I walked through Manhattan today for four hours carrying a sign, "US OUT OF NY," meaning that for its own survival the city must immediately try to sever itself from a national government whose policies both increase the threat of terrorism here and rob us of the civil rights New Yorkers appreciate more than most Americans. The idea was supposed to be that the city's continued connection with a fascist regime in Washington can only endanger or destroy our community. The sign appeared to strike a chord for many out there today, judging from the reactions of those who saw it.
I now have to admit however that the situation is not quite so clear. It's not just Washington. To the dangers from the feds we must add those presented by our own city authorities, when we describe the source of our most clear and present danger. We all saw that on February 15 the New York City government and its hopped-up police arm conformed to a classic fascist program when it sought, with a great deal of success, to make the presence of a million people gathered in its streets for a single political purpose, invisible and ineffectual. There was a repeat performance, with much smaller numbers all around, in Times Square on the evening after the war began, March 20.
For much of today I thought that our abusive city fathers and their armed cudgels had disciplined themselves to perform as New Yorksers should expect them to perform. There appeared to be no visible aggressive opposition to the presence of New Yorkers in the streets doing what New Yorkers have always done, making themselves heard. That is, there was nothing of the kind of attention we have come to expect.
However when we returned home from Washington Square Park after an amazing, truly glorious day with our friends and neighbors, it became clear that the police had decided that they were going to ensure that in the end the story of the day was not going to be 250,000 beautiful people marching peacefully against the war, but, to cite the NY1 headline at this moment, "Several Arrested, Officers Injured In Largest Anti-War Rally Yet."
More than 20 people were reportedly arrested and at least 10 police officers were sprayed with Mace during an anti-war demonstration that drew an estimated 200,000 people to Manhattan Saturday afternoon.
While the rally began as a peaceful one, violence broke out near Washington Square Park as police attempted to disperse the crowd at the scheduled 4 p.m. end of the rally. Several protesters were arrested and a number of police officers were sprayed with Mace as they tried to move crowds out of the area.
"I was trying to disperse, you couldnt get through because of a line of helmeted riot police," said a woman who participated in the protest. "They started making a line and pushing the crowd back so you could not exit. Theyre squeezing in people like rats because theres no place to go and the police are provoking whats going to be violent."
Riot officers and mounted police tried to get control of the crowd, announcing via loudspeaker about 5:30 p.m. that those who remained in the area could face arrest.
These were the tactics of the police employed by a doomed Tsarist regime a hundred years ago and they are the tactics of a fascist regime not yet fixed firmly in power. If we do not continue to insist on our rights, next year there will likely be no reason for our governments to be so crude. There will be no protests.
For more on today's march, and dozens of images, see Bloggy.