Bronx cheers for Ashcroft

New York patriot: and nobody's stooge

Go here for a gallery of images from today's demonstration at Federal Hall.

Years ago most of us would not have thought we’d ever find ourselves in a police barricade pen next to the Stock Exchange on Broad and Wall Streets demonstrating against U.S. fascism. But there we were this afternoon, and the real terror is that I don’t think this stuff surprises us now.

For two hours of a gorgeous late summer day in New York, a serious community of between two and three thousand people yelled, chanted and listened closely to dozens of speakers addressing them and, in absentia, the scary man who was lunching across the street.

John Ashcroft, the appointee of an appointed president, was addressing a closed-door meeting of invited high-level New York-area law enforcement officials as part of a national “tour” for his police state apparatus. The trips were designed to sell the administration’s extraordinary Justice Department agenda as it’s described in the original "Patriot" Act, in the terms of its expansive but still only proposed sequel, dubbed "Patriot" II, or in something called the "Victory" Act.

Ashcroft was speaking just a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, and the New York speech, delivered two days prior to the anniversary of its destruction, is supposedly the last in the series.

Not the least disturbing part of this affront to all republican and democratic decency and true patriotism was the fact that it took place in Federal Hall, the site of George Washington’s inauguration. It was on this plot that the United States Congress first met, and where it wrote and passed the Bill of Rights.

Like most everything done by this administration, everything about Ashcroft’s sales-trip visits, including the time, the location and the guest lists, are supposed to be kept secret from the American people. And yet, with only two days notice secured through irregular means, some 60 organizations were able to bring a very large and enthusiastic crowd of outraged New Yorkers to confront on their own turf this arrogant rogue government and its continuing and unprecedented attacks on civil liberties.

The reason for it was sobering enough for today’s oddly cheerful assembly, but the most chilling evidence of that necessity was the insult of so many machine-guns and attack-dogs held by so many of the armored special in our immediate vicinity, on the streets and sidewalks, on subway entrances, next to the heroic bronze of George Washinton on the steps of his place, and especially the stairs and the roof of the Memorial itself. The real terrorist was inside Federal Hall this afternoon.

Another country.

The unelected vice president, Dick Cheney, arrives here on Thursday to help us celebrate his party’s great day, and less than one year from now the big monkey himself will be accepting that gang’s nomination for a second appointment to misrule – in poor old, wounded, grieving but oh so grateful New York.

Well, serving them is not our agenda, and the Republicrats have to know that.

September 11 is nothing more than a political tool for these people, as is all of New York City itself, a place more removed from their world than any other part of the country.

We have to do something by which they will remember us elsewise – and if not fondly, well. "Well" will do very nicely.

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Published on September 9, 2003 5:55 PM.

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