The Mugly Ugh shot of Rudy Giuliani taken by the Fulton County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office this week, came some 24 years too late.
We would have loved to have this glaring, glowering, ghoulish photo of NYC’s own Prince of Darkness up on placards when thousands of us marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, in mid-April, 1999, to protest the police violence that killed a 22-year old unarmed Black man, Amadou Diallo, with 41-bullets.
I intentionally wanted to express my outrage in that protest march, led by Harry Belafonte, the Rev. Al Sharpton, former Mayor David Dinkins and others, to show that White middle-class New Yorkers were just as upset as communities of color by the rampant NYPD brutality during Giuliani’s mayoralty.
Just two years earlier — in the midst of Giuliani’s re-election campaign — Abner Louima, a Haitian/American immigrant, was brutalized and repeatedly raped with a wooden police batton by NYPD officers. As usual, Rudy defended the victimizers, not the victim, and tried to pin the blame on Louima and Brooklyn’s black community.
Fortunately, New York’s media, recognized the enormous diversity of the March to Protest Diallo’s death, immediately putting to rest Giuliani’s racist lies that it was something which only bothered the Black Community. The New York Times headline of April 16, 1999 read:
Diallo Rally Focuses on Call For Strong Oversight of Police
The opening words of Jodi Wilgoren’s story were: “A multiracial throng of thousands marched in memory of Amadou Diallo yesterday, shutting down half the Brooklyn Bridge and several streets in downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan during the afternoon rush as they chanted about justice and peace.”
Wilgoren went on to write:
“But the diverse crowd was filled with a broad range of critics of the status quo, and the message of the march became, at times, a massive thumbs-down to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.”
Giuliani deserved the “massive” thumbs down. During the entire eight-year tenure of his mayoralty, Rudy refused to meet with the City’s Black Community Leadership even once, in a clear snub to the organizations which worked closely with former NYC Mayor David Dinkins to “Increase the Peace,” among New York’s diverse racial and ethnic communities. Immediately upon his election as NYC Mayor in 2001, Michael Bloomberg made meeting regularly with Black and Latino community leaders among his top priorities.
As a member of Governor Mario M. Cuomo’s staff, I worked on the “Increase the Peace” initiative, along with members of then- Mayor Dinkins staff, and the great writer Elie Wiesel, a personal hero. In fact, our first meeting — with many Black and White community leaders coming together — was held in the book-lined Upper East Side apartment of Wiesel.
When Giuliani was elected Mayor in November, 1993, he immediately eliminated the “Increase the Peace” program, ended the meetings, and cut all funding and support for community-based “ambassadors.” He didn’t care about NYC’s communities of color; they didn’t vote for him.
So, I would have loved to have the creepy criminal mug-shot of Giuliani 24 years ago, when we were walking across the Brooklyn Bridge — “like Civil Rights advocates marched across the Selma Bridge,” Al Sharpton said — to show our fellow New Yorkers, the full face of abject arrogance and racism confronting all of us.
There is something so kharmically perfect in the fact that Rudy was finger-printed, weighed, arrested and photographed in a Fulton County, Georgia jail, answering to a racketeering charge brought against him by a tough, law & order Black, female law enforcement official.