Report from New York City
February 16, 2003
. . . I was also really pleased to be demonstrating with several
hundred thousand folks in NYC yesterday and to arrive home at 4:30 PM to find that I was really a part of an international 8-million strong protest in 300+ cities! We were apparently the only city that was refused a marching permit in an attempt to squelch the march, so even if we didn't have the numbers of Rome or Madrid (BBC estimated both of those cities at1million each!), we were undoubtedly undercounted. Refusing a marching permit to the citizens of NYC has great ironies, no? Especially since the attack on 9/11 here is so frequently invoked as a rationale for war by those determined to seize a "window of opportunity" to settle old scores and remake the world.
Since they didn't deter the protest, the policy tried another tactic. They forced us into one-block-long-holding pens. xxxx and I were packed into a pen on an East 60th Street thick with bodies from 2nd Avenue to 3rd Avenue. We were first herded with bullhorns up 3rd Avenue as we walked to the rally site on 1st . Then we were told we must turn onto 60th Street or be arrested. We were unaware at the time that a police barricade had been set up at 2nd and 60th, so that we would never be allowed to cross 2nd Avenue to get to 1st where we held a permit to rally. When we were packed like sardines onto 60th, the police then put up another cordon on 3rd and kept us penned in for an hour or so, only letting people out the way they had come in on 3rd. Then the routine started againówe were pushed up 3rd Avenue to 66th, forced to turn right on 66th, etc. This was naturally intended to make us give up and go home. I confronted one cordon of police about what this was intended to do. A policeman said it was intended to disperse us. I then asked him if this was because the authorities did not want to permit anyone to easily estimate the extent of the opposition in NYC and he said, "I cannot confirm or deny that."
When we finally did give up late in the day of ever making it to 1st Avenue and the rally, we met many others on the subway whose stories were identical, and we managed to put together a patchwork of stories which demonstrated that simultaneous holding pens packed with perhaps ten thousand people each (the distance between the avenues is wider in NYC than the distance between the blocks) were used to keep people away from the rally site.
So much for the fiction that the authorities were truly worried about some heightened terrorist attack, as the judge pronounced when she denied our marching permit. If they had been worried about attacks, would they have been so venal to create penned-in-targets of tens of thousands of people?
But I trust San Francisco's march will fare better. Good luck!
This anonymous report was written after an unsuccessful attempt to reach the official site of the peace rally in New York City on Saturday, February 15, 2003.