Next time, Mayor Giuliani, don't rein in the parade

September 09, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

SOME 6,000 or so marchers went to the Million Youth March in Harlem this past Saturday. They came, they talked, they clashed with police.

As police moved in to remove marchers and enforce a court-ordered 4 p.m. deadline, some marchers responded by hurling rocks and bottles at police. None of this was necessary. But who should get the blame?

Khalid Muhammad, a former Nation of Islam official - you have to figure Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is happy to be rid of this albatross around his neck - could have suggested something to marchers other than beating up or shooting cops. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan - who ruled the march could only be held from noon to 4 p.m. - should have realized that free speech is best practiced when not handed out in four-hour increments. March organizers could have chosen a weekend other than a busy holiday to hold the march.

But it's Rudolph Giuliani, mayor of the Big Apple, who has been the target of criticism. Giuliani is Republican, conservative, a white guy - in short, a perfect villain for 1990s America's political scene. It would be difficult to list all the things he's been called, but "racist" and "undemocratic" are among the top.

Story after story accused Giuliani of calling the proposed march a "hate march" and denying organizers a permit for that reason. Colleen A. Roche, Giuliani's press secretary, says that Giuliani's characterization of the march as a "hate march" is true. The charge that he denied a permit is not.

"The mayor did grant the marchers a permit," Roche said. "It was for January on Randall's Island. It was the Police Department, for safety reasons, that denied the permit for the Harlem rally of Sept. 5 on Malcolm X Boulevard. There were 130 other events in the city that day. The issue of content was not a factor in the denial of a permit."

(Kaplan overruled the Police Department and chided them for setting up criteria for granting permits that "were a virtual prescription for unconstitutional decision making," according to a wire story.)

Giuliani is the conservative, tough-on-crime Republican whom many credit with lowering New York City's crime rate. His zero-tolerance policy on crime even has panhandlers quaking in their boots. You hardly see any on the city's streets anymore. Giuliani's approach to crime distinguishes him from liberal Democratic big-city mayors who seem content to mollycoddle miscreants.

Giuliani took one look at who was leading the Harlem march - Muhammad - and correctly, if somewhat knee-jerkedly, dubbed it a hate march. Muhammad is the guy who has consistently referred to Jews as "the hook-nosed, lox-eating, bagel-eating, just-crawled-out-of-the-caves-of-Europe-perpetrating-a-fraud Jew." In another inspired moment, Muhammad expressed admiration for Colin Ferguson, the deranged black man who went on a shooting spree on a New York commuter train and killed whites and Asians. In yet another lapse into idiocy, Muhammad advocated race war in South Africa, suggesting that blacks rise up and kill whites en masse.

Black folks call such talk "selling woof tickets." Muhammad sold his from the comfort of his expensive apartment in New Jersey. No surprise then that when police and marchers clashed in Harlem Saturday, Muhammad scampered for safety to a nearby church.

Saturday's Harlem rally was, predictably, peppered with anti-white and anti-Semitic rhetoric, as if some speakers were determined to prove Giuliani correct. Jesse Jackson and Cornel West, two liberal black misleaders who never pass on a chance to criticize police, accused cops of overreacting. (Heaven forfend they should criticize Muhammad's comments.) Jackson, ever lacking a sense of proportion, was quoted in wire stories as saying, "I haven't seen that type of overreaction since Mayor [Richard J.] Daley sent the police out after demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic convention."

Not surprisingly, Roche said Giuliani has a different view.

"The mayor feels the police acted commendably," Roche said. "He supports their decision to stop the march. Muhammad was on stage exhorting people to take officers' guns and shoot them and to break barricades and hit police with the barricades."

That may be true, but in the eyes of many, Giuliani is still the villain. So a little advice for the Big Apple's mayor should Khalid Muhammad come a-calling again. Grant a permit for anywhere he chooses. Let him talk for as long as he chooses. And then let people ignore him.

Pub Date: 9/09/98

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