Bill de Blasio Vows He Won’t Make ‘Mistakes’ of Republican Convention

Protesters blocking traffic during the 2004 convention. (Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Protesters blocking traffic during the 2004 convention. (Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio may be pushing to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn, but he doesn’t necessarily have fond memories of the last time a national convention came to New York City.

Mr. de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, told reporters outside the Barclays Center today that his administration would not make the same “mistakes” of the 2004 Republican National Convention, when scores of protesters clashed with police and filed lawsuits against the city.

“I think we’re very good at accommodating people’s right to speak. We learned a lot from the mistakes of 2004. I think we’re going to do things in a way that reflects our values and I think it’ll work because we have the greatest police force in the nation,” Mr. de Blasio said.

“The time to really start those plans will be if the DNC decides to grant us the convention,” he added, providing no further details about how the city would avoid the same kinds of lawsuits again.

The city agreed early this year to pay nearly $18 million to settle civil rights claims of thousands of people arrested during the 2004 convention at Madison Square Garden, which nominated Republican George W. Bush for a second term in office. Police arrested more than 1,800 anti-Iraq War protesters, bystanders and journalists. Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, lobbied for the convention to come to the city over the protests of Democrats and liberals.

Now Mr. de Blasio is hoping for a smoother, legacy-building 2016 convention at the Barclays Center, a basketball arena in downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn is competing against Philadelphia, Phoenix, Columbia, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama: members of the Democratic National Committee’s Technical Advisory Group are visiting Brooklyn this week to assess its viability as a DNC site. Democrats are pitching Brooklyn as the sort of up-and-coming, transit-rich borough that can play host to a successful convention, bringing in cash for both the city and the Democratic Party.

The two days of DNC talk are also, at the minimum, a welcome distraction for the mayor. For the second day in a row, Mr. de Blasio took only on-topic questions from reporters (yesterday about an inequality summit with other mayors and today about the DNC), dodging the cauldron of race and policing that has dominated news cycles for the past month since a black Staten Island man, Eric Garner, died in police custody on July 17.