Rudy Giuliani: a legacy of racism and corruption

Arch racist Rudy Giuliani has made a fool out of himself again, this time at the Republican National Convention. On prime-time television, he delivered a bizarre pro-police rant, digressing briefly to scream “America” several times. A few days earlier, Giuliani made news for comments made on CNN and FOX news concerning the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests spreading across the United States.

Giuliani’s comments, while shocking in their racism and ignorance, are par for the course for the washed up politician, who nowadays is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the far right and a proud Trump minion.

Many have written that Rudy Giuliani is the last person who should be interviewed regarding police brutality and race relations. In fact, Rudy became an expert on these very issues as ex-mayor of New York City. The real concern in having Rudy Giuliani speak on TV is that our racist, compliant media is not asking him the right questions. These so-called journalists seem to have forgotten that Rudy Giuliani oversaw one of the largest and widely coordinated assaults on the Black community during his tenure as NYC mayor from 1994 to the end of 2001. No one in the mainstream media seems to notice or care about the glaring hypocrisy of a supposed “law and order” politician who has numerous corruption scandals in his resume.

Birthed by racist state power

Rudy Giuliani’s career as a politician can be said to have started from one of the most high-profile acts of disregard for “law and order” in NYC’s history. In 1992, 10,000 off-duty NYPD officers descended on City Hall to protest Mayor David Dinkin’s creation of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. According to The New York Times, which was on scene at the 1992 protest, mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani “egged on” the cops, who according to the report were doing nothing less than full on rioting.

The NYT reporters stopped short of calling the “protest” a riot—though they do describe the off-duty police officers as drinking alcohol openly on the streets, jumping on cars, shutting down traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, rushing through and tearing down police barricades, and “taking over” the steps of City Hall.

Of course, in what has become representative of the way police handle the crimes of other police officers, the over 300 uniformed officers who were supposed to control the crowd did little or nothing to stop the rioters. In some cases, according to the NYT, the on-duty officers “encouraged the protesters” and actually assaulted multiple NYT staff members in front of on-duty police lieutenants.

Giuliani’s presence and vitriolic speech that day, reveling in the rage and lawlessness of racist state power, is viewed by most political commentators as the reason he was able to become mayor of NYC in 1994. It is no surprise, then, that for the next eight years Giuliani would unconditionally support the police and the white racist section of the city’s population who carried him into power.

Quality of life for whom?

One of the first things Giuliani did when he took office was announce a “quality of life” campaign. One could have been fooled by the name to think this meant New Yorkers were soon going to see a campaign to get their wages increased, their unions respected, their slumlords incarcerated, their schools repaired, and their transportation systems invested in. But of course this was the opposite of what happened. The quality of the lives of poor and working New Yorkers was of no concern to Giuliani and his new police chief Bill Bratton, who was the actual architect of this new campaign.

Bill Bratton was given free reign by Giuliani to carry out his racist social experiment based on the unproven “Broken Windows Theory” of policing. Broken Windows theory (which Bill Bratton still supports as the current NYC police commissioner) claims that by going after small-time offenses, police are able to root out more violent crimes. It codifies the long-held view of ignorant racists that the only thing that causes crime is criminals.

Therefore, according to the theory, crime can be stopped by just more policing (ticketing, arresting, incarcerating). Thinking about the role played by poverty and structural racism becomes nothing but silly leftist ideas.

The de facto police state that Black and Brown neighborhoods in NYC live in today can therefore be traced back to Rudy Giuliani. According to the NYPD’s own stats, the year before Giuliani took office 720 people were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana-related offenses. By the time 2001 rolled around (the last year Giuliani was in office), that number jumped to almost 60,000 arrests, or over 1,100 marijuana arrests every week.

These kinds of aggressive policies gave a green light to the NYPD to terrorize Black and Latino communities. It trained a whole generation of police officers to dehumanize Black and Brown residents viewing them as not having the same rights or worthy of the same respect as their own family members.

The result was numerous police murders of unarmed Black and Brown men simply because police were trained to treat any misstep by a Black or Brown man in NYC as a serious offense worthy of a gun to the face. Rudy Giuliani was completely supportive of every officer involved and helped to demonize the dead victims as well.

Residents of NYC during the 1990s remember how Giuliani called the officers who shot Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega in the back while they lay face down to “congratulate them on their performance.” We remember how Giuliani blamed the grieving mothers and fathers of these young men for not being good enough parents to keep their kids alive.

We remember when Giuliani illegally released what he called Patrick Dorismond’s “extensive criminal record” to the public, including a sealed juvenile file in order to try to soothe public rage over the murder.

Residents of NYC during the 1990s remember very well the names of Abner Louima, Patrick Dorismond, Malcolm Ferguson, Nicholas Heyward Jr, Anthony Baez, Anthony Rosario, Hilton Vega and so many others gunned down in cold blood only to see their killers in uniform go free with the help of Mayor Giuliani.

Policing as a numbers game

Rudy Giuliani, with the help of Bill Bratton and Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple, also created and instituted another police program known as CompStat, which is now the linchpin of most large police departments across the country despite numerous studies that continue to say that the system has a negligible effect if any on “crime reduction.” Critics of CompStat also assert that it creates an environment in which police officials are encouraged to under-report or otherwise manipulate crime data.

CompStat is still being used by Bill Bratton in NYC today, but City Hall is attempting to evolve the program into something called “predictive policing,” which is just as ominous as it sounds and has been written about by area activists and local investigative journalists.

Giuliani continues to claim his policies resulted in the current low levels of crime in NYC, ridiculously claiming that he and the NYPD have “saved more lives than the Black Lives Matter Movement.” A sober look at the statistics, however, shows that the 1990s saw a national reduction in crime across all big cities, due largely to demographic and economic changes.

The Giuliani effect

What Giuliani’s policies were actually responsible for was the needless deaths of Black and Brown people over trivial matters like selling cigarettes or cleaning car windows. His policies also helped shape the way large cities would handle the growing social and economic polarization of society in the 1990s due to the economic boom lining the pockets of the top 1% while poor and working people sank deeper into debt and despair.

Nowhere was this “economic boom” and resulting polarization more apparent than in the home of Wall Street—New York City. Despite the fact that billions were being made by Wall Street during Giuliani’s tenure as mayor, living standards for Latin and Black New Yorkers actually declined. By the end of Giuliani’s reign one in four New Yorkers were living in poverty. This was around the same rate as during the 1989-1992 recession before he got into office and nearly double the national average. When Giuliani left office, NYC’s homeless population reached its highest point since 1989.

These are the stats that Giuliani will never try to take credit for, though they were in fact a direct result of his policies. Giuliani was strongly anti-labor and worked hard to break the backs of multiple unions in the city. Giuliani famously bragged about “breaking the strike” of thousands of NYC taxi workers in the mid-1990s. His racism was blatant when he compared the largely Middle Eastern workforce to “terrorists” for organizing federal protected labor stoppages. Giuliani cut funding for municipal employees, schools and other social services, while cutting taxes for the wealthy and Wall Street.

Workfare: virtual slavery

One of the most devastating policies with regard to the “quality of life” of needy NYC residents was Giuliani’s attack on the local welfare system.

Using racist rhetoric to characterize the poor of NYC as scammers, welfare queens and drug dealers, Giuliani converted welfare offices to “job centers,” introduced “workfare” requirements, cut funding and actively discouraged and prevented poor people from getting basic food and housing benefits.

In 1994, when Giuliani first came into office, 27 percent of applicants were rejected from welfare. By November 1999, 75 percent of job center applicants and 52 percent of applicants overall were rejected. In the four years following welfare reform, despite a rise in the number of poor people in NYC, food stamp rolls shrunk by 35 percent.

What the needy residents of NYC were left with, since there were no jobs available, was to starve and live on the streets or join the “Work Experience Program,” or workfare as it came to be known. WEP forced needy New Yorkers to perform manual labor at sweatshop wages. To make matters worse, most of the jobs these new WEP participants did had previously been handled by the unionized Parks Department before the WEP program.

Thus, between 1991 and 1999, the WEP workforce in the Parks Department grew from 170 to 2,389, while regular Parks employees dropped from 4,285 to 2,101. WEP workers in the Parks Department made $1.80 an hour—compared to an average wage for Parks employees of $8.65. The requirements of workfare also drove about 15,000 CUNY students to drop their pursuit of a college degree so that their families could have some food and a place to live.

These cruel new policies of course resulted in more poverty and desperation. At the same time, police conducted aggressive sweeps to keep the homeless off city streets and out of view, all in the name of “quality of life.”

Law and order for some

Despite claiming to be a “law and order” politician, Giuliani’s legacy shows his belief that the law is only for the poor and powerless and not for people like him and his buddies in the halls of power. Through his tenure, Giuliani appointed several people to head city agencies who would later become defendants in court for corruption and other criminal offenses.

Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerick was found guilty of both state and federal corruption charges. Housing Commissioner and Chairman of the Health and Hospitals Corporation Richard Roberts also pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges.

In 1998, Giuliani appointed Russell Harding, son of wealthy and influential New Yorker Ray Harding, to head the New York City Housing and Development Corporation. Russell Harding was a college dropout with no experience in either housing or finance when Giuliani gave him the job.

“Russell Harding has done an excellent job for this administration,” Giuliani declared when asked about the blatant politically motivated appointment. “This new job is something that he will do, I’m sure, with exceptional skill and ability. I don’t hire people because of their father, and I don’t hold anybody’s father against them either.”

The agency that Harding led was charged with providing low-interest loans for the building of affordable housing for New York’s predominantly Black and Hispanic low-income population. Unfortunately for the residents of NYC, the agency was headed by a hardcore racist—as revealed by journalists from The Village Voice, a local publication.

Copies of cyber chat sessions between Harding and an Internet pal in Indianapolis obtained by the Voice revealed his contempt for the low-income New Yorkers he was supposed to be assisting, as well as his extreme racist attitudes.

During one of their Internet chats, Harding’s friend mentioned that a college fair and football game was taking place in his city attended by African American college students. “It’s like that thing they have in Atlanta,” responded Harding, “all damn black frats or something, who shouldn’t be allowed into school, period, just running around acting like the stupid monkeys they all are.”

When the conversation turned to politics, the two started talking about soon-to-be Secretary of State Colin Powell. Harding exclaimed:  “I think [Powell] was a horrible choice that [Bush] will come to regret soon … he’s black and will just throw around that black ‘tude’ all of them have … and be a big black ass in the long run, if you ask me.”

While discussing a snowstorm that was about to hit NYC, Harding bragged about how quickly the city cleaned the streets in his posh Manhattan neighborhood. “Manhattan is always clear,” he said, “ … the other boros take a little longer … but then all that lives in those areas are the low class white trash or blacks … so no need to make things easy on them.”

Through their interactions, Harding would refer to his job assisting in the construction of affordable housing as building “low class apartments” for the “lower class.”

In 2005, Harding pleaded guilty to defrauding the Housing Development Corporation and to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to five years in prison.

It is important to note that all of Giuliani’s extreme racist, pro-police and anti-poor policies were entirely in line with the national agenda being pushed by Bill Clinton, a Democrat. While Giuliani is regarded by even many of his fellow Republicans as an embarrassment nowadays, his politics are alive and well in both ruling-class parties.

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