protesting "soda ban"
protesting "soda ban"Reuters

The New York City board of health held a public hearing on Tuesday regarding Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to limit the size of sugary drinks sold at eateries.

Queens City Councilman Daniel Halloran, the first speaker, set the tone of the meeting by calling the health board a “kangaroo court,” before making reference to the Holocaust, The New York Times’ liveblog of the hearing revealed.

“When they came for the cigarettes, I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t smoke,” Halloran said, echoing an often-paraphrased quote about the Holocaust. “When they came for the M.S..G., I didn’t say anything because I don’t eat it very often.”

"Councilman Halloran was quoting a famous speech, done in somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion. He did not compare City government, or anyone, to Nazis," said Hollaran’s spokesman, Steven Stites.  

Halloran was rephrasing the famous quote by Martin Niemoller that begins, "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist..." His somewhat comical attempt at making his point, however, was not entirely well-received. 

As The Atlantic Wire suggests, “Perhaps Halloran didn't get the memo from the Maine governor, who learned that comparing U.S. government bureaucrats to Nazis is almost never a well-received line of attack."

The proposal has sparked a national debate over how far the government should go to mandate healthy eating habits. The city’s Board of Health is expected to vote on the measure in September.

Lobbyists of the soft-drink, restaurant and movie-theater industries, which have led petition efforts and a publicity campaign against the proposal, joined City Council members and union workers at a rally on Monday, with some protesters holding signs saying “I can make my beverage choice myself,” The Times reported.

While New Yorkers are split on the proposal, with 51 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed, according to a poll in mid-June, a majority of Americans say they wouldn’t want a similar ban in their community, according to Politico.