For the first time in 20 years, New York welcomed a Democrat as mayor in an inauguration that registered a sea change in the city’s politics.
A pastor speaking at the ceremony for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday called New York a “plantation,” while entertainer Harry Belafonte denounced New York under Michael Bloomberg as “Dickensian,” while the outgoing mayor sat by, BuzzFeed reports.
“Let the plantation called New York City be the city of God, a city set upon the hill, a light shining in darkness,” Brooklyn-based pastor Fred Lucas Jr. said. “Elevate our valleys. Make low our mountains. Make our crooked places straight and our rough places smooth. Oh God, oh God, oh God, break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.”
“So let me be clear: When I said we would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.”
- Mayor Bill de Blasio
Lucas had several additional references to slavery in his short address, citing shackles, bondage, auction blocks, the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
According to BuzzFeed.com, de Blasio’s inauguration sent a message of economic and racial inequality that was at the core of his campaign – his policy proposals include taxing the rich to pay for preschool.
After being sworn-in by former President Bill Clinton, the mayor addressed New Yorkers in a speech that used the word “progressive” seven times, mentioned “New York” eight times and invoked the Occupy Wall Street phrase “The One Percent.”
“I know there are those who think that what I said during the campaign was just rhetoric, just political talk in the interest of getting elected. There are some who think now, as we turn to governing – well, things will continue pretty much like they always have,” the new mayor said. “So let me be clear: When I said we would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.”
The speakers on hand to support New York City’s 109th mayor amplified de Blasio’s calls for taking on “the elite” and fighting for “everyday people,” according to the New York Daily News, as a stone-faced Bloomberg listened and politely applauded.
As a crowd of about 5,000 people braved freezing New Year's Day temps for the 81-minute ceremony on the steps of City Hall, de Blasio reiterated his campaign theme.
"Our march towards a fairer, more just, more progressive place, our march to keep the promise of New York alive for the next generation -- it begins today."