Alec Baldwin was arrested yesterday for riding his bike the wrong way up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. And while we’re strongly anti-salmoning, and have, at best, mixed feelings about Baldwin (wasn’t he going to move out of New York or something?), we also think that it is completely absurd and indicative of troubling police behavior that, instead of receiving a warning or even a ticket, Baldwin was handcuffed and arrested for what amounts to an incredibly minor offense. And so when Baldwin took to Twitter for one of his patented tirades? We read along, and actually found ourselves agreeing with everything he said. (We know! We were surprised too!)
Following his arrest and subsequent release (Baldwin left with two Criminal Court summonses), the actor used his social media platform to unleash his side of the story. Baldwin claims that he did not ask for special treatment by the officers who pulled him over, and instead acquiesced to being ticketed. However, the officers claimed that he was being belligerent and took Baldwin in for disorderly conduct. Baldwin is clearly indignant that such a minor offense as riding a bike the wrong way has become an arrest-worthy offense, and there’s little doubt that his frustration is in part due to the actor’s not insignificant persecution complex, however (and this is a big however!), Baldwin hits the nail on the head when he notes, “New York City is a mismanaged carnival of stupidity that is desperate for revenue and anxious to criminalize behavior once thought benign.” What? Yes! Wait. We’re agreeing with Alec Baldwin? The world’s gone MAD.
Even if you weren’t one of the people who had particularly high hopes for the return of Bill Bratton as the chief of the NYPD (which we weren’t; we lived through the Giuliani years… RIP Squeegee Men), it still felt pretty good that Ray Kelly and his policies like Stop-and-Frisk and targeting Muslim-Americans were going to disappear. And, hey! De Blasio ran on a progressive campaign, so how bad could Bratton be? As it turns out, pretty bad! Bratton has made it his mission to focus on criminalizing the homeless population, arresting subway break dancers*, and ticketing jay-walkers (read more about it in the Free Cecily! gazette), all of which means that the police—and the city government—are not only looking to make a lot of money off non-violent crimes, but also that the department as a whole is targeting the most helpless segments of the population. This is bullshit, because it both literally and figuratively handcuffs people who are already struggling and frequently have no recourse other than to do what the police say, no matter how inherently stupid. But because the most recent victim of this overzealous police department just so happened to be a notably vocal, social media “savvy” actor, we’re actually hearing about the absurdity of what the NYPD is doing with this reinstatement of the “broken windows” policy of Bratton’s Guiliani-era heyday. Which, we never thought we’d advocate spreading the Gospel of Baldwin, but in this case, the actor is absolutely right: the NYPD doesn’t have New Yorker’s interests at heart, only their own bottom line. And so, if you have a public platform like Baldwin does, it’s important to speak out against this type of thing, because most of the people being targeted will never be heard.
*Initially, this post included buskers with the subway break dancers, but busking is not against the law.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen