Politics: June 2007 Archives

in this case an objective clearly worth a monstrous sacrifice

Was the sacrifice of our right to assemble and speak just a matter of "taking one for the team"? And if it was, what will there be left to win if the team makes the finals?

I sent an email out to a few friends last night after picking up a copy of this week's Gay City News. I had hoped to find an article on Chris Quinn which might explain to her larger core community why I and so many others are upset with her these days.

There was an article, but I left wondering how anyone not familiar with the subject of her collaboration and authorization of what is euphemistically referred to as the Police "Parade Rules" might be able to figure what the fuss is about.

I wrote, in part:

We can see that our most prominent community newspaper isn't really interested in the interests of its community, but rather, in its designated hero's ability [in the words of one person quoted in the article] "to take a stand on issues she believes in that aren't always popular among different constituent groups", or, to excerpt another quote from a member of the community used in the article, "any elected official's need to balance the concerns of many groups".
I received an interesting reply from Andy Podell, one of my addressees, and he agreed to be quoted. It's the best explanation I've come across for what looks like a totally baffling decision from a former community street acitivist, but although I don't consider myself politically naive its implications disturb me:
One of the unspoken rules in American politics is that politicians who come from minority communities must show the big boys that they can be tough on their own constituency. Chuck Schumer and George Bush are not required to slap the community around that elected them to show that they're impartial. But Hilary Clinton and Christine Quinn are required to reassure those in power that they no longer represent their voting base. The battle for representative democracy is over before it begins.
So, does this suggest we're better off not supporting minority politicians? I'm throwing this out mostly as a provocation; I'm depressed, but maybe not yet that depressed.

[image from perfectduluthday]

just another day on the street

Last time it was the MTA, and now the Mayor of New York City wants to keep us from taking its picture.

The Transit Authority eventually gave up on its proposed photography ban, but now the same kind of primitive fears and territorial claims have spawned another threat. The gothamist has the story:

The Mayor's Office of Theater, Film, and Broadcasting, which coordinates film and television production and issues permits around the five boroughs, is considering rules that could potentially severely restrict the ability of even amateur photographers and filmmakers to operate in New York City. The NY Times reports that the city's tentative rules include requiring any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance. The regulation would also apply to any group of five or more people who would be using a tripod for more than ten minutes, including the time to set up the tripod.
And are we going to learn next month that if two or more people want to leave a building at the same time (including their own homes) they'll have to get a police permit? And don't forget your papers. The city's government and police are totally out of control!

This is New York CIty, damn it, not Moscow or Beijing!

My shock at this latest assault on urban spontaneity, creativity, the simple rights of assembly and expression, and of course what our leader has called "the internets" doesn't mean I've forgotten that for years the police have already been stopping people all over the City, even individual amateur photographers, for using their cameras. The officers ask questions, sometimes telling them they weren't allowed to shoot pictures in public places, and then asking for their identification and making them wait while their information and the detainment is recorded on the officer's day record. I'm sure this will continue to go on regardless of whether the proposed new police authority is effected (as usual, without hearings or a City Council vote).

I hope I'm not the only private citizen in New York who is also thinking of the impact the rule would have on our ability to document police abuses themselves, but I'm sure since taxpayers have been shelling out a fortune in awards to those falsely-arrested, injured or killed by an unrestrained constabulary, both the Mayor's office and One Police Plaza understand the proposal's ramifications perfectly.

These proposed new police rules follow another civil liberties abomination, one recently initiated by the NYPD itself, with the collaboration and actual authorization of former Leftist-activist Council Speaker Chistine Quinn.

Neither notions about swift vehicle traffic flow nor the mantra of "9/11" should be allowed to transcend our proper concern with strengthening an increasingly-precarious civilization.

Many of us thought our system of law enforcement was already arbitrary, but apparently we ain't seen nothing yet. Be very careful the next time you question an officer of the law; he made it.

[image by Mason Resnick via adorama]


I had almost forgotten that I had this image. It's been on my computer for a week. Once you get past its nightmare-come-alive reference, I think this Shepard Fairey* piece is very beautiful, not least for the color and quality of the faux-dollar bill printing. And then there's also the ambiance of its immediate surroundings on this Lower East Side wall - and the late afternoon sun.

if I'm wrong about the attribution, somebody let me know


Still there, a monstrous abomination where not only its prisoners have been sent to rot, but its jailors as well, meaning every single one of us on the other side of the wire.

[image, otherwise unattributed, via salvationinc]


We were colorful, loud, beautiful and cute, joyful and fierce, and we never really stopped moving, even when the march did. One of the group described himself today, after eleven hours of sleep, as a survivor of "the anarcho-queer olympics that was our participation in the parade.

The crowd was crazy about this "unpermitted" band of RHA and Queer Justice League activists, even if the serious message of their visuals and their chants might initially have escaped some of the people shrieking with glee behind the barriers on each side of the street. I walked down Fifth Avenue from somewhere in the 50's and all the way to the river, and I never heard a single discouraging word.

In any event, on Sunday thousands of people saw the pink and white flyers we handed out and should be able to understand today that this group and its reason for being there on the streets related more closely to the original Stonewall than anything else in this 38th anniversary march.

I've uploaded some additional (thumbnail) images of these animated street lobbyists below [click to enlarge]:

















Geeeesh. Lawyering while black. Well, maybe that's a bit harsh, since there's no way to demonstrate that the New York police officers who beat a civil rights attorney and his wife yesterday would have behaved any differently had the citizens not been black and had they known one was an attorney. More likely it was just business as usual for a force which too often seems to be out of control.

And Speaker Quinn tells us we should trust these guys to decide who can be on the streets?

From Newsday:

City and state officials are denouncing the arrests of a civil rights attorney and his wife after the couple intervened when, they said, police beat a handcuffed teen in central Brooklyn. Protesters returned to a police station yesterday to rally against the arrests and alleged brutality.

Michael Warren, who once represented Tupac Shakur and the teens charged in the Central Park jogger case, and his wife, Evelyn, said a police supervisor also beat them Thursday after kicking the subdued teen during his arrest on suspicion of car theft.

"They tackled him to the ground," Warren told reporters yesterday at a news conference outside City Hall. "They handcuffed him right away. He was not a threat."

The couple said that six officers beat the teen "like a rag doll." A sergeant turned on the couple when they stopped their car to ask police what they were doing, Warren said. He then arrested the couple.

This story was not in our edition of the NYTimes this morning, but here's the link to the report in Newsday.

[image from dennisflood]

Friday night's NYC Dyke March

In the middle of everything else he was balancing this weekend Tim Doody of The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] forwarded this I-Witness Video item to me on on Saturday, when I only read it very quickly. It seemed so fantastical that I wanted to check out the story before I repeated it, but no one I talked to outside of the RHA this weekend seemed to have heard anything about it. Actually of course, I should never have had any doubts about it since the byline is that of Eileen Clancy, the video activist who was instrumental, along with many others, in exposing the lies and political arbitrariness of the NYPD arrest sweeps and citizen lockdowns during the RNC.

This is only an excerpt, from a story which only gets more interesting in a public transcript included in the remainder of the full text:

Saturday, 23 Jun 2007

by Eileen Clancy

Through the spring and summer months, the New York City Police Department has continued its campaign to shut down, suppress and contain political demonstrations, often in a completely unreasonable, ill-informed and even insulting manner. Recently, the Police Department has outright refused or stalled permits for events organized by the African Diaspora Education Society, Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered, the PrideFest and the Audre Lorde Project's Trans Day of Action.

Yet, even as many groups scramble to assemble pro-bono teams of attorneys to fight for permission to hold events, the NYPD has secretly issued a parade permit to the largest annual unauthorized political gathering on a Manhattan street, the 15th annual New York City Dyke March. Later today, tens of thousands of lesbians and their supporters will sally forth onto Fifth Avenue in a parade of lesbian visibility without knowing that their display has received the seal of government approval.

That's right, unrequested by and unbeknownst to the organizers, the NYPD has granted legally permitted status to the Dyke March and has done so for years.

How do we know this? Because Assistant Chief Thomas Graham, the commander of the Disorder Control Unit and the NYPD's expert on managing political demonstrations, says so in sworn testimony.

When I first read this story I felt like I was having a through-the-looking-glass moment. Then I got really mad. For years an alert and dedicated citizenry has been working very hard, putting their energy, time, jobs and money on the line, to exercise Constitutional rights which the police and their political allies refuse to recognize, but all along the constabulary has been justifying their occasional and apparently random passivity internally, and protecting their own rights and freedom of movement, by officially granting permits not requested.

It's incredibly patronizing, of course, but much more is going on here. Nothing may better illustrate the arbitrariness of police power in New York City, where not only does the NYPD make law on its own, but it can [appear to] violate those laws whenever it so chooses.

[image from Nicole Marti's Flckr page]

scene early today at the support truck bike for an "unpermitted" march RHA/Queer Justice League contingent

[more tomorrow]

the view from the parlor today

It's not the pedestrian street we had in mind.

We awakened this morning to the sweet refrain of amplified hawkers of corporately-manufactured goods, and the stench of greasy food. Yes it's another so-called "neighborhood street fair" in Chelsea. We get at least half a dozen each year below our windows and on the blocks radiating from the intersection one hundred feet to the west.

The city authorities seem to love these things; the neighborhoods don't. These regular floods of open stalls have absolutely nothing to do with the people or small businesses whose apartments and storefronts they engulf: New Yorkers really don't knit tubesocks in home workshops and we don't shuck corn on our fire escapes.

My real point in writing this is to point out the hypocrisy of a multi-ethnic City like this one continuing to permit these abominations, which corrupt the concept of a genuine neighborhood fair, while at the same time refusing to permit the queer community to hold their Pride Festival tomorrow, which happens only once a year, in the very queer (okay, mostly only "gay") community of Chelsea.

The content of that last paragraph comes from Barry, who made the deliciously-derisive juxtaposition immediately after I told him what I had seen outside our front windows.

One of our sources tell us that tonight's Trans March was phenomenal!

Donald Grove commented on Bloggy's post about the Audre Lord Project's experience trying to secure a permit for a transgender march tonight. This is the text of this queer supporter's brief report:

I just finished the Trans March, and I am a bit too footsore to do the Drag
March. But I am thrilled to say that the Trans March was very VERY big. I
would guess around 500 people. Lots of trans folks with a strong mix of
gender non-conforming and queer support. It was excellent!

We got to march in the street most of the way, which was smart, because the
march was so big. But we were preceded almost the entire way by a paddy
wagon, with smiling cops holding their bundles of plastic handcuffs. I
suppose they could make some screwy stupid statement about protecting the
march from bashers, but who would buy that? They were their with the paddy
wagon first because they wanted to send a message to that uppity Audre
Lorde Project for taking them to court.

Well screw the cops! The march was huge, and all the police accomplished
was to look puffy, pasty and pointless in the company of so many awesome,
sexy, spirited gender-self-defining folks, both young and old, of many

I wasn't there, but I have to add my own wee commnent:
This has got to stop! A happy group of peaceful marchers who have been brutalized by the police for millenia were forced to accept the deliberately-confrontational imposition of an NYPD police wagon, together with its armed and restraint-laden crew, as their very visible "grand marshal" when they chose to parade through their own neighborhoods.

Were there police snipers on the roof, like during the Puerto Rico Day Parade? I'm also surprised that our guardians of public order don't seem to have swept up spectators who were wearing their pink or lavender gang colors.


While we're on the subject of marches and marshals, does anyone else find it problematic, if no longer surprising, that both of the grand marshals in the really big queer march on Sunday, Sharon Kleinbaum and Troy Perry, are members of the clergy?

[image of NYC police at the 2004 RNC from Theoria via Daily Kos]

ACT UP demonstration for access to clean needles, seventeen years ago

After yesterday's post, which was totally connected to current political activism, I'm going to turn back and examine what the territory looked like in the 80's and 90's.

Although many of us are still busy working on some of the very same issues which engaged New York activists, writers, artists, and residents in the previous two decades, it would make no sense at all if we were to ignore a radical activist history which can still inform what we do today.

On Tuesday, June 26, the New York Book Club at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Gotham Center for New York City History at CUNY are hosting a panel discussion in the Museum. Called "Resistance: A Radical History of the Lower East Side", the event's participants will be Jay Blotcher, Al Orensanz and Michael Rosen. The moderator will be Clayton Patterson.

I think all of these people (with very interesting but quite different backgrounds in the same neighborhood) are contributors to a new book with the same title, a collection of writings and images. Okay, it sounds like it's also a book signing, but on Tuesday it seems both oral and written history will be shared with those who stop by.

I know Jay well, originally through ACT UP, where he directed media relations, but in addition to his AIDS activism he has also worked as a collage artist, documentary filmmaker, journalist and publicist. If he's involved in something like this, it's likely to be at least worth a detour.

The address is 108 Orchard Street, near Delancey, and the time is from 6 to 8 pm.

[image from the film "Clean Needles Save Lives: Drug Users Doing It For Ourselves" via Creative Time]


balcony left

balcony center

and balcony right

Tonight The Radical Homosexual Agenda struck once again, dramatically zapping Chris Quinn deep inside City Hall during her presentation at the the "Celebration of LGBT Pride" hosted annually by the City Council Speaker.

Why did these homosexuals interrupt the homosexual Speaker while she was addressing her core homosexual constituency in this historic room, the Council Chamber on the second floor of our two-hundred-year-old seat of government? Because Quinn was the civilian agent for a secretly-negotiated agreement (there were no public hearings) with the NYPD which gives the police full authority to restrict public assembly and public speech (if more than 49 people get together anywhere, under any circumstances, they are all subject to arrest - unless they have applied to the police for a permit ahead of time and have received the department's approval). This policy was never submitted to the Council for consideration; no statute supports this agreement and practice; it is the creation of the Speaker herself.

Why did they do so in the midst of what was planned as a celebration of LGBT accomplishments and not incidentally also an evening honoring Quinn's personal and political success? Because she has made herself inaccessible to those who have sought to meet with her on this issue.

Is she the only proper target for those outraged by the permit rule? Certainly not, but she is at once the one with the greatest power to do something about this abomination and, because of a background which included street activism, the one who should have been the least likely politician to endorse it in the first place.

Incidentally, the parade permit "law" which Quinn has approved trusts the police to do the right thing, even in our clear memory of the appalling history of the department so often demonstrating the contrary and continuing to do so up to the present moment. It's a record which screams to the powerless and to all minorities of the danger and absurdity of such misplaced faith. Tonight even the Speaker herself couldn't prevent the police protection assigned to the her own hosted reception from ousting in front of her eyes the guests who wanted to address her on this issue, and this was after she had said they should be allowed to speak.

I think it's important to note that in her remarks after they were removed from the balcony she did not deny that the so-called "Parade Laws" were very much her doing, her own policy, and she has said as much when she has been asked about them before. She is the right target.

After her critics had been summarily removed from the Chambers, Quinn told the remaining invitees that she was willing to meet with anyone who disagreed with her on the question of Police rules for assembly. For the record, I have been assured several times by those who know groups that have tried to engage her that she has repeatedly refused to do this in the past.

The fundamental issue remains that in New York City the NYPD totally controls what we used to call the Constitutional (First Amendment) right of assembly and speech, and our first woman, first lesbian, and first [former] activist Council Speaker thinks that's just fine.

As usual, Barry was able to cut through all the muck with a comment which defines the issue perfectly: "This development, along with what we have seen happening over at least the last six years, seems to make it clear that New York has given up even on the principle of civilian control of the police."



I was stunned when I first heard about the "settlement" of the Brooklyn College MFA students' cases against the City of New York, the NYC Parks Department and Brooklyn College, cases which had cited First Amendment violations and property damages. I haven't even been able to bring myself to write about it until now, more than ten days later.

The eighteen students whose Master of Fine Arts thesis show was summarily shut down on May 4, 2006 by a Parks official, had their work removed from the gallery and damaged by their own College shortly thereafter.

After a full year of spent filing complex suits and presenting arguments, including negotiations between the students' lawyers and lawyers representing New York City the entire affair has ended with something like a squeak or a whimper.

The students (and one professor) each received $750 from the City, and the head of the Brooklyn Parks Department, the self-appointed public censor, issued a written statement which some have described as an "apology". Neither Brooklyn College itself nor any official connected with the school has had to do anything. In fact no one has lost her or his position in the City or the College. Oh yes, the settlement also required the City to pay the fees of the students' lawyers the amount of $42,500.

The students had decided not to file a separate suit against Brooklyn College after being told that they would have to secure other lawyers, and after being persuaded that a suit against the school which asked for compensation for the physical damage to their art works would have been ugly. In any event they weren't interested as a group in the cost and distraction of pursuing any further suit; they also don't appear to have ever regarded their case as simply a matter of compensation for material damages.

Of course it was never about money, so it seems to me that makes the piddling $750 figure ridiculous on the face of it.

I'm concerned about the fact that there really is no apology in the Parks chief's statement (it's more like the familiar "if anyone was offended . . ."), and that no institution has had to admit error, no official has been sacked, and none has fallen on his or her sword.

No principle has been upheld except that of the authority of the authorities.

Oh, yes, the "apology", issued on city of New York Parks & Recreation letterhead, reads as follows:

Statement of defendant Julius Spiegel, Brooklyn Borough commissioner of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, in connection with the Settlement of Cohen, et. al. v. City of New York, et. al., 06-cv-2975 (CBA) (SMG).

"While I had no role in the removal and subsequent damage to Plaintiffs' artwork by others, I acknowledge my responsibility for ordering the closing of the Plaintiffs' art exhibit at the Brooklyn War Memorial, and for thereby setting in motion actions that led to the damage of Plaintiffs' artwork, which a reviewing court might find constituted a violation of the student-exhibitors' First amendment rights. Whatever the outcome in court might have been, I apologize to the Brooklyn College art students who spent long hours and considerable effort in creating their artwork and in mounting their exhibition at the Brooklyn Memorial site."
Now I know I wasn't one of the victims in this case (except in the sense we are all victims of censorship and the violation of intellectual and artistic property), and I wasn't privy to the discussions which preceded the announced settlement, but I mourn what has happened, or what has not happened, and I want to make a very few more general observations:
  • A city which thinks of itself as cultured and sophisticated doesn't let its functionaries shut down art exhibitions because of personal hang-ups about their nasty bits.
  • No art school is worthy of the name if it fails to defend its students' rights of expression and in fact callously destroys the creative work they produce in its shelter.
  • Constant artists, and constant art institutions, artists and institutions with real integrity, do no look the other way when their colleagues or those they serve are attacked or humiliated for their art.*

Of the entire local and national arts community, aside from some good words from a few bloggers, these students received written or vocal support only from their own College faculty, the CUNY faculty, the College Art Association and the President of the School of Visual Arts. The Brooklyn Museum was approached directly, because of its own struggle with censorship (when it had received an enormous amount of outside support), and its reply was something to the effect that the institution would no longer be getting involved in anything of this sort.

[image from timesonline]


Are any of our grasping, dissembling politicians even thinking about it?

[image, otherwise unattributed, via salvationinc]


And waiting.

[image, otherwise unattributed, via salvationinc]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from June 2007.

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