NYC Rallies Against Mayor's Attack on Brooklyn Museum of Art

October 1, 1999 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — At a protest rally and candlelight vigil tonight outside the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City’s artists, writers and supporters of the First Amendment are calling on Mayor Rudy Giuliani to end his attack on the museum over a controversial show due to open on October 2.

At issue is the “Sensation” show featuring the work of young British artists from the collection of British advertising executive Charles Saatchi.

Speakers at the rally, organized by the New York Civil Liberties Union, include Jane Alexander, former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, censored artist Dread Scott, Norman Siegel, executive director of the NYCLU, and representatives of the PEN American Center, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Coalition Against Censorship and People for the American Way.

“We would like as many of our members as possible to attend this protest rally,” said the NYCLU’s Siegel. “It is important to demonstrate to City Hall that New Yorkers will not support the Mayor’s continued trashing of the U.S. Constitution.”

In statement issued today, Dread Scott, who gained national attention when he was arrested for burning an American flag on the steps of the Supreme Court, said, “One thing that I have learned from the various efforts to censor and suppress my art is that it is possible to defeat attempts at censorship, but you must show courage in the face of threats and others will be strong if you remain strong.” He urged the public to “come see the show and make up your own mind.”

“The mayor calls the exhibit ‘sick stuff'” said Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship in a Sept. 28 New York Newsday op-ed co-authored with Gary Schwartz of the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression. “This is particularly unfortunate language, because of its similarity to the way art and artists were vilified in Nazi Germany.”

“Hitler characterized the works of artists such as Gaugin, Chagall, Picasso, Van Gogh, Klee and Grosz as ‘products of morbid and perverted minds,” according to Bertin and Schwartz. “Giuliani is no Hitler, of course,” the authors added, “but one reason that threat is remote is that in this country people are allowed to read, speak, draw, write and think what they want without governmental interference.”

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