Aaron Foldenauer, right, a City Council candidate, speaking about a federal criminal complaint he filed Wednesday morning, alleging that his rights to free speech were violated when NYPD officials confiscated campaign literature prior to allowing him and others into a June 21 event hosted by Council Member Margaret Chin and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A challenger to Margaret Chin's District 1 seat says campaign literature was confiscated illegally
BY RICHARD KHAVKINE
A challenger to Council Member Margaret Chin's District 1 seat has filed a criminal complaint alleging that the confiscation of his campaign literature prior to a town hall meeting hosted by Chin and attended by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week violated his right to free speech.
According to the 7-page complaint by Aaron Foldenauer, which he submitted to the office of acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim Wednesday morning, uniformed and plainclothes NYPD personnel at a security tent seized political flyers, banners and signs critical of either Chin or de Blasio or that supported opposition candidates before allowing people in to the June 21 event at the YMCA on Bowery.
Foldenauer said he and a number of his campaign staff had been outside the event space handing out political literature both in support of his candidacy and critical of Chin's record. Representatives from other organizations, including the National Mobilization against SweatShops, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden, and opponents of the Real Estate Board of New York, were also outside the YMCA passing out material critical of Chin and de Blasio. Those flyers were also taken from people entering the event.
Flyers and literature supportive of Chin were also confiscated. But speaking Wednesday, Foldenauer called those confiscations a “smokescreen” since, he said, the vast majority of political literature being passed out that evening was critical of Chin or of de Blasio or of both. He also noted that inside the venue, members of Chin's staff were passing out an “update” from Chin to her constituents, her spring newsletter to the community and other material.
“She had full incentive to ensure literature was confiscated,” he said. “She had free rein to distribute her literature.”
A spokesman for Chin's campaign called Foldenauer allegations “baseless and absurd.”
“The truth is, the NYPD and Mayor's police detail prohibited all campaign literature from being brought into the town hall facility, including Council Member Chin's own volunteers. Council Members have zero input regarding the actions of the Mayor's NYPD detail, and Mr. Foldenauer knows that,” the spokesman, Jake Dilemani, said in a statement.
Police officials deferred questions about the seizures to the city's law department, which did not respond to emailed questions. The mayor's office also did not respond to an inquiry.
“It's viewpoint discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment,” Foldenauer said Wednesday. “I don't think there can be an explanation of this conduct.”
Foldenauer's complaint cites several court precedents he said are supportive of his claim that his rights to free speech and against unlawful search and seizure were violated. The complaint suggests that Chin and de Blasio conspired to keep political opponents from exercising their free-speech rights.