Kelly Sans Culotte

New York City

African Dictator's New York Boosters
Sixteen Democrats embarrass themselves — and us.
By Ana Simo

Contact Mugabe Boosters
Charles Barron
Yvette D. Clarke
Leroy G. Comrie, Jr.
Bill de Blasio
G. Oliver Koppell
John C. Liu
Hiram Monserrrate
Bill Perkins
Joel Rivera
Kendall Stewart

APRIL 3, 2006. Sixteen New York City Council members, all Democrats, attended the September 12, 2002 reception in honor of the Zimbabwe dictator at City Hall, and the subsequent press conference, according to Global Black News, a U.S.-based pro-Mugabe website.

"Among them were Majority Leader Joel Rivera, Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins, Majority Whip Leroy Comrie and Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Hiram Monserrate. Two white progressive members, Bill DeBlasio and Oliver Koppell, and the first Asian Council Member, John Liu were present as well," GBN reported. Council members Yvette Clarke and Kendall Stewart were also present.

Other guests included the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, of the House of the Lord Church. The main organizer of the event was Mugabe booster-in-chief, Councilman Charles Barron, who represents the East New York section of Brooklyn.

Bill Perkins has left the Council and is now running for the New York State Senate. According to the online The Zimbabwe Situation, he was among the Mugabe-boosters who "later developed cold feet" and backed away from accompanying Barron in his "fact finding mission" to Zimbabwe (a luxury junket subsidized by the Mugabe regime). "I've gotten quite a bit of direction about the issues," Perkins told TZS. "I wasn't going to go over there as a stooge of the government."

The only black New York City Council member who publicly criticized the Mugabe caper from the start, in unequivocal terms, was Phil Reed, of Harlem. "Between AIDS, starvation and human rights violations, the situation in Zimbabwe is a mess," Reed told The Zimbabwe Situation in October 2002. "There are millions of lives at stake and we should not be doing anything to encourage Mugabe." Earlier he had told the New York weekly Gay City News that Mugabe was a "tyrant and a dictator and probably not in his right mind," and had expressed surprise that "the lesbian and gay community wasn't out in more numbers to protest."

Only six persons picketed outside City Hall during the Mugabe tribute, while a crowd of more than 50 pro-Mugabe demonstrators chanted their support. Phil Reed, who is gay and HIV positive, left the Council in 2005 after serving two terms, the most allowed.

From the Web

The Zimbabwe Situation: resource site
NY Review of Books: Doris Lessing's The Jewel of Africa
The New Republic: Bob's Your Uncle
Zimbabwean Gay Group Wins Award

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