Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Boisterous Protest Interrupts Bloomberg
By Fernanda Santos
It seems as if Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg can’t catch a break these days. On Monday, he was bitten by a groundhog at the Staten Island Zoo. On Tuesday, his keynote speech at a business summit (called the Future of New York City) was interrupted by a boisterous and angry group of protesters.
Mr. Bloomberg was about five minutes into his remarks when at least 100 people barged into the main ballroom at the Grand Hyatt New York hotel in Midtown, holding signs that read, “Mayor Bloomberg, Talk to All New Yorkers,” and chanting, “This is what democracy looks like.”
He stood stone-faced as the protesters filed in and surrounded several of the tables packed with bankers, developers and other business leaders who had paid up to $249 a head to hear him and others speak. (The mayor might have perfected his nonchalance on Monday, when he also managed to remain cool after the groundhog attack.)
One of the protesters, Wanda Imasuen, of the Brooklyn-based organization Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, said that it was the exclusivity of the audience that spurred hers and several other groups representing low-income and immigrant city residents to disrupt the event.
“We don’t have a voice, we’re not at the table and we demand to be at the table,” Ms. Imasuen said. “We demand that the mayor gives us a meeting, not for corporate America to decide the fate of all New Yorkers.”
The mayor’s security detail and, later, uniformed police officers kept the protesters from getting anywhere near Mr. Bloomberg. They were then escorted out and at least inside the hotel. There were no arrests.
The protest was organized by the Right to the City Coalition, an alliance of grass-roots groups. It was unclear how they were able to enter the hotel undetected, as they had been stationed outside for at least an hour before Mr. Bloomberg took to the stage.
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