As I write this update, hundreds of people are being arrested all over downtown NYC. Why am I now resting confortably in NJ reading Indymedia (www.nyc.indymedia.org
) and yelling a Fox News? Dude, because jail is, in the words of Sarah Norr, the single most boring place on earth. And I don't think getting arrested again will help my job search.
So what did I do at the RNC for the last four days?
SATURDAY: Arrived in NYC and joined Ben at the NYSPC Books Not Bombs event. Lots of teach-ins and meetings. A great vibe at St. Mark's Church. Unfortunately, the teach-ins kinda went nowhere and instead digressed into arguments about whether or not to support Kerry (with, surprise!, a majority of the anti-Kerry sentiment coming from white male splinter-Left people).
Somebody please tell the International Socialist Organization that voting for Nader will not spark The Revolution.
SUNDAY: Woooo! The big-arse United for Peace and Justice march! Half a million people stretched over two miles to protest the Republicans. (Shout out to the B6 Chicks who made an appearance!) While it was extremely hot, and the lines for the bathroom in Barnes and Nobles were extremely long, the crowd maintained high energy with the help of a lot of great music. Sambahots (the Wes-based drumming group) got the crowd jumping prior to the start of the march along with Young Communist League members spitting lyrics. Some creepy weird dude (man, there are soooo many creepy weird, probably harmless, dudes on the Left) tried to convince Sambahots to jump into the march early and tried to convince me to sleep more so I could drum better or something.... We ditched him. =D
Sambahots, while doing its utmost best with small numbers, gladly yielded the spotlight to some truly awesome protest bands including the Rude Mechanical Orchestra (the green band), some awesome anarchist band from Florida/North Carolina (the pink band), and THE INFERNAL NOISE BRIGADE!!! from Seattle (the orange band, www.infernalnoise.org
). I have had a crush on the INB since I saw them in a video from Seattle so I was pretty psyched to see them rawk out. Way to be!
The march got bizarre as smoke rose near Madison Square Garden, the convention site, but it wasn't tear gas. It was a giant dragon puppet bursting into flames. There are still conflicting reports over who lit it on fire...
The march concluded with Sambahots leading the crowd in cheers of "Vote for Jon Stewart!" and "Picnic in Central Park!" which earned smiles from fellow weary protesters. (Hey, it was a long march route. There are only so many times you can chant, "No RNC in NYC!")
We concluded the day in the Park where a couple thousand protesters took off their shoes, stretched out on the grass, and tapped drums in the dreamy sun. Hardly the battle for the Park that was predicted.
MONDAY: Okay, so we *meant* to go to the Still We Rise march, but it was at noon and still we slept. We managed to arrive at 8th and 30th just in time to see the rally end, so we headed off to the UN to join the Poor People's March which, at that point, was still negotiating with the police for its unpermitted march. Permitted or no, the march took off anyway along a compromise route accompanied by the pink band, the Rude Mechanical Orchstra, and a bazillion trillion police.
It started out chill as hell. Police blocked two lanes of traffic for us, and we respected their lines. We turned onto 23rd (i think...) and found tons of sympathetic bystanders who cheered the ragtag march of 2000-3000 people as we marched, surrounded entirely by hundreds of police on foot and bikes. Then, suddenly, someone did *something*, I guess, because riot cops (note that when I get pissed, "police" become "cops") bumrushed the crowd in front of me and started dragging people out. The crowd panicked and started running, and the cops started to react with violent posturing. Face shields went down, long wooden clubs came out, and the situation teetered dangerously on the brink of violent mass arrests. I watched as, not 2 feet from me, cops dragged a stunned protester to a waiting bus, and stood rooted and shocked until the cops starting shoving me and others along, passing me from cop to cop until I got my feet moving while yelling, "Let's go! Continue your walk!"
The situation then de-escalated, thankfully, and returned to normal. More people joined from the sidewalks and the march swelled. A "basketball player against Bush" and an absolutely massive body builder showed their muscle. We had some big-arse allies.
The march turned onto 8th and headed uptown towards the designated protest area where the organizers had been told we would be allowed a half hour rally. Instead, at 29th and 8th, just as I crossed the intersection, police rushed into the crowd again, this time to attempt to seal off the road behind us and pen us into two barricaded areas. Panic and violence ensued, but again, the crowd managed to calm down. I played frisbee with some kids (like you do when in a barricaded protest zone) until we decided that the undercover cop level was getting too high. (I have a rule that says that if I think I might get arrested but still have an out, I think to myself, "If I get arrested here, will I feel like an asshole when I try to explain it to non-actvisty people?" If the answer is "yes", it's time to boogie out of there.) As Sarah Norr says (this is a snorr-tastic blog post), "It's not like the revolution depends on what happens in this intersection."
TUESDAY: We cleaned up Ben's apartment and then headed off to get our Peaceful Protester official buttons. The lady there was infinitely friendly and told us to take lots and give them out. Woot!
Then it was off to the Fox News Shut-Up-A-Thon! As part of a day of unpermitted actions, Code Pink called for people to show up outside the studios of the nation's leading propaganda machine to vent their anger. Even the Infernal Noise Brigade came to rally the crowd! Police initially tried to contain the protest, but they then set up barricades in the street, and the unpermitted protest turned into a chill protest-pen kinda scene. Lots of silliness and goodness. We stayed for a while, gave a few Bronx cheers to O'Reilly, told him to "shut the fox up!", and then headed home. A dang good four days.
Oh wait, I almost forgot, the day got even more awesome, when I saw a delegate from Texas walking around near the Garden sporting a cowgirl hat, an American flag vest (isn't that, like, desecration?), and AWESOME COWGIRL BOOTS!!! featuring a red white and blue stencil of Texas with "Bush04". I tried to say hello, but she and her delegate friends ignored me. A savvy passing New Yorker smiled at me though and said, "That, is what we call, a mess."
Unfortuntely, when I arrived home I found out on Indymedia that many of the other unpermitted actions had ended in mass arrests and pepper spray. Fookin 'ell.
Time to watch the governator's speech......