News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Labor Rallies Against Racist Editorial cartoon

By Gary Bono

On Thursday, February 19th, hundreds of angry protesters, including labor leaders and members, clergy and elected officials, gathered in midtown Manhattan for a noontime rally protesting a blatantly racist editorial cartoon that ran in the previous day’s edition of the notoriously right-wing New York Post. They called for a boycott of the racist newspaper, known for its racist, anti-working people positions. Many also called for a federal investigation of the paper, saying that the cartoon could be seen as an incitement to assassinate the President.

The cartoon depicted two white police officers, guns drawn, standing over the bullet riddled corpse of a chimpanzee, saying, “I guess we’ll have to get someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” On a previous page, the paper carried a photo of President Barack Obama signing the economic stimulus bill.

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to comment directly but said that he doesn’t consider the New York Post to be a serious news source and doesn’t spend a lot of time reading it.

Post editor Col Allan and cartoonist Sean Delonas defended the cartoon, but many New Yorkers felt differently, and many hundreds of them demonstrated their outrage outside the posh 6th Avenue headquarters of News Corporation, the Post’s parent company, noisily protesting what they saw as a racist smear of Obama and an incitement to violence against him.

Some protestors remarked that the appearance of this particular cartoon during black history month added insult to injury; some saw the attack as a part of the right wing assault on labor and people’s forces in general. The demonstration, originally called by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, produced a turnout of surprising size and breadth.

In addition to members of the National Action Network, multitudes of outraged citizens turned out. The NAACP, One Hundred Blacks in Law Enforcement and other civil rights and community organizations had organized presences. As the demonstrators chanted, “boycott the Post” drivers of assign cars, trucks and busses raised their fists and honked their horns in solidarity.

Organized labor was particularly well represented at the rally and, at least once, representatives from the various unions present marched together as a unified labor contingent. The labor turn out included, among others, members from Transport Workers Union Local 100; SEIU 32 BJ, 1199 and 371; AFSCME District Council 37; Public Employees Federation and IBEW. TWU Local 100 and SEIU 32BJ had major organized presences, with leading members among their contingents. In addition to the organized labor turn out, union members, both active and retired, who came to the demonstration on their own greeted and joined their union brothers and sisters on the line.

Numerous public and political figures also turned out for the noon demonstration. These included New York City council representatives John Liu and Charles Barron and State Senator Eric Adams.

Barron supported calls for a boycott of the paper and said that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should investigate the Post for threatening the life of the President.

Adams, a former NYC Police detective and former head of One Hundred Blacks in Law Enforcement, also called for an investigation, saying that the U.S. Department of Justice needs to look at the cartoon as an incitement to assassinate the President. Earlier, councilwomen Letitia James called for the editor of the Post to be fired and for an apology to be printed on the paper’s front page. James called the cartoon an example of a “racist mind at work.”

In addition to calling for a boycott of the paper Sharpton called for an investigation of the waiver granted by the FCC to News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch which allowed him to own a newspaper and two TV stations in the same market.

On Friday, following several more protests plus torrents of outraged phone calls and emails and calls for the dismissals of Delonas, Allan or both, the Post issued what has been described as a half-hearted apology. Surprisingly though, the Post choose to use the ‘apology’, buried inside the paper, to attack what it called ‘opportunist’ critics, a veiled reference to Sharpton. This ‘apology’ has done little to silence the calls for the heads of Delonas and Allan and the calls for a boycott of the paper.

In rejecting the ‘apology’ famed movie director, Spike Lee, and R&B artist John Legend have said that, in the future, they will refuse to grant interviews to Post reporters. They asked other entertainment and sports figures to do likewise.

As of this writing it appears that the firestorm generated by the cartoon is far from subsiding. On Saturday, following the initial street demonstrations, national NAACP president Benjamin Jealous said that the cartoon was an invitation to assassination and called for the firing of Post cartoonist Delonas and Post editor Allan. The national chair of the NAACP, Julian Bond, referred to the cartoon as, “thoughtlessness taken to the extreme."

Meanwhile, regional civil rights leaders, like Wilbur Alridge of the NAACP and Ernest Prince of the Urban League have joined the call for a boycott. What’s more the New York Times has reported that some Post employees were themselves dismayed at the papers decision to run the cartoon.

The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the National Association of Black Journalists have also weighed in, with members and officials from the organizations registering their outrage and disgust.

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