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Harlem 'Professional Agitator' Launches Bid for City Council Seat

By Nigel Chiwaya | September 17, 2013 10:00am
 Christina Gonzalez is running for the 7th district seat in Manhattan.
Professional Agitator Launches City Council Bid
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HARLEM — The Harlem activist who was labeled a "professional agitator" by the NYPD last year is setting her sights on an open City Council seat.

Christina Gonzalez, whose repeated filming of police officers landed her face and personal information on a "Wanted" poster inside the 30th Precinct stationhouse last year, is running for the 7th District council seat. And this time, instead of prodding the police, the Green Party candidate is saving her harsh words for challenger Mark Levine, who just won the Democratic primary for the seat.

"He's not from the streets of New York," Gonzalez, 27, said. "I think the people who come from the streets of New York best know what people from the streets of New York need."

Gonzalez labeled Levine "a puppet" of special interests and criticized him for being backed by the controversial pro-development lobbying group Jobs for New York. The outside group spent more than $200,000 in Levine's race so far, according to public records, although the candidate released a statement denouncing the organization and their money and even took part in a rally on the steps of City Hall Monday afternoon criticizing outside expenditures in public races. 

Despite Levine's disavowal, Gonzalez said he will be indebted to the special interest group.

"If he doesn't agree with that, how could he accept a win where it most likely was their influence that allowed everyone in this district to see his name 20 to 30 times before going to the polls?" Gonzalez asked. "It just makes me wonder: What is he about that they would put their money behind this man?"

Gonzalez also accused Levine of trying to hide her candidacy from voters, citing a Facebook post that Levine sent out the day after the primary in which he told supporters that he couldn't wait for the the next four years, which she said implied that he was running unopposed.

"He has gone to extreme lengths to try to conceal my identity," Gonzalez said. "To me that sounds like white male privilege exerting itself."

Gonzalez also claimed that Levine is using the council seat as a springboard for higher office, but Levine spokesman Alex Castex-Porter told DNAinfo New York that the Democrat only has eyes for the City Council.

"Mark was overwhelmingly voted as the Democratic nominee to serve on the City Council last Tuesday, and that is the only office he is seeking to represent," Castex-Porter said.

"He is not running for state Senate, or any other office but the New York City Council."

Gonzalez said she would use the council seat to put money toward educating children via after-school and arts projects. She would also like to focus on urban farming, citing high obesity and asthma rates as a bigger blight to the area than crime and violence.

Gonzalez touted her own record as an activist, citing the grassroots uproar against stop-and-frisk as being central to getting a judge to call the practice unconstitutional.

Gonzalez's own complicated relationship with the police — she says that detectives still follow her and her partner— are part of the reason she is running for office. She has even embraced the label of agitator.

"I'm agitating because I'm trying to get us to wake up," Gonzalez said. "We're in a slumber right now, and we're all in danger."