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The vicious sexual violence that occurred at the close of the Puerto Rican Day Parade was a wake-up call for the people of New York City. We have once again been forced to recognize that, beneath the thin veneer of civilization, there remains a segment of the population that is prone to behaving like vicious animals.
The men, we use the term loosely, who terrorized more than 40 young women in Central Park came from all parts of the city, including Queens. They had one thing in common - a willingness to abuse the rights of others for their own satisfaction. As New Yorkers watched the amateur videotapes shown repeatedly on local newscasts, a chill went down the spine of this city. We were reminded of what this city was and what it could become again without vigilant and aggressive law enforcement.
More than one police officer has said that the cops were told to stand down at the Puerto Rican Day Parade. This policy appears to have been designed to avoid increasing tensions between the police and the minority Hispanic community. A number of police officers reportedly ignored the cry for help coming from the victims of sexual assaults.
It gets worse. Hundreds of people at the parade stood by and did nothing while terrified young women had their clothes ripped off. Surely there must have been someone in Central Park with the courage to stand up to the cowardly wolf packs.
If there is a bright side to this story, it is the fact that the mayor and the police commissioner are prepared to punish those police officers who refused to help the victims and the fact that an outraged public has helped the police to identify and find some of the alleged participants.
The city is angry and embarrassed. Those who have been arrested will be aggressively prosecuted and, if found guilty, could face serious prison time. But that's not enough. We must work to identify the social factors that gave birth to the wolf packs. These attacks did not happen in a vacuum. The thugs who engaged in these sexual assaults appeared unaware that what they were doing was wrong. They were numb to the pain and fear of their victims.
Maybe in the search for answers, we won't have to look too far. What happened on that steamy Sunday afternoon was not much different than what is offered up as entertainment on shock radio or a WWF pay-per-view. In one recent show broadcast from Madison Square Garden, wrestlers pulled the top off an 80-year-old woman who ran around the ring bare breasted. Likewise, sexual violence is standard fare on MTV, in the videos and in the lyrics of rap and hard rock. When the unthinkable becomes entertainment, it cannot be too surprising when moral midgets engage in acts of sexual violence in real life.
If there were a democracy, the people whom you elect to represent you would have a voice in the decisions made by the state Legislature. But this is not democracy and the men and women representing southeast Queens in the state Assembly and Senate are nothing more than window dressing.
Under the existing system, the rank-and-file legislators stand in the shadows while the assembly speaker and the senate majority leader carve out budgets and decide on which bills will eventually become law. If you don't think this is true, ask your local senator and assembly member where he or she was during the budget discussions.
It may be tilting at windmills, but the Majority Reform Caucus, including Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) is seeking reform that would give legislators a role in the legislative process. In New York State, this is what passes for revolutionary.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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