Hundreds of thousands of people showed up at City Hall Park in New York City Monday for the “Million Big Gulp March” to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposition to ban super-sized sugary drinks.
Actually there were only two dozen people, so the march fell slightly short of expectations. But those who showed up were passionate. Some even chanted “Drink Free or Die.”
Danny Panzella, from the Staten Island Libertarian Party, said, “I’m here to tell Mayor Bloomberg to mind his own business and to keep his laws off my body. It’s just a matter of personal liberty.”
Bloomberg wants to limit sugary drinks to 16 ounces at city restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. Of course, the prohibition wouldn’t apply to to diet soda or other calorie-free drinks. Anything that has at least 50 percent milk or milk substitute would also be exempt. If approved by the Board of Health it could take effect as soon as next March.
But underlying the protesters’ anger was a genuine concern that giving in on this issue was only laying the ground for more egregious intrusion by the government into private lives.
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens) said it was not the role of government “to tell its citizens how much food or drink they can consume. Many responsible, healthy New Yorkers choose to consume soda in moderate amounts on certain occasions, such as at a movie or baseball game. If we want to fix the health problems in this City, let’s start with gym classes and after-school programs, parks and recreation space, and educating people about health issues.”
Another protester said, “I don’t believe it’s Mayor Bloomberg’s responsibility to tell us what we can eat or drink and he’s going to expand this program. If he gets soda banned, he’s also going to go onto popcorn, milk, coffee drinks and from there it’s limitless — he can tell us whatever he wants us to eat and drink and it’s not his job.”
Bloomberg hilariously loaded the argument:
“If you want to kill yourself, I guess you have a right to do it. We’ve got to do something about this and they can have a march and make a joke out of it but there’s a story in the Post today where the hospitals are having to increase the size of their gurneys and strengthen them because some of the patients are so heavy. This is going to be worse than smoking ever was.”
Bloomberg either doesn’t get it or he’s being disingenuous; the protesters are absolutely correct. This is one more governmental intrusion that threatens liberty. It may seem like a trivial issue but it isn’t — not because of fear of obesity but fear of Big Brother.