Queer: April 2007 Archives




stills captured from video on NYCindymedia site

On Thursday I wrote about a demonstration in which I had participated (put together by The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA], Assemble for Rights NYC, and other groups and individuals), which was directed against Council Speaker Quinn's support of newly-adopted NYPD regulations restricting the right of assembly. I included in that entry a dozen or so still pictures I had taken.

They weren't enough to tell me about the full measure and shape of the violence I witnessed that afternoon. Last night I saw this footage of the Glass Bead Collective and Time's Up! Video Collective documenting the most violent images of Police aggression I've witnessed in almost twenty years of street activism.

Go to this NYC indymedia page and click onto the link under the heading, "Video Footage showing aggressive arrests by NYPD during the peacefull parade". Note that the video is composed of segments from several cameras, so there is more than a single presentation of some scenes.

It was already clear to anyone who hasn't tried to avoid thinking about the quality of civic life in New York that this city's police ranks and leadership are both out of control and a physical and Constitutional threat to its citizens, and not just those seen by "the finest" as "the other", so this footage should not come as a revelation to any of us. But the problem neither begins nor ends with the failures of the uniforms on the street. Our appointed and elected representatives and municipal executives, far from fulfilling their responsibility to police the police, continue to aid and abet their crimes and outrages. Officials are content with a ritual mourning of the dead and arranging photo opportunities with the survivors, visiting the homes and attending the funerals of their prey - while paying tens of millions of dollars of our public treasury in court awards to the growing number of victims of police and government brutality.

Chief of Police Kelly is dead wrong about his so-called "parade rules", the Mayor Bloomberg knows it and the best I can say about the Speaker of the City Council on this issue (she is also my local representative) is that Chris Quinn appears to have a tin ear on First Amendment issues. Our rights and freedoms to speak and assemble are not subject to political negotiation, the convenience of our law enforcement officials (or their macho "control" neuroses), the swift traffic (and free street storage) of private automobiles, or our politicians' ambitions for higher office.

For a long time I lulled myself into thinking I could continue to distinguish between what has been happening in the country at large and what is going down here in the land I call home, but today I realize I can only be thankful that New York doesn't have a foreign policy and weapons of mass destruction.

[images from Glass Bead Collective and Time's Up! Video Collective via NYCindymedia]


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:













related sites:

The Radical Homosexual Agenda

Assemble for Rights NYC

NYC indymedia

Transportation Alternatives


Association of the Bar of the City of New York

Critical Mass

Five Borough Bicycle Club

"keeping control" (wire and flesh, inside a holding pen during the 2004 RNC)

No, Chris, in America the police are not supposed to write the laws and "control" demonstrations.

Yesterday morning on the Brian Lehrer show NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn responded to a question from the host about her support of new NYPD regulations on "parade permitting". The regulations dramatically restrict the public's Constitutional rights of speech and assembly.

The NYPD will now require a permit for any public gathering, or "parade", of 50 people or more. Section 1A of the city ruling defines a parade as "any march, motorcade, caravan, promenade, foot, or bicycle race, or similar event of any kind, procession or race which consists of a recognizable group of 50 or more pedestrians, vehicles, bicycles, or other devices move by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway."

On the Lehrer show Quinn stated emphatically that she believes the new regulations are "fair and appropriate" and "allow people to express their First Amendment rights", but it is clear to anyone concerned with exercising these rights that the police get to decide how and when and with whom they may do it.

I was shocked to hear the Speaker's concluding expression of support for our uniformed enforcers: She stated that the police must have the ability to "keep control of situations" [my emphasis].

I've known Quinn for many years and I have spoken and written highly of her in the past, and I expect to be able to do so in the future, but it is clear to me that on this extremely important issue Quinn is just wrong. She really has "turned her back on civil rights", in the words of The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA], the organizers of a demonstration at City Hall tomorrow afternoon at 4 o'clock.

Of course this is not about queers alone; political activists and alternative transportation advocates have been impacted by NYC police attitudes in the most dramatic manner in recent years, but the issue belongs to everyone who wishes to breathe free. The Council Speaker is an out lesbian with a background of community oranization and a family history of activism who has participated in demonstrations herself; she should know better.

The demonstration is certain to include more than 50 people. Not surprisingly, there will be no permit.

Almost certainly the most important event in New York this week, the "Parade Without a Permit", will take place at City Hall tomorrow, Thursday, at 4 pm.

[images from indymedia, by anonymous, and included in my September 3, 2004 entry]

Hunter Reynolds Patina du Prey's Memorial Dress: 1993 to 2007 [detail of installation]

Spinning, spinning, spinning.

Hunter Reynolds's elegant installation, "Patina du Prey's Memorial Dress: 1993 to 2007", is currently installed in one of the galleries of Artists Space. The performer/artist/activist's elegant, couture, strapless ball gown hangs from a torso mannequin in the SoHo gallery, not-so-slowly spinning on its axis (as it did when so memorably inhabited in the past by its creator himself), accompanied by an ambient piece of music composed for and contributed to the installation by the contemporary composer Edmund Campion.

This is not just another cold tally of the epidemic, but rather a very human, a very personal collection of thousands of memorials, and a rich artistic gesture as well: The names on the dress were initially drawn from the list of names on the AIDS quilt as it existed in 1993, so it embodied the memories of friends and family members. Since then, wherever the dress has appeared the artist has invited visitors to write additional names, also of people lost to the disease and remembered by friends and family members, in an accompanying ledger book.

Is the supply of names running down? No. While the death rate for this epidemic may have slowed or declined in industrial nations during the last ten or fifteen years, at least within the population segments hit first and hit the hardest, the toll for the planet as a whole has skyrocketed. More significant to the specific groups which have seen his installation, when Reynolds's project was begun in 1993 the friends or families of people with AIDS were far less likely to admit they were friends or families of people with AIDS; they were very unlikely to come forward with names to be added to a memorial of any kind. Reynolds confirmed to me on Friday that even in the American and European cities visited by the Memorial Dress, cities where life-sustaining HIV drugs are most generally available, the frequency of the ledger entries continues unchanged. It seems the survivors of a plague whose casualties themselves the world branded odious from the start are still coming out of the closet today.

What can be seen at the gallery this month is the second (1996) realization of Patina du Prey's mangown. The first was the 1963 dress; the current version is constructed of a rich dark (faux-black?) silk fabric covering a fitted bodice and crinoline skirt printed in gold to include thousands of additional names added during the travels of the original. The artist hopes to create a third dress, which will incorporate the four to five thousand new names which have been added to the books in recent years.

This image is of a detail of one page from one of those books:



On Tueday, April 10, between 6:30 and 8 pm at the Artists Space gallery on 38 Greene Street in SoHo, Visual Aids and Artists Space will co-host a panel discussion, "Diamonds and Pearls: Remembrances and Recent Thinking on the Memorial Dress", with Hunter Reynolds, Lia Gangitano, Alexander Gray and Simon Watson, moderated by Benjamin Weil and Amy Sadao.

Following the panel, from 8 until 9, guests are invited to party with Patina du Prey; there will be food and drink. [suggested donation: $5-7].

This page is an archive of entries in the Queer category from April 2007.

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