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Security Swiped Political Pamphlets at Mayor's Town Hall, Attendees Say

By Allegra Hobbs | June 23, 2017 5:58pm | Updated on June 25, 2017 4:15pm
 Video footage shows a security officer confiscating papers from a woman entering the Mayor's town hall event Wednesday.
Video footage shows a security officer confiscating papers from a woman entering the Mayor's town hall event Wednesday.
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Aaron Foldenauer

LOWER EAST SIDE — The security screening process for Wednesday's town hall hosted by Mayor de Blasio and Councilwoman Margaret Chin was so stringent, some pieces of paper didn't make it past the front door security, according to several attendees and video footage.

Campaign staffers for both City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and candidate Aaron Foldenauer, who are competing for the District 1 council seat in the upcoming election this fall, had their political literature yanked by security guards as they entered the forum at the Chinatown YMCA at 273 Bowery, members of both teams said.

Foldenauer said he witnessed two of his staffers lose their campaign materials while going through security — one had a poster rolled up in her bag that was taken, while his intern had political fliers taken from his clipboard — while others had protest materials opposing Chin and de Blasio taken.

“I understand the occasional need for security to stop the entry of real weapons, like guns and knives, but in no rational world does a piece of paper constitute any sort of security threat," said Foldenauer in a statement.

"At the security checkpoint, the security detail confiscated several individual flyers that my campaign staffer had received from other organizations in advance of the event," he continued. "My staffer and I were also forced to relinquish the flyers we had in our bags about my campaign. Furthermore, I saw many other members of the public being forced to relinquish individual political flyers in their possession.”

Foldenauer's communications director Jiexi Tian said she had an anti-Chin flier in her hand as she went through security, and was forced to relinquish it before entering the venue.

Video footage shared by Foldenauer shows members of the public halted by security officers — one appearing to be an NYPD officer — who dig through their papers to determine whether they may be admitted or not. In one video, a security officer wearing a suit and a blue tie is seen taking several green papers from a woman entering the event.

Those papers appear to be literature distributed by the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, who showed up to protest Chin's policies at the town hall and distributed green papers stating their position — the fliers, distributed in several languages, can be seen in full below.

Green Anti-Chin NMASS Flyer by DNAinfoNewYork on Scribd

Organizer Sarah Ahn of NMASS confirmed members of her group had their fliers confiscated, noting in an email that "security wouldn't allow anyone with what looked like flyers to bring into the event."

A flier protesting the Real Estate Board of New York was also confiscated by a Foldenauer campaign intern, according to the candidate. 

Foldaneur called the tight security a breach of the citizens' First Amendment rights and a ploy by both de Blasio and Chin to suppress the voices of their opposition, and has pledged to file complaints with the Manhattan District Attorney and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

However, Chin's Chief of Staff Paul Lenoard said their campaign staffers had their materials confiscated by security officers as well.

After the event, a large pile of fliers — including the green anti-Chin papers and the anti-REBNY materials — sat on the floor next to the building's entrance. 

A mayoral spokesman reached by phone Thursday morning would not take questions by phone, instructing DNAinfo New York to send an email because "The Brian Lehrer Show" was on WNYC at the time. The mayor's office then did not return repeated requests for comment by email.

The NYPD did not return a request for comment.