Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Photos by Adi Talwar, Story by Jeanmarie Evelly
[Ed. Note: these photos were briefly posted on Saturday afternoon, but removed so we could provide a fuller picture of what happened.]
Tensions were running high at a campaign event hosted by Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. -- and crashed by a group of vociferous anti-Espada protesters -- on the second to last weekend before the Sept. 14 primary.
Espada was handing out free bags of groceries to residents in his district outside of the Mosholu branch of the New York Public Library, at 285 E.205th St., when the police were called to moderate a scuffle between a member of Espada’s staff and a political blogger, Rafael Martinez Alequin.
Martinez Alequin is a City Hall gadfly who runs a blog called Your Free Press and who has a contentious relationship with Espada. He sued the Senator’s son two years ago for breaking his camera during a scuffle at a parade.
At this weekend’s event, according to a witness, one of Espada’s staff members was filming Martinez Alequin with a cell phone camera. Martinez Alequin then knocked the cell phone away, he said.
“We were shocked about that, because it’s not right,” said Haile Rivera, who works for Espada’s campaign. The man who was filming Martinez Alequin was a staff member who volunteers on weekends, he said.
“He was just holding it in front of his face, and kind of taunting him,” said Patrick Wynne, who was watching the drama from across the street, where he and other members of the New Roosevelt Initiative — an Anti-Espada political group that’s supporting rival candidate Gustavo Rivera — were holding up signs to protest the Senator.
“As soon as [Martinez-Alequin] raised his hand, the Espada folks just started screaming, ‘He assaulted him!’” Wynne continued, adding that the police were called and took statements from both sides.
The New Roosevelt protesters were also asked to move across the street, where they had got into a chanting match with some of Espada’s staff.
“They tried to intimitade, us getting up in our faces, you know, that stuff. But it doesn’t phase our volunteers,” said Yorman Nunez, the head of the New Roosevelt Initiative’s Bronx office.
Espada, meanwhile, steered clear of the conflict — staying in his car for a while before coming out to briefly greet the residents who’d shown up to claim their free groceries.
“He was there maybe less than 10 minutes,” Wynne said.
[Ed. Note: this story was first published in the Norwood News print edition, out on streets now.]