Small but vocal crowd gathers outside Golden’s office to protest ‘ghetto drug’ remark
In the modern era of social media, when an off-hand comment can turn into a major political gaffe, one veteran Republican politician from Bay Ridge is catching heat.
The remark, made by state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) to the Brooklyn Eagle in an article published on Jan. 23, has since angered a portion of his constituency.
“It’s not a ghetto drug,” Golden said of opioids. “It’s happening to doctors’ kids.”
On Monday afternoon, a group of roughly 20 attendees gathered outside the senator’s Bay Ridge office to condemn the “racist comment.”
The Working Families Party, the Alliance for Quality Education and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) organized the rally.
In addition to denouncing Golden’s remarks, the demonstration was held to vocalize the need for more city, state and federal funding for drug treatment in impoverished communities.
Golden, who apologized for his comment on Friday, was in Albany during the rally.
“To anyone who was offended by my choice of words regarding the heroin and opioid crisis facing our state, I sincerely apologize,” Golden said.
Golden spokesman John Quaglione told the Eagle that the senator looks forward to comparing his accomplishments against those of his opponents in November.
“Today, as Senator Marty Golden was in Albany discussing key issues facing New York State, including boosting the economic vitality of the gaming industry, his two Democratic opponents joined a handful of local fringe groups members for a ‘protest’ outside his district office,” Quaglione said.
“As we enter into an election cycle, uninformed criticism of Senator Golden’s efforts to fight against heroin and opioid abuse, secure pivotal funding for local schools and more, is to be expected,” he continued.
Policy Manager at the New York branch of DPA Dionna King, who attended the rally, said that Golden’s comment reflects a larger disparity between how black and white opioid users are treated.
“It’s not just naming the crisis, it’s calling lawmakers to task for the ways in which they respond and continue to respond to drug use,” King told the Eagle. “We think it’s important to acknowledge that they do not respond with compassion to communities of color who are experiencing increases in drug use.”
She cited a 2017 New York Times article that reported that the majority of coverage for opioid abuse is focused on suburban, affluent and white communities. She said areas like Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx, which have high rates of opioid overdoses, are left in the dark.
“Golden is conflating being offended by his comments with the need for him to account for his comments,” King told the Eagle. “They are not just something that is harmful to say. It’s not only morally reprehensible to harbor these feelings, he’s a lawmaker and because of that he should be held to a different standard.”
She added, “I think he considers that the most egregious action was the hurting of people’s feelings, and while that’s part of it, what more people are angered by are the ways in which his feelings upset the communities that he is responsible for as a lawmaker.”
Ross Barkan and Andrew Gounardes, two Democrats planning on running for Golden’s seat in November, have deplored the senator’s remark, labeling it “racist” and “shameful.”
Barkan issued a statement on Monday calling Golden’s apology insincere, and both candidates have alleged that Golden is unfit for office.
“After initially refusing to apologize following widespread outrage, Golden later released a half-hearted apology to ‘anyone who was offended,’ further demonstrating his inability to understand why his comments were so racist and dismissive of communities of color,” Barkan said.
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