By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
A woman named Dorie Southern marched with a photo of her son, Gabriel, 25, a soldier stationed in Korea. He’ll be transferred out in January, she said, but “even if he doesn’t go to Iraq, there are thousands of Americans there right now who are in danger and who are endangering Iraqis.” Her son, she said, is also opposed to the war. “He’s not going to vote for George Bush, I’ll tell you that.”
Some highlights: a sign with a simple message: “Draft Jenna”; another with a Magic Markered drawing of Ronald Reagan bearing the words “Not Dead Enough”; a young man wearing a cage of chicken wire around his head, mocking the police’s planned protest pens with a sign reading “Free Speech Zone”; the young guy in the Harvard T-shirt, yelling in a Boston drawl, “New Yo’k hates the GOP!”
When the march was over, many headed up to Central Park, permit or no permit, and engaged in the usual summer Sunday activities of urban rabble-rousers: sunbathing, Frisbee-tossing, napping in the shade. The grass did not appear any worse for the wear, despite the mayor’s fears.
I did not witness the arrests of 15 people when the folks from Greene Dragon (“modern-day patriots celebrating the American Revel-ution against Corporate Monarch George II”) lit their float on fire, or the 15 who were taken in after allegedly hurling bottles at the police on 34th Street, or the dozens of bicyclists whom police rammed with scooters and dragged into custody (NYPD appears to have it in for bicyclists: over 200 were arrested during a Critical Mass ride Friday evening). In Times Square, though, I did see a group of what looked to be about 100 protesters get penned in by the police and arrested after staging a brief and spontaneous sidewalk kiss-in.
Monday, things grew somewhat tenser. The first march of the day — organized by a group called Still We Rise, a loose coalition focused more on domestic issues (housing, AIDS, jobs, education) than on the war — went off without a hitch. Several thousand chanting, singing protesters marched from Union Square to Eighth Avenue and up to 30th Street, within sight of the ass-end of Madison Square Garden. Things would get quite nasty there when the unpermitted Poor People’s Campaign’s March for Our Lives reached the same spot six hours later.
The city had refused the group’s requests to march from the United Nations to the Garden, but when several thousand people gathered in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, police, showing short-lived but admirable flexibility, consented to a rather roundabout march route. Energized by their victory, the marchers strolled downtown, then across town, then uptown again without incident. Relations between protesters and police were relaxed, friendly even, until, after a portion of the crowd had begun to fill the penned-off section of Eighth Avenue closest to Madison Square Garden, police suddenly charged through the crowd with a line of metal barricades, dividing the group in two at 29th Street. Protesters began shaking the barriers and riot police streamed into the crowd. A brief melee broke out when a plainclothes officer attempted to ram through the crowd on a moped. Witnesses said he knocked protesters over, and was soon knocked over himself and, allegedly, was punched and kicked. (The officer was hospitalized with head injuries, a police spokesman said, and was in stable condition.) With an impressive display of force, police cleared the streets. Despite the chaos, only 11 protesters were arrested Monday.
Far more arrests occurred on Tuesday, as would be expected on “A31,” the scheduled “Day of Non-Violent Civil Disobedience & Direct Action To Confront the Bush Administration’s Unjust Policies at Home and Abroad.” The mood was largely festive and often rowdy, but police effectively quashed most actions of any size. Early on, the War Resisters League staged a march from the former site of the World Trade Center and headed north to Madison Square Garden to stage a “die-in.” They didn’t make it far. The majority of the group was led into a gated protest pen on Fulton Street, through which police told them they would be free to march. At least 100 were held in the pen and arrested. Another few dozen made it as far north as 28th Street and Broadway, a few blocks south and east of the Garden. Police stopped them there, and they lay down on the sidewalk and played dead for the police and press, if not in sight of Republican delegates, as planned.
While protesters chanting “Shut the Fox up!” staged a “Shut-Up-athon” at Fox Headquarters on Sixth Avenue, several hundred others rallied at Sotheby’s on the Upper East Side, where the American Gas Association was sponsoring a “celebration” of Johnny Cash for Tennessee Republicans. The Man-in-Black Bloc — largely young and tattooed, and wearing black with a purpose — was there to protest the Republican co-optation of the man who called himself “a dove with claws.” Penned in as usual by the police, they sang “I Walk the Line,” waved signs reading “Send Bush to Folsom” and heckled arriving Republicans with chants of “Whose Cash? Our Cash!” and “Welcome to New York! Now get the fuck home!”
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