Fernando Ferrer was leaning up against a wall at York College on Tuesday, with Al Sharpton to his right and Jesse Jackson on his left, as Assemblywoman Vivian Cook was exhorting the kids sitting in front of her or hanging over the railings on the second and third floors above. “I want you guys to look at this campaign for New York City,” she said, “and treat is as a civil rights movement, which it is.” But, apparently, it’s also about teams.
“Bloomberg is on the wrong team. Bloomberg is on George Bush’s team. Bloomberg is on Dick Cheney’s team. Bloomberg is on Tom DeLay’s team,” Sharpton shouted, to rising applause. “He might be a nice guy to have dinner with but when we get on the field November 8th, we’ve got to beat the Bloomberg-Bush team.”
Sharpton mentioned the Giants winning recently (He must have missed that Cowboys game). Jackson, usually one of the most electrifying speakers of our age, was also in a Meadowlands mood. After the “Keep Hope (Audience: Keep Hope) … Alive (Audience: Alive) ” chant, Jesse launched into something about the Giants in blue shirts and the Jets in green, and how it wasn’t really kosher to join the other team’s huddle: “So stay on your side of the field because you want your team to win. When you look at Bloomberg and Ferrer, why am I here?” Because Freddy supported him in 1984, and is part of the team with David Dinkins, Percy Sutton, and Charles Rangel— not the Bush team. “Stay in that huddle,” Jesse tells Bloomberg, “because that team has been fighting against civil rights, against workers’ rights, against women’s rights. It doesn’t make you a bad person to be on that team but stay out of our huddle.”
Ferrer’s speech dwelt less on the team theme and more on, as he put it, “the long struggle for economic and social justice in our city,” on which he speaks quite eloquently. Today, though, he read his speech, and was losing the crowd, until he said, “No one who works hard every day should have to live in poverty every month and every year.” Rent, feeding kids, excellent schools, minimum wage—to these things the crowd responded. “I want you to walk that long road with us,” he asked them. Volunteer signup sheets illustrated that some of the kids were willing.
Then outside, it was back to the team theme. “There are two teams,” Jackson mentioned. Sharpton said Bloomberg had four years to switch his party affiliation like John Lindsay did. Then a man named Alister Harper, 41, of Queens, took over the press conference to show us the staples in his head that, he says, are the result of a bias crime in late August (Harper is black and he says his attackers were, too; it may have been an anti-gay crime). “You can get my vote,” Harper told Ferrer, if he hears “an apology for the statement he made about Amadou Diallo.” Ferrer supporters tried to drown him out, chanting “Freddy!” and “Who sent you, Bloomberg?” The media begged Harper to get out of their camera shots. Sharpton and Harper shouted at each other. Sharpton pointed out that Ferrer went to jail in a Diallo protest. “I have been to jail, sir!” Harper insisted. “He may not get your vote but he’s going to get mine,” Sharpton declared.
Ferrer could only smile. The press conference ended. “Vote Democratic!” Harper shouted. Go team.