De Blasio’s handpicked City Council speaker blocked the Brooklyn Bridge with Occupy Wall Street

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
Font Size:

Democratic New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s handpicked City Council speaker was arrested for blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge while participating in a union-organized Occupy Wall Street protest.

The incident occurred a little more than two years before de Blasio railed against the “immoral” and “not mature” actions of New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s aides in conducting a disruptive “traffic study” on the George Washington Bridge for apparently political reasons.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, who became Council speaker last week after de Blasio and his aides lobbied Council members on her behalf, was arrested on November 17, 2011 while sitting with a group on the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge chanting “We are the 99 percent” and “All day! All week! Occupy Wall Street!”

Mark-Viverito, an eighth-district City councilwoman, and her group only remained in their position for a “few minutes” before they were arrested, but Mark-Viverito noted that “we probably would have been there you know 16, 17 hours.” SEIU 1199 president George Gresham was also part of the group.

“I was more than happy to participate in this action,” Mark-Viverito said after spending approximately five hours in jail.

The protest was part of a nationwide effort by unions and others to block bridges on November 17 in various cities.

“It was an act of civil disobedience which was meant to send a very clear message to Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo and other elected officials in government that the issues which aren’t being talked about, like income inequality, are serious, and so are they,” said a spokesman for Mark-Viverito’s fellow Councilman Jumaane Williams, who was also arrested in the protest.

Mark-Viverito pledged her firm support for Occupy Wall Street’s fight “against the one percent.”

“We really want to thank Occupy Wall Street for what it has done to really move the discourse, to demand justice and equity for the majority in this country and speaking out against the one percent that continues to dominate the discourse and dominate our government. We want our government back. That’s what this is about,” Mark-Viverito said at a November 5, 2011 Occupy rally at Zuccotti Park.

De Blasio said last Thursday, the day after Mark-Viverito was voted in as Speaker, that the action of Christie’s staff was “not professional, it’s not mature, it’s absolutely immoral.”

“This was a big problem and this is not how we’re supposed to treat people we represent. New Yorkers got caught up in those traffic jams and so our people were treated wrong by those bureaucrats and we’re not going to allow that to happen, obviously,” de Blasio said.

“She is a tremendously intelligent, purposeful, good human being. She has got a real heart. She cares deeply for the people of this city,” de Blasio said of Mark-Viverito last week.

Follow Patrick on Twitter