Mayor dodges Sheehan debate
Bloomberg says the anti-war protest is not a 'local issue,' but his opponents, soldier's kin feel differently
BY GLENN THRUSH
August 29, 2005
Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants no part of the wrenching national debate over Cindy Sheehan's anti-war protest, arguing yesterday that the bereaved mother's peace campaign isn't a "local issue" in New York.
But Bloomberg's effort to duck controversy only seemed to accentuate the Republican mayor's pro-war stance in a Democratic city that, on balance, is decidedly opposed to the invasion of Iraq.
It's not a local issue, and I don't have anything to say," Bloomberg replied when asked about Sheehan's ongoing protests near President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Sheehan's son Casey, 24, died in Iraq last year.
The mayor's response, or lack thereof, elicited an emotional reaction from Carmen Depompeis, whose brother, Pfc. Hernando Rios, 29, was killed earlier this month in Baghdad. The father of three, who lived in Woodside, was one of 10 members of the Manhattan-based Fighting 69th Army National Guard regiment killed in Iraq.
"He was born in Manhattan, he was raised in Queens, he was a local issue," said Depompeis, 40, who opposes the war and supports Sheehan. "Many soldiers from his unit have died. That's a local issue."
Late Sunday, Bloomberg himself e-mailed a statement saying he respected "Cindy Sheehan's right to protest and greive [sic] in any way she likes."
The mayor added that he's attended many soldiers' funerals, consoled their families and is "acutely aware of the tradgic [sic] sacrifices that are being made every day."
Bloomberg's earlier remarks elicited sharp rebukes from all four of his Democratic opponents, who accused him of dodging a national issue made all too local by the deaths of 32 New Yorkers in the war.
"Cindy Sheehan is protesting a war in which New York's soldiers fought and died," said Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, who is anti-war and is running against Bloomberg. "The mayor should be willing to stand up to Bush and his fellow Republicans and say that this was an unjust and unnecessary war."
Democratic front-runner Fernando Ferrer asked: "How can you not feel for a mother? How can you not try to put yourself in that parent's shoes?"
Speaking at a City Hall news conference, the former Bronx borough president said, "It's an issue for all of us."
A spokesman for City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, of Manhattan, echoed those remarks. Queens Rep. Anthony Weiner called for Bush to meet with Sheehan.
Weiner voted in favor of the Iraq war resolution in October 2002. He now says he would have voted no if he had been given accurate information about Iraq's capabilities.
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