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.