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Posted Thursday, December 18, 2008                                                                          

Say whatever you want, but no throwing shoes                   

By William Neuman                                           

A transit rider protesting moves to slash service and raise fares was dragged out of a public meeting by police officers who feared he was about to imitate the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush.
man shoe
Stephen Millies took off his shoe to protest the fare increases and service cuts. He was charged with disorderly conduct.
The rider, Stephen A. Millies, was one of about two dozen people who addressed the authority’s board at the start of a meeting called to approve an austerity budget on Wednesday.

“We don’t need any fare increases and we don’t need our transit system ravaged either,” said Mr. Millies, who said he was an Amtrak signal-tower operator and a member of the Bail Out the People Campaign, a group that has stood up for victims of the economic crisis. He called for the subway and bus fare to be reduced to $1, to help unemployed New Yorkers.

Then, referring to the authority’s chief executive, who was sitting about 15 feet away, he said: “Where is Elliot Sander?” He stooped, slipped off one of his shoes and shouted, “You made $300,000 last year.”

Immediately, authority police officers swarmed him and pushed him out of the room. He was clutching his shoe, a black, thick-soled oxford, in his hand.

“This shoe is for you,” he shouted as he was hustled out.

He was rushed onto an elevator and moments later was seen being led out of the building in handcuffs — his shoe back on his foot. The authority said that Mr. Millies, 54, of Jackson Heights, Queens, was given a summons for disorderly conduct and released.

A spokesman for the authority, Jeremy Soffin, said that Mr. Millies was wearing a size 10 ½ shoe made by Red Wing.

Afterward, Mr. Sander laughed off the incident, saying, “It’s the M.T.A. and anything can happen.”

Bill Morange, the authority’s security director, was standing beside the speaker’s podium and was one of the first to grab Mr. Millies. He said it appeared Mr. Millies was going to throw the shoe.

“You can say anything you want,” Mr. Morange said. “Just don’t throw your shoes.”

Reached later by telephone, Mr. Millies said he had no intention of doing that.

“I wanted to show the sole of the shoe as a sign of contempt for someone who makes so much money and yet wants to raise fares on the disabled,” he said.

He said that the authority’s plans to more than double the $2 fare for disabled passengers who use the Access-a-Ride service particularly incensed him. He said the gesture was planned with Muntader al-Zaidi, the Iraqi shoe-thrower, in mind.

“I was very much inspired by that courageous Iraqi journalist who was protesting the occupation of his country by the American and British oil companies and their governments,” Mr. Millies said.

Mr. Millies said the ticket he was given charged him with “intent to cause a public annoyance.”

“What’s the point of having a public hearing,” he said, “unless you allow people to annoy public officials?”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company. Reprinted from The New York Times, New York Region, of Thursday, December 18, 2008.
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