sorry, no permit


On friday New York City authorities, threatened by the Justice Department in Washington, testified in court about why they are refusing to allow an anti-war march and rally at the UN on Feb. 15.

First they had to argue why it was an inconvenience to traffic. Jimmy Breslin:

He said he hated gaps in parades. They occur in a big parade when you’re supposed to get cross-town traffic through and the marchers are stopped with gaps between them and then it starts again and people don’t move. They keep the gaps. "You can have them at a red light and it changes and they won’t move," Chief Rocco Esposito was saying in Manhattan Federal Court on Friday as day turned into evening.

. . .

Rocco Esposito was sent to make the stand for the mayor and police commissioner. He turned down the march permit and looked absolutely awful in trying to explain why. In one of the few emotional moments of the day, Esposito got on his favorite, these gaps in the parade, and complained to the court, forcefully, "You just can’t get them to move. You can’t get them."

At one point, Esposito also said, "I have information that we have an orange condition. I have orders as of 12 noon to upgrade security."

This was the level of argument in an attempt to stop free speech.

And I believe if he looks, he’ll find that New York has been on an orange alert from about the day they hit the World Trade Center.

Several times, Esposito said, "We don’t know who is coming here for the march. We don’t know who they are.”

Leslie Cagan [the activist basically coordinating this demonstration] said, "Since when in free speech do you have to say who’s coming to an event? Do you have to give the names?"

Breslin and much of the world know the real reason for the City's intransigence.
During a break, I went up to one severely dressed young man and he identified himself as Andrew O’Toole of the United States Attorney’s office. He was there to make a statement or file something to remind the court that the UN was the responsibility of the city. He was pleasant. The people who sent him over did not tell him to say "Ashcroft." He didn’t have to. He was at the city’s table and a United State Marshal who had arrived with him and was holding a hand radio stood at the door.
His conclusion:
The city says the march can’t be held because of security reasons since Sept. 11. The reasons they gave Friday made no sense at all, unless you suspect that the march is being opposed because Mayor Bloomberg is trying to help Republicans by stopping a public outcry here against the beautiful war that the administration wants against Iraq. Ray Kelly, the police commissioner, is blocking the march on behalf of Bloomberg.

I know neither one of them is unbalanced, but their work this time has been an act of madness and can do nothing but hurt their reputations with this attempted fascism, which is going to be talked about for a long time.

Free speech comes from Madison and Jefferson and Paine and people went to jail over it and were shot in wars to protect it. You can see how precious, how fragile such a blessing is by the way in which it is embroiled and disputed and can be threatened by the most modest of opponents.

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Published on February 8, 2003 2:27 PM.

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