I survived this afternoon's "Parade Without a Permit" more or less unscathed, although I was pushed to the ground while photographing the police exercising their "control" of our right to free speech.
At the start of the parade in City Hall Park there were, by Norm Siegel's semi-official count, 54 demonstrators (plus a large contingent of members of the alternative media, and various support people and legal observers), making the assemblage an official "un-permitted parade" according to new NYPD rules, which allow only up to 49 people if no police permit has been granted.
At no time was there a crime in progress; we presented no threat to anyone. There was not even a hint of a misdemeanor, yet the Department, our servants, not content with a melodramatic presence made up of officers and inspectors, many in plainclothes, a scooter contingent and several police vans, decided to do some pushing around.
The pushing began with repeated orders, rude shouts in fact, to keep our feet on the sidewalk at all times, even when it was narrowed or blocked by subway entrances and construction sheds. In the end it appeared to be problems with the obstruction and tunnel darkness of a large shed on the west side of Church Street, complicated by the many bags of debris stacked underneath, which elevated the pushing to the physical level. The police seemed to be unhappy with the speed with which we were clearing the street for the important people who use cars.
I assume that any attempt to point out to the officers that their own combined body mass and the bulk of their own vehicles added up to a much bigger traffic obstruction than did the presence of our little band would have fallen on deaf ears.
One verbal exchange led to another, and then the pushing began (from them on us) without any further warning. Before I could get away from the center of the melee I found myself on the pavement. I snapped a few (not very interesting) pictures from that dramatic vantage point and when I scrambled back to my feet I saw that at least two people had been taken into the middle of the street where they were on the ground. Surrounded by their banners, flags and leaflets, they were handcuffed and carried away.
The struggle for New York City's recognition of the First Amendment will certainly continue, but for tonight we have these beautiful battle ribbons: