Batman: Savior or Menace?
On the day of Harvey Dent's landslide victory, Batman upstaged the new district attorney with a dramatic election-day intervention and the narrow defeat of the "Save Batman" Proposition D on the ballot.
Amid widespread reports of voter intimidation at Gotham polling sites, Batman saved a Dent supporter at East City Park from three club-wielding men. The incident helped dramatize the Gotham proposition that voters nixed, which would have required GPD to make arresting vigilantes its "lowest priority."
The "Save Batman" proposition was widely debated in the city, and led to a vigorous campaign by supporters and opponents. The proposition battle crystallized the main question facing Gotham — whether Batman is helping to curb crime in Gotham or leading to an "every man for himself" anarchy.
"Gotham itself seems torn," said longtime political watcher Walt DeFabrizio. "People cheer Batman for striking back at criminals, but they fear him as a sign of an unpredictable future."
Indeed, the voting numbers reflect the closely-divided sentiments of the city — Proposition D was voted down, carrying 49% of the vote.
Citizens for Batman founder Brian Douglass was a major proponent of the proposition but had little to celebrate at the Yes on D party in Gotham Square. "Criminals are running rampant, so Batman has to pick up the slack and protect our citizens," Douglass said.
CFB members were a crucial element of the Yes on D campaign, as members handed out flyers, went door-to-door, and held rallies chanting "Save Batman, Save Gotham!"
But in a sign of the passions Batman inspired, many rallies were marred by physical fights between pro-Batman and anti-Batman proponents.
"Batman is not fighting criminals, he is a criminal," said Stone Sargey, spokesman for No on D. "Every civilized nation treats vigilantism as a serious crime, and the day Gotham City does otherwise is a day we will be destined to mourn."
Ever since the emergence of Batman in the Gotham skies and streets, City Hall has maintained a policy that Batman would be arrested and charged with breaking the law. This policy enraged pro-Batman citizens and led to Proposition D. Its defeat today means that Batman will still be a target of the GPD under the current policy.
"It's not clear whether this proposition would have done anything at all to the question of arresting Batman even if it passed," said Gotham lawyer John DeHaviliarn. "The wording is vague and open to interpretation, and nothing stands in the way of any cop arresting Batman even after its passage."
Still, the proposition spawned a loud and passionate anti-Batman movement, made up of a collection of police officers, business interests, and citizens more scared of runaway vigilantism than Gotham's crime rate, said DeFabrizio.
Batman's intervention outside of a polling station came as the polls were about to close. Batman stopped three men as they were about to club a Dent supporter on the ground screaming for help. Witnesses report that in just under a minute, Batman swooped in, carried off all three men, and tied them to a nearby tree.
"Before I knew it, Batman was off again," said Elmira Cleansworthy III, who was a volunteer at the precinct. "I wanted to thank him, but he just disappeared!"
The three men appeared at the polling station at just after five p.m., witnesses said. Wielding baseball bats, the men intimidated voters and warned them not to vote for Harvey Dent.
One eyewitness told The Gotham Times that the men threatened voters with "a broken leg for every Dent vote." The men placed themselves in front of the polling station and waved their baseball bats in a threatening manner, eyewitnesses said.
"It was horrible," said Cleansworthy. "Those men were intimidating every voter, and physically manhandled the Dent supporters who argued with them."
Gotham Police Department sources say one of the men in custody is Albert Rossi, a Maroni mob associate who also owns Rossi's Deli where Dent defused a hostage situation on May 13. GPD did not release the names of the other men being held.
One witness reported that Batman used "a line" to scale a building before making his escape.
GPD officer Jessica Victor-Stearns told The Times that the three men were found bound, gagged, and tied with a series of complicated knots that tighten if struggled against. "They were gift wrapped, ready for booking," Victor-Stearns said. "I don't agree with this kind of vigilantism, but I have to admit it made the locals feel a lot safer about coming out to vote."
"I assure the citizens of Gotham that the GPD is working closely with the election commission to investigate every single one of these allegations," said Police Commissioner Loeb. "Mark my words, we will not tolerate any kind of intimidation tactics at polling stations."
But Police Commissioner Loeb rejected Batman's intervention. "The people of Gotham will not stand for vigilante justice," Loeb said. "This kind of irresponsible behavior is dangerous to everyone involved."
The voters seemed to agree with Loeb, refusing to send a message to City Hall to ease up on their anti-Batman policy. But the larger question of whether Batman is Gotham's savior or Gotham's menace is one that will continue to be debated, said DeFabrizio.
"As long as Batman is around, he will inspire both admiration and fear," said DeFabrizio. "This time around, the fear won out. But in the future, it could be different."