War: September 2007 Archives

drum corps section

the vanguard

past the Stonewall site

the campaign theme

not as bad as it looks

the curious gather on the sidewalks

We're saying the First Amendment isn't just for the homos.

It was a fabulous party. First, it was safe (no assaults and no arrests), but it was really fun, it was beautiful, it broadcast the issue, and on top of another event earlier this week, it looks like that issue now has real momentum.

Last night's Parade Without A Permit, put together by The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] and its allies, was the second in what is likely to be a continuing series.

Progressing through streets filled with surprised and delighted diners and party goers enjoying the warm evening air of a Saturday in autumn, somewhere between 150 and 200 colorful and energetic activists broadcast the word about City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's support of new NYPD rules restricting free assembly. The group started inside Washington Square Park, accompanied by signs and outrunners with informative pink paper flyers and led by banners and a snappy percussion section. The party wound its way through the West Village, Quinn's own district, for more than two and a half hours before dispersing from Pier 45 at Christopher Street.

Surprisingly the "unpermitted" assembly, was neither broken up nor even seriously provoked by the police. In fact the few uniformed people visible last night performed the kind of martial duties which groups like ACT UP have historically assigned to themselves, halting vehicle traffic for the protest's passage across streets and then, most remarkable of all, letting it take most of the width of Eighth Avenue all the way to 15th Street. At that point the parade turned left and then left again to head back into the Village. The police disappeared at about the same time.

Did the NYPD get the word from Quinn's office to see that nothing untoward would happen to the queers and their friends, or was the Department's low-key handling of the event just part of its historical and notorious pattern of arbitrary enforcement of the law? Also, "good cop" one day, "bad cop" the next, was something we experienced throughout the years of ACT UP's biggest actions. You never knew when you were safe, and you don't today, especially if no one is watching.

One of the most striking images of the evening was presented early on, when the ragtag (I mean that in the very best sense) procession passed the site of Stonewall Inn, where the modern homosexual movement began.

The pictures above and on Flickr and on other sites show the diversity of the protesters, in age, gender, sexuality, race and mobility, one of the most satisfactory elements of a evening of empowerment.

Not only is the First Amendment, and freedom from an arbitrary police force in general, not just for homos, these rights must not be secured only for a queer elite and "decent citizens" of other descriptions. Reflecting today on what was accomplished last night, Andy Podell, a member of RHA, warns:

We have used our position as relatively-privileged queer activists to advocate for freedom of assembly and against police harrassement of queers and activists. At some point our rallying cry of last night, "We don't need a permit", becomes a little easy and self-indulgent. We don't need a permit because at this time a city councilperson doesn't want to fuck with us because we're queer and have connections and it would be bad publicity for her.

Like the well-connected SRLP [Silvia Rivera Law Project], the intervention of Quinn in getting the charges dropped against Wed's night's arrestees does not mean that the NYPD will stop harrassing trans people or people of color or queers. I'd like to see the RHA up the ante in connecting with people who get picked on by Quinn or the NYPD outside of the eye of the queer media (it might not even be queers).

It's probably just a (very minor) fantasy of my own, and it will probably stay that way, but for the next parade I'd love to see a pink and black fife player added to the excellent drum corps: For me it's the original Revolution image, but this second one might just be led by queers - of every description.

I've put more images of the evening on Flickr.

the RHA visits Speaker Quinn at the Stonewall Democratic Club open meeting

Yesterday the junta in Burma invoked a colonial-era section of the nation's criminal code under which the government can use police or military force against any group of people who have not been granted a permit to assemble. The rule's threshold is any assembly of more than five. Burma and the world is once again witness to the open violence with which undemocratic authority will inevitably try to maintain itself. At this hour fourteen people are known to have been killed by soldiers and police.

Back in New York people are starting to make connections. Tim Doody is a member of the Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] and a constituent of Council Member Christine Quinn, who this year promulgated a New York City rule making illegal any "unpermitted" assembly of 50 or more people. Responding to news of Burma's emergency proclamation restricting citizen assembly, or what most of the media is referring to as Burma's "curfew", today Doody asked,

Does Speaker Quinn really believe the difference between a junta and a democracy is 45 people?

Last night members of the RHA attended an open meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club, held in the LGBT Community Center, where Speaker Quinn had been asked to speak. The RHA held up two banners on the sides of the room calling attention to the First Amendment issue of arbitrarily-formulated Parade Rules which will inevitably be arbitrarily enforced. When the Q&A session was closed, and the host had not called on anyone who might have asked the Club's distinguished visitor about the elephant in the room, one of the guests who was not a member of the RHA asked that the question be solicited, adding that it would reflect very badly on the people in the room if the signs displayed so prominently went unexplained.

Quinn now graciously sought out a raised hand and the question came from the floor, 'Would you explain to the constituency in this room your support of and your role in the promulgation of the unconstitutional, so-called Police 'Parade Rules'?"

There was nothing new or revealing in her response, and I myself still honestly have no idea why she got herself into a law-and-order posture so contrary to anything she ever stood for. Her argument remains rather circular and her logic vague or obsfucatory, but in this venue there was no way to carry on a discussion or venture an appeal to reason, something thus far lacking in her defense of the police rules.

She never lost her composure and she even offered to "come back here [the Stonewall Democratic Club or the LGBT Center?] any time" to specifically discuss the issue. There were two real surprises, I think, each possibly suggesting a chink in the blue wall to which she seems to have attached herself. One was the fact that at least twice she said that the assembly rules were "an ongoing conversation", and the other was an interesting throwaway line something to the effect, "If in the future legislation is produced . . . .", suggesting that the Council might still get involved in the issue and hold open public hearings, as it surely ought to.

In the meantime the conversation will continue on the only stage the powerless have available to them: that constructed on free assembly and speech. On Saturday at 7 o'clock, a second "Parade Without A Permit", a joyous party celebrating those fundamental rights, will assemble at the fountain in Washington Square Park and progress through the West Village, the streets of the Speaker's own district.

[the small sign on the right reads, "1st Amendment not for sale"]


The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] logo incorporates the group's Regulation Pink Gasmask«, which has been donned by members since 2006 while they pursue their perilous mission fighting the American mainstream - an environment which they argue, and few would dispute, is presently toxic for queers.

They're back. The RHA loves a parade - for a good cause. Even if they may be more sensitive than some folks about the Lesbian author of the outrage against which they've been protesting, being queers themselves, the RHA has been fighting for all of America on this one.

Five months ago this young, spirited New York civil rights group stepped off from City Hall Park on a sunny afternoon in a colorful un-permitted parade of fellow citizens (both homosexual and otherwise engaged) to protest New York City's new and totally-unconstitutional police rule restricting freedom of assembly and speech. On Saturday, in another "Parade Without a Permit", they take their costumes, props and merry bands, bicycles and carts and strong legs on a more ambitious, a more public tour. This time the neighborhood will be the dense residential and commercial blocks of the West Village, the district represented by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn is the main target of the RHA's anger because of her prominent role in the promulgation, without review, discussion or vote, of draconian rules which cede dangerous arbitrary power to the police.

This hot new band of activists and its growing numbers of allies will together be doing their best to broadcast that Quinn's position as an out queer with a progressive, largely queer constituency on which she has built her career up to now is totally at odds with her position on a principle of law so fundamental to the political life of a free society. The RHA and its friends have other serious complaints about our ambitious Speaker's positions and agenda, but this issue trumps everything else: The right to speak and to demonstrate about any subject is on the line in this city today.

The parade assembles in Washington Square Park at 7 pm this Saturday, September 29, at the edge of the central fountain. The event is absolutely not envisioned as an arrest scenario by any of its organizers, so everyone is encouraged to join the serious merriment.

For more information, see the RHA's new, James Wentzy-built website. I have it on good authority that there will be no speeches on Saturday, so maybe a visit to the site is an even better idea than it would be prior to most demos; everyone should be ready with a good sound bite at these things.

NEWS FLASH: It's just been confirmed that the Stonewall Veterans are going to be a part of this parade, front and center. Now I'm thinking, pink-and-black-draped pedicab chariots conveying our noble ur-rebels through the streets past the sites which were the scenes of their triumphs almost forty years ago. Take that, all you soft, smug folk who ever imagined you could even be the cuttings of the giants who opened the doors you pass through so easily today.

[image from the RHA]


the Realpolitiker's very favorite Tracht

UPDATE: For concerned citizens of the world who might find the information useful, I've learned that Kissinger is expected to speak at the Parade Gala Benefit Banquet scheduled for 7 o'clock tonight, Friday, at the New York Hilton & Towers, 1335 Sixth Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets.

Would somebody please tell the folks behind New York's German American Steuben Parade that having Henry Kissinger as a grand marshal is not cool at all. The kind of war crimes for which this man is wanted by governments in a number countries all over the world may be very American these days, but that doesn't mean any ethnic group should be proud to be associated with their author, even if it has a tenuous relationship with the land of his birth.

I'm an American of unmixed German ancestry going back generations, I've studied U.S. and German history, and I've studied and lived here and in Deutschland, so I might be given some leave to say that I suspect the folks living in what the chairman of Saturday's event calls the "alte Heimat" would not be so thick as some of their cousins over here seem to be. German Germans also generally know their history pretty well - for significant historical and moral reasons.

The big event is scheduled for this Saturday. I have to be in Greenpoint that afternoon, or I'd be there physically to remind him that not all of us have forgotten what he's done. The parade starts at noon, and runs uptown on Fifth Avenue, starting at 63 Street and ending at 86 Street. I'm not sure how these thing work, that is, I don't know where a so-called Grand Marshal might best be spotted, but there is a reviewing stand somewhere along the route of the march.


[David Levine image from The Corsair]


I'm going to end up skimming the features and skipping the "news" pages altogether. Is anybody else noticing this stuff?

It's looking like the NYTimes is out of control. This is the way one of the paper's teasers read on today's print front page:

In Iraq, the report from General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to Congress was viewed favorably because it portrayed the situation accurately [my italics]. While many said they preferred a quick withdrawal of troops, several seemed to accept that sectarian violence would keep American forces in Iraq for some time to come.
Inside the paper, on page A10, the article itself made it clear that the glowing opinion of the account given by the pair Maureen Dowd calls the "Surge Twins" was actually one held by the very few Iraqis the reporter either bothered to or was able to ask (perhaps in telephone interviews):
More than 20 Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities said in interviews across the country that they viewed the report favorably because it ┬Ś or, at least the parts shown on television in Iraq ┬Ś portrayed the situation accurately.
Does this sound like objective reporting? Most readers probably never made it to the tenth page, and so were left [deliberately?] with an impression of this historical encounter that had been created by a totally misleading marketing blurb/preview.

[image of 1888 Puck cartoon from answers.com]


It's the eleventh of September again. Yes, it happens once a year. But I'm not interested in adding to the revanchisme stoked by every mention of the terrible events which occurred in my city six years ago. I am interested in the fact that even if we wanted to we would be unable to read a list of the names of the hundreds of thousands of people we have killed in the name of our own dead (many of whom were from countries other than the U.S.).

Moreover, the continuing shame of our concentration camps at Guantanamo and elsewhere in the world doesn't seem to be worthy of the attention of many who actually do oppose the war in Iraq.

We are letting ourselves be ridden by fools, fanatics, politicians and arms suppliers - and those who profit from the evil mischief done in our name. The killing could stop, the camps could be closed and the terror could be defused, but not if we refuse to look at the world outside - and continue to let others exploit us.

[fabric color swatch, otherwise unrelated to Guantanamo, from froggtoggs]

another site found to be invaluable as a ruin (the Reichstag burning, 1933)

"U.S. builds for future at Guantanamo"

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - The U.S. military is building a mobile courtroom complex on an unused runway at the Guantanamo Bay naval base and plans to be ready by March to conduct as many as three terrorism trials at a time.

I saw this horrific headline and its story early yesterday and I'll confess that my imagination immediately ran out of control. The first thing that came into my head was an association of these traveling units with the Nazi regime's Einsatzgruppen ("task forces"), the official euphemism used for the mobile killing units which followed its armies as they advanced into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during World War II.

I immediately checked the historical facts however and I was reminded that the Wehrmacht's portable units did not even pretend to have a judicial element. Still, the idea of the heroic conquerors of Fascism and Communism creating mobile courtrooms to hand out extra-judicial judgments against a group of people whom we've been concentrating together for years in an inaccessible extra-territorial prison camp drives me absolutely crazy! Don't these political villains and idiots have any sense of what this looks like? Or do they even care?

Of course to be fair to myself in my original call on this Reuters story, it's not as if we haven't been guilty of extra-judicial killing ourselves throughout the entire course of our war in Iraq, and much of it stinks of racism. I don't even have to talk about the crimes committed by frightened young soldiers introduced into an alien land without appropriate numbers or equipment and without a proper mission.

Sometimes we actually boast about our official bloodletting. This is from a July 29, 2003 post on Jurist:

Last week the US military assassinated Uday and Qusai Hussein in a villa in Mosul, Iraq. Hundreds of troops armed with automatic weapons, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, and tow missiles, and dozens of vehicles and aircraft, attacked four people armed with AK-47 automatic rifles. Mustapha, the 14-year old son of Qusai, was also killed in the operation, along with another individual who was apparently a bodyguard.

. . . .

The assassinations prompted chest-thumping and back-slapping all around. Even Senator Ted Kennedy joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair, The New York Times and the Washington Post, in congratulating Bush on the good news.

Except for the distinct difference between their initial senses of judicial urgency, a more appropriate reference for the quickie tribunals we are finally planning to set up in Guantanamo after all this time would be a court we ourselves destroyed sixty years ago: The Nazi Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court") was also set up outside the operations of any constitutional frame of law and the record of its hideous procedures illustrates some of the same perversions of justice. The excuse for the establishment of this Nazi political court was what the government insisted was the danger its sworn enemies posed to the health and security of the population. The Reichstag fire, the destruction of a very visible national symbol, was described as an act of terror, and its partisans were supposedly everywhere.

The "People's Court" dispensed with ordinary juristic procedures and its indictments, its verdicts and its sentences were all determined by political dictate. Our own wheeled Cuban courtrooms will represent an ad hoc legal system that follows neither civilian nor military law, and it is outside the international laws of war established under any number of valid treaties, some in effect for well over a century. We know what it does follow, and that image should frighten us as much as it does its designated targets.

No, I'm not claiming that the contemporary U.S. is Nazi Germany, but at the current rate at which we are giving up our rights and our principles, I have to wonder what it is that we are we going to hold onto in order to be able to distinguish our system from the evil we once recognized in another?

[image from wikimedia]

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from September 2007.

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