city that we have in this great nation — there is a gap between the rich and the poor. And I believe it is our responsibility to bring all of the sectors together. And that’s the voice this movement has given us.
RODRIGUEZ: It’s the voice of the voiceless.
OLBERMANN: Having been born in Inwood, myself — and my folks are all from the Bronx and I have lived here most of my adult life — the potholes are as bad as it as ever been. Mass transit is getting worse and it costs more every week. The city bends over backwards for businesses, especially high-profile businesses like films and other places like that, taxes go up on residents every hour and a half, it feels like, and now this mayor pulls — it seems like fascist stunt to knock down protesters.
Somebody says, “Hey, we’ve had enough. We’re not rioting in the streets, we’ve just had enough.” And they bring to bear an extraordinary amount of police presence and pressure and threat and people in riot gear. Is there any intelligence on the part on the people who are making these decisions rather than saying, “There’s a problem here and we need to address it before it becomes an unmanageable problem”? Are they playing with fire in this city, the people who run it?
RODRIGUEZ: I believe that this mayor is showing, one more time, that he is disconnected from the reality of the average New Yorkers. I believe that he doesn’t understand that by trying — by shutting the Occupy from the park — from trying to shutting the park down, he thought that would be the end of the movement.
Tomorrow, thousands of people will be arrested, because they will be participating in a nationwide civil disobedience. Not only those couple of thousand people that already have decided to be arrested in an organized way, in a civil-disobedience manner — it’s also thousands and thousands of labor leaders, community activists, religious leaders — in New York City, in many cities in this nation — that they are showing the support to this movement. And that’s what this major doesn’t understand.
No one will be able to stop this movement unless we come out with answers to a reality that we face in this city. Why we have certain community where family doesn’t know what it is quality education in the early childhood. Why we have a community that we don’t have affordable housing.
In our district — in the northern Manhattan — from the 175 affordable housing units that the mayor said that he will build, only one building has been built in my district. So, this isn’t fair. This mayor is not connected to this reality. Unfortunately, we’ve been going through this situation, I went through as a council member. But also, Jumaane Williams also went through a similar situation two or three months ago.
And every day, hundreds of New Yorkers are being stopped and frisked — especially in the Latino and African-American community — and we need to put a stop on how certain members of the NYPD, that does not reflect the great work that most of the officers do in the department, they are not respecting the rights, and that’s one of the reasons this Occupy movement is getting so much support from all communities across the city.
OLBERMANN: And, perhaps, the mayor will understand this time tomorrow night. Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez of New York, I’m glad it’s turned out relatively well. And great thanks for coming in. Appreciate your time.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, sir.