My NYC Protest Experience

I hope you guys will indulge me as I report my experiences at the march today. :slight_smile: I want to write it down so I won’t forget. Please forgive me if I ramble incoherently – I hope any others who attended will add their own probably much more articulate comments too!

Wow, what a day. We marched the 20 blocks from Union Square (14th Street) up to Madison Square Garden (34th Street), and most people returned via Broadway back down to 14th. And the entire 40 block loop – roughly two miles – was jam packed, a seemingly unending throng of protesters that continued for at least 3.5 hours. So don’t believe the media’s “tens of thousands” headlines bull. We numbered at least 200,000 … and that’s likely a serious underestimation.

Our messages were heard, that’s for sure. Many different chants, from the standard “Hey hey, ho ho, George Bush has got to go!” to the briefer but straightforward “Go home!” and “Shame!” as we passed the Garden, to the accurate “Fox Sucks!” as we came across a huge-ass billboard for the “fair and balanced” network, to the amusing “Jon Stewart kicks ass!” as we passed a billboard for him. But my favorite chant was “This is what Democracy Looks Like!”

'Cause it’s true.

There was plenty of humor to while the hours as we marched. The signs and buttons and t-shirts were tremendously varied and hilarious, such as “Somewhere in Texas, a Village is Missing its Idiot” and “George Bush: Like a Rock! Only dumber.” There were two people dressed up as a shrubbery and a giant pink … uh … well, I’ll just say that they were supposed to be stand-ins for George Bush and Dick Cheney. Similarly, we all had to laugh when we saw the guy wearing a hat that said “Dickhead” while being festooned with dozens of protruding, um, accoutrements.

But the heart of the event was a deadly serious message. And for me, the most powerful statement was made by the hundreds of marchers carrying large black coffins draped in American flags, representing the dead in Afghanistan and Iraq. I also saw pictures of some of the Iraqi civillians killed and wounded in the war gracing several signs. Then there were the bell-ringers signifying the losses on September 11, a reminder against the exploitative use of New York by the RNC.

Police were everywhere, as were helicopters – although I’m sure a few of those were from the news stations. The beat cops were relaxed and in a good mood, for the most part. Which reminds me of a funny incident … Well, first here’s a smidge of background:

Our police officers have been without a contract for nearly two years, and our (billionaire Republican) Mayor Bloomberg has refused to raise their salaries to a suitable degree. Y’know, 'cause apparently the cops … the ones who are so often lauded by Bloomberg and our oh-so-grateful administration for their heroism during 9/11 … apparently don’t deserve more than 5% over three years. Anyway, the police have threatened a “blue flu” quasi strike during the RNC, where they call in sick instead of an official (and illegal) strike.

All this is leading up to a funny moment of bonding between the protesters and police as we passed them and chanted, “Go on strike! Go on strike! Cops deserve better pay!” Several cops grinned and agreed with us (at least with the better pay part, heh!).

All in all, everyone was peaceful, companionable – and freakin’ HOT. (I got a little heat exhaustion, myself, with a touch of sunburn. Serves me right for not wearing a hat. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I did think ahead a little bit – I brought a small cooler filled with ice, juice, water and a frozen bag of vegetables to use as a makeshift icepack.) The streets were lined with many stores selling cold drinks, and best of all, one restaurant worker with a garden hose who was spritzing water on individuals who requested it. He was my hero! (As was the guy about ten blocks further down the route who had a little electric fan that he aimed at us as we walked past.) People leaning out of their windows above us helped out by letting us know when things up ahead were stalled, and sharing their estimations of how far up the crowds could be seen. And people think New Yorkers aren’t friendly! Well, okay, if they’re Republicans this week, they’re probably right.

The closer we got to Madison Square Garden, the grimmer and more evident were the police and national guardsmen. (The guardsmen were in full camouflage, yet; sure, makes sense, since NYC has SO many trees for them to blend in with!) And here’s the kicker: one guardsman I saw on a sidestreet carried a goddamned machine gun. A machine gun! What the hell? Call me a sentimentalist, but what happened to good ol’ fashioned tear gas? I started to take a picture, so shocked and aghast was I, but I was immediately, forcefully warned not to by the cops. (Oh, I did anyway. Luckily my camera had no flash, so they couldn’t tell I’d taken it. :smiley: Can’t wait to get the photos developed!)

Similarly absurd, once my sister and I left the march at 35th Street we weren’t allowed to carry our signs. According to the cop my sister and I spoke with, the justification for this bizarre decision was that the demonstration was only allowed to be on 7th Ave and Broadway; carrying the signs (you know, as in FREE SPEECH?) would lead to “chaos.” A dumbass rule that stunk of our wonderful mayor yet again. Of course, as we told the policeman, we didn’t blame him for the stupidity. He seemed a bit embarrassed.

I do think there were more than a few agent provocateurs in our midst. Some asshats started a fire on a display, which I refuse to believe was one of our people. You’ll probably see that highlighted on the news as evidence of our rowdiness. Then there were the two suspicious young guys walking through the crowd who, apropos of nothing, suddenly shouted, “Break down the gates! Break down the gates!” (which referred to the barriers blocking us from Madison Square Garden and the group of conventioners watching us from behind the line of cops). Since there had been no confrontation or even much anger at this point, I’m guessing that these were troublemakers hoping to start a Very Bad Scene to make us look bad. Didn’t work, and I saw them laugh and run away. Nice try, creeps.

So the doom-and-gloom pundits who warned of violence to scare folks from coming must have been disappointed. This was an incredibly positive event, attended by thousands and thousands of Americans determined to raise our voices against the administration we fear and loathe.

That’s pretty much all I have. Thanks for letting me express my thoughts and memories of the march – which was my first ever protest, BTW!

I’ll end with a quote from the most pertinent sign I saw in the crowd:

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” – Thomas Jefferson

“They got the guns, but we got the numbers. Gonna win, yea we’re takin’ over! Come on!”
-James Douglas Morrison Five to One

There had better be a violent eruption…
I’m sick of the Republicans.
I’m sick of Bush.
I’m sick of peaceful protest.
I’m sick of the killing that my government is doing in my name.
Now is the time for revolution.

Good for you! I’m glad everybody behaved themselves. The city seemed to be at its best–tolerant and open to free speech. Even the Republicans I knew were annoyed at some of the signs but knew they have to let the marchers get it out of their systems. They just avoided the march–as did I (I’m a Dem but don’t hate anyone and supported both wars). But good for you!

…and devilsknew guess what? We can have a revolution in November if the people want it. If they don’t…learn to tolerate and respect their free speech, mmmkay? Ask the people in the Congo or Chechyna how much fun a revolution is.

I toler and

{New keyboard- many mysterious buttons…ghost post.}
I tolerate and respect their rights. I just feel that it’s time for the outrage- the equal and opposite reaction to their dissrespect for Democracy and the American Constitution must be met. Bush and the Republicans have been trampling on America for four years and the majority are not happy.
Don’t Tread on US!

Well, I’m a pollworker and the lever has no way of knowing the emotional state of the person pulling it–boiling mad or mildly miffed. As long as the lever is pulled and the votes are counted honestly. And sadly, one fact of life is that every Election Night (well, except 1824, 1876, and 2000, which took a while to figure out) leaves behind a very large group of pretty unhappy people.

But we’re getting away from the OP. I’m glad it all worked out for her. As for the signs, they might have been getting antsy after those guys assembled seemingly-innocent looking signs into a dragon and set them on fire in front of the Garden, so maybe those cops had just been ordered not to let anybody with signs off the parade route? I dunno.

And you know what? Some of those folks helping you along may have been Republicans. It takes quite a lot of money to live in most of those neighborhoods you passed. :smiley:

I for one would love to see a photo of a National Guardsman with a machine gun. To theoretically use on civilians protesting peacefully.

And we’re not turning into a police state why, exactly?

I’m glad you had a good protest experience, choie. I went to demonstrations in New York against Vietnam lo these many years ago, and it was a very positive experience. The cops were really nice then, too.

I was there today too. Took a chartered bus up from Philadelphia. Been to many many protests but this one had a great ‘vibe.’

The inflatable ‘Dick’ Cheny even shot large quantities of ‘semen.’ Uh… guess you had to be there, but it was darn funny.

Unfortunately it was both an anti-war and anti-RNC march, while most marchers are just going to go vote for Kerry & the Dems, who if anything are claiming they’d stay in Iraq LONGER than the neo-cons. Ouch.

We need a strong independent peace movement which recognizes the Democrats as a lost cause.

Unfortunately protests of today don’t really seem to have any meaning.

To me they almost seem more like social events that people do to have fun.

I’m not quite ancient but I do remember a lot of the Vietnam protests very well and those were very angry and very serious people focused on one thing that they wanted to bring an end to VERY much.

Protesters of today seem to borrow too many lines from people in the media that quite frankly aren’t serious persons. And they seem to carry themselves in a way that doesn’t bring any respect from me.

For example I think the coffins with flags is good imagery (note I’m a Pro-Iraqi Freedom Republican), as a former military officer I think U.S. casualties need to get more respect and possibly a bit more attention. But things like penises and vaginas and the sophomoric “play on words” to make Dick and Bush genitalia-related makes it look more like a big High School prank and not a protest made up of serious people with serious opinions on anything.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with authority figures lingering around a protest. Public gatherings and such are a great part of Democracy, but in our republican system of government we also seek to put down mob rule and a protest can turn into a mob depending on circumstances.

Um, no, no, no. The machine gun would not be used theoretically used on civilians protesting peacefully. It would be used theoretically if a situation did get violent and dangerous, and the use of such a weapon was warranted.

And we’re not a police state for the very reason that despite our police and armed forces being, well, armed, they don’t use those arms on civilians unless under extreme duress.

I’ll never understand why the mere presence of law enforcement is enough to make folks feel threatened and oppressed. I understand that there’s always the posibility of abuse of power, but why assume the worst?

Because some of us have been abandoned by police on the median of a 6-lane highway during a blizzard. And some of us had lockers next to aspiring police officers, and heard many a tale about how wannabe cops robbed stores on the weekend. And some of us know people who have had a lot worse done to them.

Gee, thanks for requesting that my hometown become violent and unsafe. If you don’t live here, like MANY of the protesters, please don’t advocate trashing my city, I will still be here when the RNC is over.

If you do live here, and still want to trash the place, start with your apartment, and work your way outwards.

choie, by “machine gun” do you mean assault rifle, like an M-16, or a short version of it, like you normally see our soldiers carrying? If so, this is not necessarily a protest-only deal, I’ve seen officers with them on the streets in midtown weeks ago.

Martin Hyde, please don’t confuse these people with facts! It will not go well for you. Better to let them rant here and have a message board love fest while they could actually be spending time helping people out in NYC by volunteering at homeless shelters or taking meals to the home-bound.

And never mention the chants of the “cops going on strike for better pay” mentioned in the OP. It will be completely lost on these hysteric people that there are a shitload of threats coming from inside the States to commit during the convention. They won’t understand that the reason the cops are working such long hours is to keep them from burning the whole city down.

National Guardsmen do not carry “machine guns” in any conventional sense of the word. They are M-16 rifles. (Which do have a fully automatic mode. Not that anyone would have any reason to use it in such a way, short of an invasion from Canada.)

Also, they wear camoflage because that is the standard non-fancy army uniform worn in the field. It doesn’t have anything to do with being camoflaged, it has to do with guardsmen not dying of heat stroke.

I congratulate you on your participation in the democratic process. But please cooperate with the cops and don’t go disrupting crap outside the designated protest routes. This city has some ten million people who just want to get on with their lives with a minimum of fuss.

I have no desire to get into a political debate, but I just wanted to weigh in and say I was there. I took a picture of the restaurant worker with the hose who was so helpful to so many dehydrated and overheated souls. I carried a coffin for a short while to relieve one of the designated carriers. I chanted, I screamed, I jumped up and down, and I was otherwise peaceful.

The sheer number of people out there was breathtaking, by the time my part of the march got started (we were towards the end, and didn’t pass 7th and 15th till almost 2 p.m.), the people in front were already finished.

After passing the Garden and circling around back down 5th, we left the march at 23rd, and had no problem with cops telling us we couldn’t hold our signs. But I guess most of the city was pretty pooped by then. :slight_smile:

I’d like to say thanks to the people who stood on the side and handed out water, the people who organized and ordered the whole thing, and, of course, the city of New York itself–the people we passed on the march route seemed much more with us than against us, or at least, that’s what the signs hanging out the windows said.

No matter who you vote for, it’s the fact that you do vote that counts.

Did you consider the possibility that the military with m-16’s was there to protect you?

I was a little confused Sunday listening to Morning Edition. Seems some anarchists were interviewed about how they were going to organize their protest. I don’t remember any more of the interview, because my brain froze up trying to wrap itself around the concept of anarchists organizing. Anybody see these organized anarchists up there in NYC yesterday? (I’m thinking they were somewhere near the jumbo shrimp.) I’d like to know how this political experiment went, and if we can look forward to more of it.

The M16A2 rifle does not have a full automatic setting. It has single-shot and 3-round burst settings. The U.S. military is one of the few in the world that doesn’t have a mass-issued full-auto assault rifle. Reason? We favor aimed shots over “spray and pray” techniques.

Anyways, the M16A1 rifle, the M16 variant used in Vietnam did have a fully automatic setting. But it was determined that full-auto was just leading to ammunition waste and lower quality marksmanship.

Also I should mention the National Guard indeed does have Heavy Machine guns, National Guard units are intended to basically be the equivalent of “real” U.S. Army units, just not manned by full-time soldiers.

So in National Guard armories you will certainly find heavy belt-fed machine guns, grenade launchers, SAWs et al.

Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought they were seeing a machine gun and were actually seeing an assault rifle.

A basic rule of thumb is, a real machine gun, you won’t see a guy carrying it around ready to use, because they have to be set down on a firing surface, usually are stabilized by a tripod, are belt-fed, and crew-manned.

I was there, too. Huge crowd. Very hot day. I saw some amusing handmade signs:

“Who Would Jesus Bomb?”

“Ammend ‘Marriage’ Not the Constitution”

“Is it Fascism Yet?”

“Opera Lovers Against Bush: It’s Not Over Till the Fat Lady Votes”

“Bring Back the Hegimanists So I Can Have Someone Rational to Protest Against”

“Prevent Unwanted Politicians – Practice Safe Voting Techniques”

Among buttons being sold:

“I’m a Gay Liberal Vegetarian and I Want Your Gun!”

“NYC to RNC: Drop Dead!” with a row of 3 upside down (presumably dead) elephants

Re the occasional camo-wearing soldier or Nat’l Guardsman with a scarry-looking gun, neither the gun nor the uniform looked different than the guys I see occasionally in or near Grand Central Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street.

During the early and later portions of the march, it was possible to move back and forth between the street and the sidewalks. There were barriers between street and sidewalk all along, but during the early and later portions, one could get back and forth between occasional breaks. People were overflowing out of the street and into the sidewalk. I was able to step out and sit down for a while a few times: once on a step in front of a closed store, once on the steps in front of a church, and once on a bench. But during the stretch near Madison Sq Garden (where the Convention will be held), leaving the street became impossible: more cops, no breaks in the barriers, no marchers except in the street.

Usually, it’s a march to a destination where a rally will occur. In NYC, Central Park’s the usual rally location. The organizers applied for permission for a rally in Central Park a year in advance, but were turned down. Supposedly out of concern that a big rally would damage the grass. Not very plausible, IMO. The grass has survived past events just fine, including events with substantially more people than were predicted for this march. March was projected to be 250,000; Paul Simon concert in 1991 was more than twice that many.

Jimmy Breslin had an amusing column about how he checks things out for himself before reporting them, so he went to Central Park and stamped on the grass. He reported that the grass was not damaged thereby.

Not getting Central Park didn’t matter, as far as I could tell. (Unless it made some people decide not to participate; hard to know.) The people who would otherwise have been setting up tables to sell buttons, stickers, etc, and/or promote a cause just set up along the route instead.