NEW YORK (AP) — About 100 protesters shouting "This is what democracy looks like!" stormed a hotel ballroom where billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg was addressing an economic forum and accused him of ignoring the concerns of working-class people.
A few minutes into the mayor's speech Tuesday, the demonstrators charged in, chanting and waving signs that said, "Mayor Bloomberg, talk to us about the future of NYC!"
Protesters said the demonstration was organized by a coalition that advocates for communities. They said Bloomberg, founder of the Bloomberg LP financial information company, has favored the rights of rich developers over those of working-class people.
The group, Right to the City NYC, handed out fliers that condemned the two-term mayor for pushing the City Council to change term limits law last fall, refusing calls from those who said the issue should be decided by voters in a referendum, as it had been twice in the 1990s. After the law was changed, Bloomberg said he would run for a third consecutive term, arguing that his business background made him uniquely qualified to lead the city out of the recession.
Demonstrator Wanda Imasuen said working-class New Yorkers had no say in the term limits decision and have no say in the larger issues facing the city, especially development.
"We don't have a voice ... and for him to be doing his four-year bid for mayor again — we weren't at the table," she said.
Bloomberg stopped his speech until his security detail and other police escorted the demonstrators out of the Manhattan hotel. Police said eight people were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.
The mayor said later that the way to influence the dialogue "is hardly to walk in and disrupt somebody's speech."
"There's a lot of ways to get their voices known," he said.
He also argued that wealthy people, developers and profitable businesses are crucial to keeping the city afloat.
Without them, he said, "you're not going to have a city."