Notes from the Street -- 2nd Ave Near UN Bldg, NYC 2/15

Despite what I think of as radical or even revolutionary beliefs, I’m not much one for marches and demos. I always feel like the Orwellian sheep chanting “Four legs good, two legs bad”. But one participates as one can using the opportunities available, and I couldn’t NOT be present if people were collecting to say they thought our nation is headed down the wrong road.

There are a lot of people here. There was to have been a rally, originally at 1st Ave/49th Street. Police barricades blocked off access to that location, so we filed updownwards on 2nd through increasingly dense crowds. By 51st street, the people simply trying to get to the rally were about 36 shoulders wide, from edge of sidewalk way out into the street, on both sides, badly channeled and semi-controlled by uneasy-looking police officers (including mounted police and with sticks in hand).

We continued as far as 54th Street where it became obvious that every intersection was a congealed mass of people attempting to go eastward to 1st Ave and blocked by police, and that 2nd Ave between intersections was thick people-soup with police keeping just barely enough room for one vehicle to squeeze slowly through. Radio says it is like this clear up to 72 Street. The Queensboro Bridge is closed. A few people threading their way back from 1st Ave say that you can’t get close enough to hear the speakers despite their PA equipment. The rally, in effect, is indistinguishable from the slowly moving masses trying to get to it.

Word on the street is that attendance was expected to be approx. 100,000 and may be more than twenty times that. Conventional wisdom says march participants usually overestimate by a factor of two and police estimates usually underestimate by the same factor. If police estimates end up pegging it around 500,000, that would mesh and would mean there are a million people out here for this. Police behavior seems to indicate that they had not anticipated so many people. They keep trying to shepherd and relocate clustered people when there is no way to occupy the space they are pointing towards short of standing on top of other people.

The usual perennial critics of all government policy (e…g, International Workers Party) and people who had obviously mobilized against American military activities for months, some (judging from signs and buttons) having opposed American invasion of Afghanistan, were joined by people like us who did not look to have been involved in prior protests. From overheard conversations in the crowd, many people were at their first protest/march and did not know what to expect. Also overheard and spoke to several other middle-aged people who had not done this since the Vietnam war, most of whom were disturbed to be finding this necessary once again.

I saw no violence, despite a lot of confrontational shouting and shoving and chanting and a couple of arrests.

I just got back from freezing my faggot ass off in the Montreal protest. It’s one of the largest protests I’ve ever seen in my life. But when you consider they got at least a million people in Rome…

Here’s an article with attendance figures worldwide. This is bigger than the movement against the Vietnam war, and the war hasn’t even been declared yet.

I just got home and am defrosting. My group stupidly picked 51st & Lex to meet, so I didn’t find them. Somehow I managed to find some friends in the crowd.

The police pushed us up 3rd Ave and then over to 2nd Ave at around 60th St. Then they had us trapped at 63rd and 2nd for about an hour. People were getting cold and anxious. Finally they let us through to 1st Ave. The crowd successfully busted through one police barricade after another heading south. We got stuck at 59th, but I weasled my way around via some alleys. Didn’t see any arrests or cops getting violent.

What’s funny is that they refused to permit a march, but in the end that’s what they forced us to do. I don’t understand why they were blocking access to 1st Ave, where the rally was permitted. It wasn’t too full.

Even the New York Times, which is notorious for reporting protest turnouts even lower than official police estimates, is saying there were probably more than 400,000. It looks like the official estimate will be over 500,000, and no one’s counting all the people who were prevented from reaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Aves.

Well, kids, that was a warm-up for the next one. We can expect twice as many once the bombing starts.

I went to the one in NYC. I think the city was nuts not to let the organizers follow their plan, which was to march past the UN and wind up at a rally in Central Park. Once people got to Central Park, they’d have been out of the way. As it was, traffic was blocked over many blocks for hours.

I did get to 1st Ave, but I saw that many didn’t. The police kept them blockaded on 2nd Ave. I was too far away from the speakers to hear or see anything, but I had assumed this would be the case. There was, however, a large truck-mounted screen, showing the speakers.

It was a huge crowd.

I went to the one in L.A. LA times gives an estimate of around 30,000 people, which I’d say seems about right. We started at Hollywood and Vine, marched to La Brea, turned, then turned onto a smaller side street. The police didn’t bother anyone, and the march seemed almost too quiet at times.

Overall it was a good march, although we could have had A LOT more people. We need to at least match the numbers in Europe. It’s our own damn country, after all! Our own stupid president, even if he didn’t really win the election.

My friends and I were discussing why Europe had much bigger turnouts. One person thinks it’s because the media is so much better over there.

I, on the other hand, am sitting nice and toasty in the Chrysler Building and have no intention on trying to get anywhere near the rally. I just hope everyone is gone by 10pm which is when I get off from work.

Cillasi, you can leave whenever you are ready. The rally was yesterday.

On the train in from New Jersey the Grandmothers against the war were handing out fliers and they gave us directions to the library, where we were meeting up with our group. Penn station seemed to be filled with protesters, and by the time we got to the library we were definitly on the outskirts of the rally. One of our professors showed up to march with us and brought his 12 year old daughter.

Cross streets towards first were all blocked, but as we were being funnelled up third the door guards at a large department store, possible Bloomingdales, let us through so a large group of us could get to second street. Some of the women at the high-class cosmetics counters flashed us peace signs. We stayed on second for awhile, participating in a jam and dance session to cries of “this is what democracy looks like” and trying figure out if there was going to be any way onto first street. As we stood there a truck full of metal fences drove up and barricaded a large group 10 feet from us preventing them from joining us, but after 10 minutes of increasing unrest and shouts of “whose streets-our streets” they let them through. We made it to first and tried to go towards the speakers, but the crowd finally got too dense around 64th to move. People wandered up and down with battery-powered radios on their shoulders so we could hear the speakers. We were lucky to have gotten that far, large groups were corralled into intersections on second street and never made it to first.

Strangely enough we were hassled by the cops when we stopped at 68th to wait for some friends and told to move on, even though the permits were after all for a stationary rally north of 49th and the streets were still fairly full. The funnelling created several circular and noisy marches on the outskirts of the official rally.

We finally had to meet up to drive home, so the five of us paraded, drumming and all, the 20 blocks down fifth street back to the library. It was amazing to feel so out of place outside of the rally, just a few blocks away. But people were supportive, some doormen dancing along with us as we passed-generally, the atmosphere in NYC was very positive, and my throat is still sore from chanting.

Hey, we should all get together next time!

I marched with Not In Our Name, who had big blue earth flags on cardboard poles, sticks being dangerous and all. We started at 42nd St. and 6th, and determined that we would march as roundabout as possible to maximize our exposure. Well, we accomplished that, at least…

We went up to 59th street and joined a mass of people moving East – but we only got as far east as second avenue. There we took over 59th-56th street, as the police were vastly undermanned and caught short. Eventually they pushed everyone out of the way on horseback, clipping a few people, which lead to angry protesters and a few arrests.

They weren’t letting anyone across to 1st avenue – though according to my friends over there, it may have been packed enough, who knows. Deprived of the right of free assembly (on our “permitted” rally point, I’m glad to know the constitution now works on a permit basis. Next year, free speech lotteries!!!), many of the younger protesters clashed with the cops; both sides were videotaping each other from inside the mass and from the rooftops.

The aresstees were trundled off into police vans or paddywagons, chased after by the legal overseers in their neon hats. I stopped by Crunch on 59th street, to get warm (and I’m a member.) After a bit of wandering around and calling friends who were stuck by 42nd street, I mostly hung out with a guy with a boom box to listen to some of the rally.

Sometimes the police would box out and clear another street, and the chants would go up “we’re not violent, why are you! Whose streest (yawn) our streets! We’re the fucking country, you all work for us!”

The voice had a chant I wished I heard “It’s getting hot in herre! I’m burning too much oil! Getting! So hot! I want to start a World War!”

I saw a “Bush has the ring” sign also. No idea.

Heard there was more people and action on Third avenue, so I went over there. That was true. Got to see some police push people around, telling them they couldn’t stay on the sidewalk, they had to go someplace or the other. Bullshit. Then they started rushing at the group of 10.

I had enough of that, so I joined the singing and cheering folks for a while – the rally is where you make it, before heading for food and drinks at 3:30.