[Marxism] NYC protest and civil liberties

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 11 07:27:50 MDT 2004


As I recall, when the British antiwar movement was ordered to follow an 
unsuitable parade and rally route, it successfully beat back the 
challenge. Here, in NYC, where the antiwar movement is led by forces in 
the CP or in the Committees of Correspondence, a group that split from 
the CP but retains a lot of its mainstream habits (including an 
orientation to the Democratic Party), it has been relatively more easy 
for the city government to push it around. I guess that's the difference 
between having the British SWP and Islamic groups in the drivers seat 
and the "reasonable" left.

Although I haven't been following this controversy too closely, mainly 
because I view the protests more as anti-Bush actions than antiwar, some 
articles I spotted today supply some background.

The British Guardian reports that the unwashed anarchist mob has been 
holding the organizing committee's feet to the fire:

 >>So far, the rights of grass have prevailed. On July 21, UFPJ 
reluctantly accepted the city's offer to allow a rally on the West Side 
Highway, far from shops and foot traffic. UFPJ was told that it had no 
other choice - the city wouldn't negotiate. "This was not a happy 
decision to make," says Dobbs. "It reflects the bullying of Republican 
Mayor Bloomberg."

Among other problems, the West Side Highway site lacks shade and access 
to places to buy drinking water. Because the site is so long and narrow, 
the rally would have stretched along dozens of city blocks, making 
projecting sound a challenge.

UFPJ's compromise enraged many activists. Posters on anarchist sites 
like Indymedia.org condemned the group and promised to rally in Central 
Park regardless. "Who asked UFP&J to play hall monitor?" an activist 
from Philadelphia wrote.

"I'm almost glad the City has decided to deny us a permit for Central 
Park and that UFPJ caved," wrote another. "Now, we will take the Park in 
defiance of both the capitalist bosses and the self-appointed leaders of 
the 'movement.'"

The reaction was so negative, in fact, that Tuesday UFPJ abandoned its 
agreement with the city and announced that it will continue to fight for 
the use of the park. "Part of organising is listening to what people are 
saying," says Dobbs. "We are indeed marching by Madison Square Garden, 
and we are not, not going to that dreadful West Side Highway." UFPJ has 
reapplied for a permit to use the park but it seems unlikely that the 
city will grant it. If denied, Dobbs says his group might sue. And after 
that? "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Some are urging UFPJ to schedule the rally in the park without waiting 
for a permit. "Note to UFPJ," said one Indymedia poster. "If you abandon 
West Side Highway, and declare your intention to rally in Central Park 
with or without a permit, you will regain much of your credibility with 
the rank and file."<<

full: http://www.guardian.co.uk/salon/story/0,14752,1280907,00.html

The Village Voice has some interesting articles on how pressure from 
below has spurred the organizers to stand up to Bloomberg:

Conventional Wisdom
by Sarah Ferguson

Responding to signs of mutiny in the ranks of protesters, organizers 
with United for Peace and Justice say they will reopen the battle for 
the right to gather in Central Park on Sunday, August 29, the eve of the 
Republican National Convention.

At a packed press conference on Tuesday at UFPJ’s midtown offices, 
national coordinator Leslie Cagan announced that the group had reapplied 
that morning for a permit to use the Great Lawn as well as Central 
Park’s East Meadow and North Meadow, acknowledging Parks Department 
concerns that the Great Lawn is too small to handle a crowd of up to 
250,000 people.

Cagan said the group would wait for the city's response, although she 
did not rule out a lawsuit if the Parks Department refuses to grant them 
a permit.

"We are exploring all our options, including legal options," Cagan said. 
"But let me be clear, we are not going to the highway."

The move marks a dramatic turnaround. Three weeks ago, UFPJ grudgingly 
agreed to use the West Side Highway for its closing rally after more 
than a year of bickering with city officials, who refused to issue a 
permit for the group to mass in the park or to consider alternative 
sites, such as Times Square and Third Avenue.

Cagan cited the Police Department’s refusal, thus far, to spell out 
plans for police barricades, the added cost of mounting a sound system 
capable of reaching a crowd strung out for up to 40 blocks along the 
highway, and concerns that demonstrators would be dropping from heat 
exhaustion on the shade-free asphalt.


full: http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0432/robbins.php

===

Anti-war rally organizers battle city hall, metal barricades, and a hot 
summer sun
Don't Take Me to the River
by Tom Robbins
August 11 - 17, 2004

Successful organizing is a delicate mix of tactics and democracy, and 
for weeks the group seeking to turn out a massive protest on the Sunday 
before the Republican National Convention has been wrestling to find the 
right formula.

Rebuffed in its application for a permit to rally in Central Park on 
Sunday, August 29, the leadership of United for Peace and Justice, the 
group organizing the event, reluctantly bowed last month to City Hall's 
insistence that it be held along a winding strip of West Street along 
the Hudson River on the lower West Side. It did so, organizers said, out 
of concern that delegations around the country assembling for the 
protest needed to get down to the business of mobilizing for the event.

To that end, it held a press conference on July 21 to tell the world, as 
Leslie Cagan, the group's national coordinator said, "The clock is 
ticking. We need to move on."

But that was then.

This week, the group reversed itself, saying that the West Side site was 
untenable, that it would leave tens of thousands of elderly protesters 
unsheltered from a potentially blazing late summer sun, and that the 
costs of reaching an estimated 250,000 demonstrators with a sound system 
at that site was prohibitively expensive. Instead, leaders said, they 
will reapply for a permit to assemble in the park, a move sure to run 
smack into the same objections already voiced by City Hall.

The sudden switch came after a wrenching, weeklong debate amongst 
members of the group's 41-person steering committee. It also came after 
other groups announced their intentions to assemble in the park 
regardless of permits.

full: http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0432/robbins.php


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