Global Movement Means Code
By Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice
Make no mistake about it – history books will cite
February 15th was about the triumph of hope over despair, of activism over cynicism, and of a renewed belief that we can change the course of history. And it is this new movement that will be George W. Bush’s ultimate legacy. The threat that his criminal administration posed to the world’s people and environment gave birth to a new generation of activists and to a new global movement – all of us, everywhere, undeterred as we follow the dream of democracy and seek out the manna of hope.
Approximately two million people
Nowhere was this spirit more evident last weekend than in
New York City, where a half million people came together in defiance of a
Billionaire Republican mayor who declared their march illegal, and a federal
government whose bogus terror warning all but shut down tourism in that city.
Undeterred by Bush administration warnings of a biological or chemical
attack, possibly “targeting
Other groups, ranging from labor unions such as the UAW and AFSCME, to political groups such as The Greens and Republicans for Peace, to religious groups and artists, organized 67 feeder marches, all converging on the First Avenue rally site. Mayor Bloomberg refused to grant march permits to any of the feeder marches, in effect turning the marchers, representing an extremely diverse cross-section of the American people, into criminals.
When the morning of the 15th rolled around, 6,000 police officers attempted to confine the permit-less feeder marches to the city’s often narrow sidewalks, only to be overwhelmed as the marches swelled into hundreds of thousands of people, chaotically spilling over into traffic as police officers belted out contradicting orders. The rules changed from block to block and minute to minute, with officers intermittingly ordering people off of the street and onto the sidewalk, and vice versa, peppering their orders with threats of arrest.
Bands of Police officers continued to block access to the
rally from points all over Manhattan, with marchers being “penned” as far
away as 21st Street and 6th Avenue to the South, while
others were blocked by wooden police barriers at 92nd Street and 2nd
Avenue to the North, with other police actions taking place as far west as 8th
Avenue (Midtown Manhattan is one big grid of Avenues running north and south,
and streets running east and west). WBAI,
a local radio station, broadcast the rally live, allowing protesters to hear the
speeches wherever they were gridlocked.
At about this time, police officers started estimating the crowd at one
million people. Some newspapers
would later make the ridiculous assertion that 100,000 people attended.
The city cut subway service on the
New post 9-11 laws also banned protest signs with wooden sticks, giving police the onerous task of having to strip sticks from signs, flags from flagpoles, banners from support poles, and so on. In true Orwellian fashion, city rule makers claim the law is designed to protect protestors. Also ostensibly in the interest of protecting protestors, they banned portable toilets and food and drink vendors, thus adding new elements of physical pain to the otherwise frigid February protest experience.
Still, people persevered, and so did the peaceful nature of the day, as speakers admonished the crowd to resist provocation and not allow police officers to incite violence. At one point, two police horses rode into the crowd, injuring five demonstrators, yet the crowd remained peaceful, though The New York Times, without providing any specifics, reported the incident with a strange twist, simply writing that the crowd injured two horses.
Most of the resistance came from the least likely quarters
– middle aged and elderly New Yorkers, who, almost wherever I turned around,
were dressing down cops for their behavior.
One of the more memorable newly minted civil libertarians was a Jewish
woman, clearly a
“You gotta get off the sidewalk,” one officer shouted to us. “What do you mean I gotta get off the sidewalk?” she asked. “You gotta get into the pen,” he answered. “I’m not going into no pen,” she responded indignantly. “Look lady, ya gotta get off the sidewalk – it’s closed,” he bellowed. “Whaddya mean the sidewalk is closed? Who ever heard of such a thing? A closed sidewalk?” she asked to no one in particular. “Look lady, if ya don’t move I gotta arrest you.”
“Arrest me? What ya gonna arrest me for, I’m just standing here?
“I’m gonna arrest ya for trespassing.”
“Trespassing? What trespassing? This is a sidewalk for god’s sake. How can I trespass on a sidewalk?” she asked, before, in utter frustration, telling the officer, “I’ve had it! I ain’t moving. So go ahead and arrest me if that’s what you gotta do.”
“Look lady – what are you busting my balls for,” he asked, “If you don’t want to move, don’t move, but don’t bust my balls about it.” And he left. His sergeant promised us, as a departing gesture, that we’d soon get trampled with horses. Then she left. The frustrated women and her friends remained, last I heard, mumbling, “Sidewalk. Now you gotta have a permit to walk on the sidewalk…”
This little bit of street theatre seems to sum up the
frustration and anger that New Yorkers are feeling these days.
Anger at the murderous bastards who attacked the city on September 11th.
Anger at the politicians who from afar, seek to capitalize on their pain.
Anger at the police state that
That’s what this demonstration was all about. A woman on the street telling a cop she wouldn’t be penned like a cow awaiting slaughter. A city telling a government they won’t be cannon fodder for a war they don’t want or support. A nation telling the world that this unelected government isn’t operating in our name. And a world of people telling each other that we are one.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot.
Late on Saturday the
The next anti-war rally will be in
Dr. Michael I. Niman’s previous columns are archived
online at http://mediastudy.com. Crowd
estimates cited in this column come were estimated using a variety of sources
including Reuters, Associated Press and Agencie
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