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Scenes from the Streets of New York

by JOANNE MARINER

I started off at Union Square, where what was probably the most boisterous of the feeder marches was gathered–lots of NYC students. Police were everywhere. We headed over to 6th ave and then uptown, at first sticking to the sidewalks but by around the 20s people were taking over the street. The cops met us full force at about 24th St. some of them had their night sticks out, and there was lots of bluster and yelling. Suddenly everyone was running down 24th, making a break for it, but there were masses of cops on 5th avenue as well, including a fairly silly looking squad on scooters, lined up in the scooter version of battle formation. A nice moment at Madison Square, where a double-decker tourist bus got stopped in the traffic chaos caused by the march, tourists squealing with delight at the interruption in their otherwise choreographed visit to the city — lots of photos taken — and as their bus pulled away this group of middle-aged presumptive midwesterners got up to their feet and gave the marchers a standing ovation.

We headed back toward 6th Avenue but before we reached it, on a sidestreet, the police held up the march. Again, lots of yelling: marchers yelling at police, police yelling at marchers, police yelling at police. The arrival of a company of mounted police only heightened the tension. finally they started letting people move again, but in a trickle of small, controllable groups.

Small controllable groups, as it turned out, were the theme the day. Not content with reducing the march to a stationary rally, the bloomberg team apparently decided to lessen the rally’s strength by drastically limiting the density of the crowd. Essentially, the police strategy was to divide the east side up into a series of pens, thus breaking the crowd into manageable chunks. One imagined that they had studied the herding techniques of some giant texas ranching operation. I was lucky enough to hit upon the right combination of streets and police so that I actually reached the podium at 52nd and 1st Ave, but no one else I know got that far.

Using barricades, police blocked the sidestreets so protesters couldn’t get over to 1st avenue. Supposedly people had to detour all the way up to about 70th St to be able to cut over, although a couple of friends said that the police blocking their paths wouldn’t tell them anything beyond the obvious fact that they weren’t allowed to go over to 1 St.

I didn’t catch that many of the speeches, but those I did hear — including Angela davis, Tony Kushner and Danny Gover — were an improvement over Washington. Unfortunately, given the strict way that the police controlled the crowd, there was a fair amount of empty space in the couple of blocks in front of the stage.

I only saw one anti-anti-war protester, with an appropriately stupid and mean-spirited sign: “Nuke Iraq.”

The general atmosphere was happy and exhilarating, despite the police obstruction.

The rally’s very best sign: “somewhere in texas there’s a village missing an idiot.”

Here are a couple of accounts passed along from friends on other blocks:

Mad Bicylclists

I joined up with a uerilla band of mad bicyclists during the demonstration. In this band were grandmothers, messengers, me, and everything in between. We rode around trying to breach the police lines and attempt to reclaim the streets for demonstrators who were hemmed in, blocked and forced back time and again. We met a wonderful bike activist and author from Chicago named Travis Hugh Culley. He is a performer and agitator in the Yippie tradition. It was inspiring to see him close down an intersection with performances and other antics. He got arrested and was later released. He also organizes and curates art shows with bike themes in Chicago. His book is called “The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power” published by Random House. The group was a smart mob using cell phones, walky talkies and IM cells. We moved quickly from place to place trying to find spots to led the crowd out . Interesting experience . Got some good video. — F.S.

Give Us Back Our Streets

We went to the march with Zoe and another friend and their five year old. We got as far as Second Avenue and 60th Street. They kept trying to get us to go further north. I videotaped what I could the highlight being a guy being arrested as the crowd was chanting “let us through” and “give back the streets” it was looking like it could get ugly and so they were holed up in a Dunken Donuts on the other side of the barricade at 3rd Avenue. We had to leave around 2pm cuz it was too cold for the kids. O was wondering if there was a way to collectively put together a videotape of all the images collected? Let me know if you know someone doing this. –B.

JOANNE MARINER is a human rights lawyer in New York. She can be reached at: mariner@counterpunch.org

 

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JOANNE MARINER is a human rights lawyer living in New York and Paris.

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