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Sunday 5 September 2004

NYC Wrap Up

One thing I noticed during all the protests was the lack of a visible queer presence. There would occassionaly be somebody holding up a sign about gay marriage or something, but no group of out queers. The closest I saw was during the march from the WTC to MSG, a truck with a billboard on it drove by (I hate this advertising idea, btw) and the billboard was from the Human Rights Commission, which is a lobby for GLB rights.

All of that marching was tiring and the huge number of arrests was worrying, so the next day, we went to a small anti-war protest at Union Square Park and then to the MET and looked at thier Dangerous Laisons exhibit and their modern art wing. Then we walked towards the NOW rally. I stopped on the way and got in a looong coversation with some members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. They're Maoists. They follow some guy named Bob Avakian. I told them that they seemed to messianic. Anyway, We went to the NOW rally, where the cops had put up a labrynthe of barricades. Some folks had to walk nine blocks out of the way to get to it. Alan pondered whether or not the cops had organized the rally, because it was so tame and mainstream, he thought, but they didn't even want people to stand around listening to the NOW.

And the NOW is where I found the queer content. Almost ever speaker was a lesbian, although they rarely addressed queer issues, except to say that after thousands of jobs lost and thousands of people becoming uninsured, gay marriage doesn't seem like an issue to focus on. Ok.

they left addressing queer issues to the performers, who included a baby boomer singing about Stonewall, some spoken word poets going on about sleeping with their girlfriends, and other songs. The baby boomer had a song about a woman named Rose who had died from a back alley abortiong before one could get a safe one. The refrain:

get your laws off me
i'm not your property
don't plan my family
i'll plan my own
I don't want to be
in your theocracy
remember liberty
remember Rose
Despite some reports to the contrary, none of her songs were to the tune of America the Beautiful.

The NYC chapter of NOW s the founding chapter. Speakers included their president, the national president, some Air America contributors, somebody from the NYCLU (arrests at demonstrations have been increasing nationwide over the last few years, despite peacefulness) and others. They were funny ("there is so much mercury in water now, under the bush administartion, that you can actually take your temperature just by drinking it"), up with women, up with lesbians (i heard the word "bi" exactly once and in a song. NYC = SF ten or more years ago). It was the sort of instutional feminism that I remember from my undergrad days. It was low key, but inspiring. We must go and take active steps after the convention to defeat Bush.

Last day

And the last day of the convention, after more than 1500 arrests by the NYPD and more than 987 dead US soldiers in Iraq, we went to Washington Square Park and hung out at the Vetrans for Peace Rally. There was a side event there, invloving Ring Out and the folks that have been doing Paul Revere's Ride stuff around the convention. the day before it started, they rode their bikes around NYC shouting "The Republicans are Coming." One if by jet and two if by SUV, apparently. They needed folks to ring bells so they could read a list of their grievances against Bush and topple a "statue" of him. Cola and I participated as bell ringers. Mostly we stood for a long time holding bells over our heads. Bells are heavy. Then, after the statue was toppeled, people signed the "declaration of independance." their demands were very mainstream. They were partiots, who beleive in the system. Ok. I was happy to help.

some media website published a picture of the event, which our hosts stumbled upon. Rebbie sent out a very braggy email about how her activists had gotten into the media. She was very pleased. I'm glad for this, as I was worried about imposing by staying in her teeeny apartment for so many days.

After ringing bells, we went to look at the UN. I really like the UN. I think internationalism is a great idea. A UN body, UNESCO, has specifically endorsed Esperanto. I'm thinking of flying a UN flag outside my house. If only we listened to the UN more often!

So I went to look at the UN buildings and saw across the street, a demonstration to end the genocide in Dafur. I took their picture and said "right on." One interresting thing about the demonstration was that it included absolutely no women. They were chanting something about stopping rape. I have no idea why it was all male. Anyway, I was pleased as punch to find out that tourists were allowed inside the UN. A cop stopped me. No protest of any kind is allowed in the UN. I didn't buy any ant-bush clothing, so my clothes were permissable, but all my srtickers and buttons had to come off. I was trying to get through security and had fogotten that I had a sticker on my back. they made a huge deal out of it. What is that?! What am I trying to pull?! A bunch of them came over and shook their heads about how I was trying to get a sticvker inside. The UN is great, but cops are cops. I really hate them now. I've had good experience with some in the past, but I'm really tired of being treated like a suspect because I want to fly in an airplane or go into a public building or exercize my first amendment rights. And, since the UN is not US territory, those rights didn't even exist. I was worried about being arrested. What would happen if I were arrested inside the UN for wearing a sticker? Where would they send me?

We hung around the lobby a little while, but the tour was expensive, so we went back to Washington Square Park and held up our "No" signs. Instead of hanging around the UFPJ rally, we decided to be mroe badass and go down to Madison Square Gardens. We knew that the sound weapons, the 150 decibel "megaphones" were out so we took earplugs. The rally turned out to be so loud that the cops wouldn't even need to use the sound weapons. Extremely loud speakers, folks with drums and whistels. Somebody right behind me had built a trumpet out of a rubber hose and a funnel. It was insanely loud. I put in earplugs.

The protest spanned more than 4 blocks. It just kept growing until it was rodered to disperse. The speakers were not exciting at all, except for someone from the national lawyers guild. Those folks were working as leagal observers. The wore bright green baseball caps and were at every single event, even more than the NYCLU. They passed out little pamphelts explaining rights and what to do if arrrested (or if the cops come to your door asking questions). They were at everything that I went to. They're awesome. 13 of them were arrested during the protests. Two of them got beaten. They were watching, they were not participating. they were clearly identified as legal observers. the cops got them anyway. an undercover cop offered one of them forty dollars for the hat. S/he wanted to pose as a lawyer and offer folks legal advice. Is that even constitutional? The NLGF person did not sell.

the NLGF is awesome. They've done a lot of good work on a lot of issues. They rule.

At some point in the protest, a bunch of cops came out in full riot gear. Shields. Huge batons. Helmets. I was freaked out by them and also by the possibility that they would blast us with sound. But there were cops on the other side of the protest not wearing helmets or any visible ear protection. For that kind of volume, people have to wear the big headsets like they were around jet engines. I couldn't beleive they would blast their own guys. Later I found out that they had actually turned the thing on. Maybe they would have blasted their own guys. Or maybe they sould have just relied on the snipers in the blimp overhead.

They ordered us to leave, so we walked blocks and blocks down 8th ave, the open street, while a helicopter buzzed right overhead. BUZZZZZ. A bunch of cops on unmarked motorcycles came riding around. They were "undercover," but they were all wearing body armor and helmets and riding in formation the wrong way around a one way street. They followed us for a while, while vans full of cops went back and forth. And the damn helicopter, still loud and overhead. All that weaponry: snipers, sound weapons, batons, tear gas, rifles, guns, vans, scooters (some cop ran his scooter into a bunch of protesters earlier in the week. the vans and scooters are weapons), the wearing sounds of the multiple military helicopters overhead, all just for us. A bunch of people on foot with cardboard signs. I didn't even have my pocket knife on me. Nor my self defense weapon. Cardboard signs supported by carboard tubes (wooden dowels will get confiscated) and they had the power to kill all of us and were buisly flexing muscles and demonstrating that power. They did not want people to forget that they could be killed or arrested at the whim of the police.

somebody I know spent two days in jail, in a bus garage. That garage has motor oil on the floor of it. battery acid. the junk that leaks out of busses. And it's not cleaned up and there are no chairs. Alan said that Liz has bruises on her arms from where they very tight plastic handcuffs were left on her for hours. Liz is not a violent person. I doubt she was doing anything wrong, not even blocking the sidewalk (i don't know the details of her case). Like the hundreds of people arrested at ground zero, she was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

some folks that violating civil liberties is ok, because protesters make a choice to be out in the streets. But passersby, shopkeepers and folks just trying to get home from work didn't chose to protest and didn't chose to be arrested. You know, and people who are not christian fundamentalists make a choice not to go to those churches, but so far, the first amendment also protects those rights. Losing freedom of religion and losing freedom of the press and losing the freedom to peaceably asssemble would be a disaster. These freedoms are in danger.

some communists feel like that if we had the right system in place, with the right laws and the right people in charge (them. errr... the proletariat), we wouldn't need to protest because everything would be ok. But we have laws now protecting our freedoms and they're not followed. We need governments because we need schools and roads and firefighters and healthcare and other services that should be garunteed. But any government must be questioned. Even a government of laws and not men (as they say) can go wrong if not questioned by the populace. We will always need the freedom to protest, to peaceably assemble and to petition for the redress of greivances. Zell Miller says that we owe these rights to soldiers. I say we owe them to case law. to folks like the National Lawyers Guild. And to protesters who know their rights would nto be respected, but went out anyway and were hit with batons and tear gas and high pressure water. the ACLU, the NLG, the NAACP LDF more than any other cop with a gun or somebody shooting kids in Iraq, the good lawyers protect our freedom.

1 comment:

Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

and if i had been thinking, i would have remembered that the sound weapon is diretional, meaning they could shoot it down the center of the protest and not hit any of the cops on the sidelines. i'm going to avoid standing in the middle of things.

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