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A Recap of August 29th in NYC

The UFPJ march, Central Park, and repression on Broadway
The August 29 United for Peace and Justice rally has been gathering press for months, due to UFPJ's altercation with the City of New York over the city's refusal to issue a permit for a post-protest rally in Central Park. In the end, both the City and the state court rejected UFPJ's request to use the park. However, several thousand people convened in the park regardless, in a peaceful. festive gathering which went mostly unmolested. Meanwhile, police arrested over 150 people - many of them bystanders - in Times Square and on Broadway,as protesters attempted to converge outside the venues where Republican delegates had gone to watch Broadway shows.

People began assembling for the main UFPJ rally and march at 10 AM and continued to arrive for the next two hours. The main body of the rally gathered between 15th and 22nd St and between 5th and 9th Ave, while various feeder marches convened nearby, including a bike bloc, the International A.N.S.W.E.R. rally, and the "Don't Just Vote" bloc, who marched with a giant green dragon puppet. All in all, organizers estimate the total number of protesters at 500,000. For my own part, I can say that when I climbed on top of a bus stop and looked down 7th Ave, there was no end of the march in sight, either ahead or behind. The Infernal Noise Brigade was present, as were a myriad of other music makers, performance artists, and dancers.

The march proceeded past Madison Square Gardens, the site of the convention, where it encountered a couple hundred pro-Bush counter-protesters. It then looped around and ended back at Union Square. From there, some protesters headed towards Central Park to rally on the Great Lawn and others formed a Mouse Bloc (so called because elephants are supposedly afraid of mice) on Broadway. The police attempted to prevent protesters from arriving at Central Park, arresting several bicyclists who were heading uptown. However, the crowd that eventually arrived on the Great Lawn was several thousand strong and the police did not seem inclined to confrontation. The crowd rallying on the lawn was peaceful and somewhat disorganized- it resembled a picnic in the park more than a riot.

Meanwhile, the police were attempting to clear out Times Square for the convenience of the Republican delegates. Protester Nick Schwellenbach observed, "There were a lot of pedestrians there. just walking by and police tried to kind of lock down the area but there were too many just regular Joe Schmoes walking by." The officers used orange netting to encircle the protesters (and unfortunate bystanders), arresting 100-150 people according to legal observers. The remains of the Mouse Bloc proceeded up Broadway, attempting to catch up with the delegates as the Broadway shows let out. Using a squad of about twenty undercover officers on unmarked motorcycles, the officers boxed the protesters in on 45th and Broadway, and again on 53rd and made several more arrests. The march had been proceeding on the sidewalk, not blocking automobile traffic.

The lack of police response to the unpermitted rally in Central Park, by contrast to heavy repression of protesters on Broadway suggests that the City was happy to have the majority of dissenters safely out of sight of the delegates, while the smaller crowd on Broadway could be easily controlled. By UFPJ's estimate, about 180 people were arrested over the course of the day.
central park 29.Aug.2004 20:52

j

aah, so the "no you can't have the park" was really just a bit of reverse psychology to get most of the people to actually go to the park (or home) and out of sight of the precious delegates.

of course 29.Aug.2004 21:05

the obvious

They were trying to get people to fight on their terms. I couldn't be happier that it didn't succeed. Looks like the protesters aren't as dumb as they thought.

New Yorker's Living Up to Their Reputation 30.Aug.2004 00:21

Of being

disciplined, no-nonsense people. Even the "green dragon" incident didn't get them started - a real tribute to the discipline of both police and demonstrators. Guess you have to be both wise and self-controlled to survive in NYC. Funny that no one took the Central Park bait. Looks like both demonstrators and officials played that one up for the most mileage. Demonstrators kept the officials thinking that's where they were going, while the officials kept holding up the carrot. Classic play of strategy and tactics. We'll have to look out for this one in the future.

what new yorkers have learned 30.Aug.2004 19:24

a

about new yorkers-- its not just that we're 'tough and no-nonsense'.

going through 9-11 really changed us. i know it sounds a bit corny,
but we came to realize we're all in this together, and need to take care
of each other. even the antagonism that had existed with police after
some of the abuses of guiliani's time (like amadou diallo) has mellowed,
as we all looked up to the heroism of "first responders"-- and they saw
reason for solidarity too, when they were not supported as they should
have been by the powers that be (city pay cuts, firehouse closings, etc.)

a good example of this was what happened during the big blackout--
LESS crime than ordinary nights, and a big street party with people
out sharing a rare view of the stars with their neighbors.

here, where we were hit by our national enemy, the call was not for
vengeance, but for understanding and compassion. and as a new
yorker that lived through this, i notice a tendency to try to defuse
the energy of conflict. yes there are major forces in disagreement
out there-- but new york, of all places, is trying hard to learn to chill!