The public bathrooms inside Borough Hall are no longer available for the people’s business — thanks to a homophobic street preacher’s vile screeds and a police officer who apparently believes that it’s her job to shred the First Amendment.
Like all members of the public and the vendors outside Borough Hall, Brother J.J. Richardson was long allowed to use the bathrooms on the ground floor of the borough’s seat of power.
But Richardson, who sells Bibles when he’s not handing out homophobic, hate-filled pamphlets, says he was banned from seeking relief because his writing offended the police officer at the entrance desk.
To cover her tracks, there is now a sign saying that the bathrooms are closed to the public — but this reporter, and a trash collector, plus other vendors had no problem passing the cop’s litmus test the other day.
“She’s selective in who she lets in,” said another vendor, Aaron Harding, who sells clothing and other fabrics.
Yes, Richardson’s leaflets are appalling by most civilized standards — and can’t be reprinted here — but the First Amendment guarantee of free speech means nothing if the person making the speech is punished for it, especially by a government officer! That’s the point of the amendment in the first place — to bar government from “abridging the freedom of speech.” Courts have consistently knocked down government efforts to curtail one kind of speech, yet not other equally vile beliefs.
Yet this cop, who would only tell me her surname — Gibson — has apparently shredded the Bill of Rights in the name of keeping a hate-filled preacher off Borough Halls porcelain throne.
It all reminds me of a twisted take on Samuel 8:18: “You will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
Richardson said that his cries for relief were first rebuffed by Officer Gibson at Borough Hall on April 2. He nearly stained his pants with hellfire and brimstone, but fortunately made it to the Court Street Starbucks on time.
He quickly figured out that Gibson was barring only him, and turned his literary wrath against her. That’s when the sign barring everyone went up.
A spokesman for Borough Hall directed all inquiries to Citywide Administrative Services and the NYPD. Citywide Administrative Services declined to comment and the NYPD was unable to respond to my inquiry before my ever-urgent online deadline.
For her part, Gibson wouldn’t confirm any beef with Richardson — or anyone else.
“[The bathroom] has always been closed to the public, but we extended a courtesy,” said Gibson.
But it’s not her “courtesy” to extend.
©2010 Community News Group
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