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On Wednesday evening, exiting the EasyPass lane and preparing to enter the Lincoln Tunnel in Hoboken, I had to brake suddenly to avoid running over a wayward traffic cone. The guy behind me in the Volvo SUV, who was tailgating and not paying attention, slammed into me, sending my right signal assembly to taillight heaven. It wouldn’t have been so bad-no one was hurt and the other driver acknowledged his fault and gave me his insurance info and phone number, offering to pay for the damage-but then two cops from the Port Authority then came over and said they wanted to write up an accident report.
45 minutes later, the SUV driver and I were both still waiting for what, ultimately, was a short form with all the complexity of a parking citation.
If it took two cops this long to handle such a simple matter as an uncontested fender bender, how are New York Police going to handle the thousands of arrests that can be expected on August 29 should Mayor Michael Bloomberg persists in his Ahab-like obsession with forcing protesters to accept a rally site down near Chambers Street on the West Side Highway instead of the natural and appropriate site on the Great Lawn in Central Park.
Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who plan to march August 29 are expressing their anger at the mayor’s intransigence, with many saying they plan to ignore him and make their way to the park, permit or no permit, police or no police.
To make things more interesting, New York’s heroes in blue, the guys everyone loved after 9/11-along with the city’s fire fighters–are taking advantage of the looming crisis to demand a big fat raise from the city, threatening a strike during the rally and the Republican convention if they don’t get what they want.
That raises several possibilities. You could have angry police simply not interfering as protesters pushed through their lines and headed to the park. You could have police decide to have a slowdown, making the booking process in arrests even more slow and painful for arrestees and for the city. Or you could have a Blue Flu, with cops simply not showing up on the job on the appointed day, or during the convention, which might force Gov. George Pataki to call up the National Guard.
My guess is Bloomberg, a Republican mayor obviously acting on behalf of President Bush and his Republican campaign handlers who, no doubt, are hoping to have a lot of rampaging protesters down right near the site of the World Trade Center attacks to point to during their convention), will ultimately cave in, or be forced to give in by the courts, and the estimated 250-500,000 anticipated anti-Bush demonstrators will be able to peacefully make their way up Broadway and Seventh Avenue to the Park.
If he doesn’t, and persists in his loony stance, my experience at the Lincoln Tunnel suggests that the city’s police stations and the courts will be clogged for weeks as New York’s finest and the city’s lumbering legal system try to book, arraign and untangle the arrests of thousands of people who only wanted to peaceably exercise their constitutional right to protest an unelected usurper and the war he tricked the nation into.
If you’re a demonstrator planning to attend the Aug. 29 festivities, my advice is: bring a toothbrush.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org