Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has made the world safe for corporate political speech, it’s worth asking why plainclothes police officers are allowed to arrest an environmental activist for expressing his political views.
Dwyer relates how Edward Kerry Sullivan was outside his Staten Island apartment building one night last summer when two undercover cops approached, arrested and cuffed him and whisked him off to the pokey.
Sullivan’s “crime”? In letters about three inches high, he wrote “The Jerk” on an election poster for local pol James P. Molinaro. (A poster that would turn out to be itself illegally posted.)
Now, let’s admit that this isn’t strictly an environmental story. But juxstaposed with the Citizens United campaign-finance ruling from the Supreme Court last week, it certainly seems worth noting. Folks, this is stunning.
And it’s about an environmental advocate. Sullivan is head of a group called the Natural Resources Protective Association that fights for clean water in waters around New York. He’d long been outspoken against a plan supported by Molinaro to develop part of the waterfront that had previously been designated as open space.
Now, get this: It turns out that after reading Sullivan’s letters to the editor attacking Molinaro and the waterfront development plan, someone in the city government had these two undercover cops tail Sullivan. Right: put him under surveillance. For several days.
The story gets even more outrageous. It turns out the very same police department had previously done something pretty similar: The cops arrested a city employee who wrote a letter to another Staten Island politician with a name very similar to the one who drew Sullivan’s ire: Guy V. Molinari.
The city employee, Terence Hunter, sent a letter to Molinari comparing the closing of a community center in a predominantly black neighborhood to a “high-tech lynching.” Then he drew a little gallows — the low-tech kind, as Dwyer points out — on the letter. He was arrested, cuffed, printed and spent a night in jail.
The city ended up paying Hunter $200,000.
Sullivan may not be that fortunate. He has cancer and may die if he doesn’t get a liver transplant in time.
— Robert McClure