I attended the big New York antiwar protest today. Started at the Public Library in a "feeder march" that never made it to the main rally at 49th and 1st Ave. The cops were ready with barricades and equestrians, keeping the enormous crowds moving uptown on the big avenues and not allowing people to move crosstown on the east-west streets. I made it as far as 3rd Ave and 53rd, then heard I would have to walk all the way up to the 70s to cross over to York, and thence downtown to the rally. Word on the street was that the barricade "pens" at 1st and 49th didn't seem very full, because the bulk of the protestors had been kept away from the rally for "crowd control" reasons. To revert to the Sixties lexicon, I can only say "Oink Oink." The spirit of the crowd was very humorous and upbeat despite the obnoxious police presence. Lots of families and well-mannered, creative people think this war is a crappy idea!

A few more photos are here (click on thumbnails to enlarge).

- tom moody 2-16-2003 12:59 am

Great pictures Tom. Thanks.
- jim 2-16-2003 1:58 am

Thanks, Jim!

Here's some more on the protest, estimated by most commentators to be in the 200,000-250,000 range, and by the police to be 100,000 (why do they always do that?), according to the NY Times. This is from the tail end of that article:

The police did not disclose details of their security operation, but did say that 5,000 officers were involved. It was mounted during one of the most intense [bogus?] national security alerts since the attacks of 9/11. In addition to the thousands of uniformed officers in the streets, it included sharp-shooters on rooftops [that's nice to know!], mounted officers, radiation detectors and other hazardous-materials detection and decontamination equipment, bomb-sniffing dogs and plainclothes officers mingling in the crowds [I saw a few of those; one told a kid to get off a stone lion at the Library].

It appeared that the police [who evidently never websurf] had not anticipated such a large crowd. At 1:45 p.m., Chief Joseph J. Esposito, the highest-ranking uniformed officer, ordered the department's highest mobilization, a rare measure that brought 1,000 officers from precincts and other commands around town. The alert was last used in November 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in the Rockaways.

Many of the crowd control techniques (setting up barricades, closing off cross streets, chopping up the rally into micromanageable segments) were perfected under the Giuliani administration--I used to live in Hell's Kitchen and saw the same strategies employed for New Year's Eve revelers. In retrospect I think maybe the rally organizers made a mistake insisting on the UN as the starting point for the march. Originally the endpoint was Central Park, but that got dropped during the lawsuit process, in favor of a court mandated "stationary rally" at 49th and 1st Ave. If the event had been planned for the park the cops couldn't have used the city grid--with its easily closed off choke points--to their advantage. According to bloggy's report on the day's events, they also banned portable toilets--ostensibly for security reasons, but a sure way to get a crowd in bathroom-deprived NYC to disperse relatively quickly. When it was all said and done, people were sold short by their supposed public servants today. Equestrians to control moms with strollers? Snipers on rooftops to pick off what--college professors? C'mon!

- tom moody 2-16-2003 8:59 am

Here's a first person account with a less gloomy spin than mine. He captures the mood of the day nicely. I don't agree that the crowd at any point overwhelmed the police--it was moving slowly mainly because of all the barricaded streets--but it was great to suddenly find yourself in a group of joyful protestors completely packing the streets as far as the eye could see.

More details I remember:

A group of pink-haired women with papier mache missiles strapped to their crotches.

A very old man exhorting the crowd "Vote for Bush and get Four...More...Wars!" over and over.

A woman ripping a Palestinian Solidarity flyer to pieces in front of the person handing them out, yelling "This is anti-Semitic!"

Cops everywhere confiscating signs with sticks. "You can keep the sign, just give me the stick (Granny)." Well-prepared people had their signs mounted on cardboard tubes.

Cop commenting (making fun?) of the beard of the artist I was with when we asked where the nearest accessible cross street was, then giving us bad information about the cross street (he said 55th--it was 63rd).

At the library: "Free signs for lesbians. Are you a lesbian? Free signs for..."

Huge guy in hard hat says "Bunch of commies" to no one in particular and then laughs at his own joke.

Guy with giant papier mache Bush head climbs up on truck, takes off mask, and yells "End the fascist state now!" through a megaphone.
- tom moody 2-16-2003 9:46 am

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