Hundreds of angry protestors recently gathered in mid town Manhattan for a noon time rally protesting an editorial cartoon that ran in the previous day’s edition of the notorious New York Post newspaper.
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 an adjacent 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 Ave. headquarters of News Corp, the Posts 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. In any event, the demonstration, originally called by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, produced a turnout of substantial size and breadth.
In addition to members of the National Action Network multitudes of outraged citizens turned out spontaneously. 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 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 TWU Local 100, SEIU 32 B-J, 1199 and 371, DC37, PEF and IBEW. TWU Local 100 and SEIU 32B-J 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 had come 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 Lu 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 justice department 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 papers 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.
Famed movie director Spike Lee and R&B artist John Legend have said 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 cartoonist Delonas and 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.