NYC Report

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Feb 15 14:44:59 MST 2003

Crowd estimates are often little more than politically tinged guesses, and
the police did not provide one. Organizers said that more than 400,000
people attended and, given the sea of faces extending for more than a mile
up First Avenue and the ancillary crowds that were prevented from joining
them, the claim did not appear to be wildly improbable.


I was one of many, many thousands who were basically prevented from
attending the rally by bottlenecks created by the police. Most people who
got off the subway stops at 42nd Street or 51st Street at Lexington Avenue
were prevented from walking 3 blocks east to First Avenue, where the rally
was taking place. Huge crowds of protesters were jammed into the side
streets and ordered by cops to go up to 61st Street, where access to First
Avenue was allowed. Many people simply broke through barricades, as I did
at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 53rd Street, but found themselves joining a
bigger mass of people on Second Avenue that was not going anywhere.

This was a blatant attempt to discourage people from reaching the
destination point. It will certainly backfire on the ruling class, since
the hundreds of thousands of young people who were very likely attending
their first protest got an object lesson in American "democracy".

In any case, whether or not people were able to reach the rally site or
march past the UN, which was banned by the courts last week, it makes
little difference in the impact that this action has. Midtown NYC became a
huge antiwar "happening" that would demonstrate to anybody, including the
NY Times reported cited above, that the people are opposed to war.

When I was returning back to the subway, I ran into an SWP literature table
where I met some people I hadn't seen in 20 years or so. They were so sad.
John Studer tried to explain to me why the SWP was not part of today's
protests. He said that capitalism was the cause of war and had to be
eradicated. This was the very same John Studer who was a leader of the
Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam in the early
1970s. Today he seemed like a mechanical toy.

After reaching the subway, I was disconcerted but not surprised to discover
that the subway trains were no longer stopping at 51st and 42nd Street.
This was another futile measure designed to keep crowds small. Anybody who
was determined to brave the 25 degree cold would not be cowed by having to
go an extra subway stop.

When I saw a group of people on the subway platform wearing ACLU arm-bands,
I walked over and asked them how they explained the repression going on
above and what their plans were to beat back the police state. One of the
group then stepped forward and said, "Don't listen to that guy--he's just a
trouble-maker." It was Brent, a fellow programmer at Columbia whose wife is
an attorney and presumably part of the legal team. Brent, who can best be
described as a Giuliani Democrat, told me that this was the first
demonstration he was on since the Vietnam era. I believe that described
many thousands of people were out today.

Whatever the course of this war, the Vietnam syndrome is still very much alive.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

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