Manhattan – It was a massive sea of people on the streets of NYC, on Sunday, August 29th, protesting the Iraq War and the GOP Convention. On 7th Avenue, in particular, under a scorching sun, with the temperature in the low 90s, banners, signs, flags, posters, chanting and parents pushing their infants in strollers dominated. The entire parade lasted for over six hours and the crowd stretched for nearly two miles.
NYC’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried, but failed miserably to intimidate the protesters. They came by the tens of thousands! One guy I met on 7th Ave., an environmentalist, flew into NYC the night before from Olympia, WA to be at the rally. I think he revealed the fantastic spirit that drove this remarkable display of public revulsion at the GOP and the Bush-Cheney Gang’s warmongering.
Over the last few months, Bloomberg had worked to manipulate a confrontation with the demonstrators and scare them off. He was assisted in targeting the peaceful dissenters by NYC’s yellow-sheeted tabloid press. There were so many opportunities over the last few months for Bloomberg to work out a reasonable compromise with the organizers of the demonstration, to allow them to rally in Central Park. Yet, "Mayor Bully" repeatedly stonewalled their requests and waited until the very last moment to offer the Union Square site for the rally instead. He even resorted to mocking the protesters by wrongly insisting that their First Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly were “only privileges” (NY Newsday, "Protest a ‘Privilege,’ Mayor Bloomberg Says," Glenn Thrush, 08/17/04).
A Quinnipiac U. poll published before the rally found that 75 percent of New Yorkers supported a Central Park protest with only 21 percent backing Bloomberg and a ban. In the past, the Mayor, an arrogant multibillionaire, with an ego larger than Donald Trump’s, has acted like Central Park was "his" personal property to be used only as he and his fellow elitists dictated (NY Newsday, Glenn Thrush, “Mayor Wants to Protect ‘His’ Park,” 07/20/ 04).
Bloomberg’s animus towards peaceful antiwar demonstrators was evidenced in two earlier rallies that were held in NYC. The first, that I was a party to, was held on First Avenue, on Feb. 13, 2003. At that rally, Bloomberg restricted the demonstrators to cattle bins. They weren’t allowed to march at all! The second rally of March 20, 2004, centered around Madison Ave., Madison Sq. Park, 23rd St. and 7th Ave. The demonstrators again were placed in cattle bins at the start, on Madison Ave. between 23rd and 34th Street. Only later, when they reached 23rd St. were they allowed to march and then continue northward on 7th Ave.
It was also no accident that a highly inflammatory article ran in the New York Daily News, on 08/26/04, (“Anarchists Hot for Mayhem," Patrick O’Shaughnessy). In the piece, which demonized the protesters, the author, based on the worst kind of hearsay evidence and smear tactics, warned that some individuals supposedly headed to the anti-Iraq War rally were conspiring "to shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge and hurling bricks followed by Molotov cocktails through widows of military recruiting stations…”
As late as Friday, Aug. 27th, NYC police anticipated charging four nonviolent activists with First Degree Assault. It carries a draconian sentence of 25 years in the slammer for each. Why? Because in an act of theater politics they had dared to hang a banner over the swanky Plaza Hotel that mocked George Bush and the GOP. A policeman was unintentionally injured in the incident when he ignored the warning of the activists not to remain on a skylight that was cracked (NY Post, "PLaza Kooks In Trouble."
The NY Daily News is owned by rabid warmonger and media mogul Mortimer B. Zuckerman. He has close ties to Bloomberg. The NY Post is owned by the hawkish Rupert Murdock, who also controls Fox TV. It hosts Iraq War zealots and notorious right wingers, such as: Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Oliver North. Zuckerman and Murdock both feature Neocons in their media organs, like: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol. Bloomberg has reported links to both the Neocons and to Murdock.
Today, when I lined up to march with Irish Freedom activists at 20th Street, near 7th Ave., at around 11 AM, under the banner of "We Serve Neither Bush Nor Mobil," the demonstrators couldn’t have been in a happier mood. I talked with Sandy Boyer, co-producer of the popular "Radio Free Eireann" program, on WBAI, in NYC, and many others. Everyone thought it was going to be a "great afternoon for a rally." Boyer said, "This is incredible! You have people as far as the eye can see. Irish-Americans are here as a contingent, flying the Tricolor Flag, to show that we are strongly against this war."
Although the media had predicted a crowd in the range of 250,000, John McDonagh, one of the leaders of "Cabbies Against Bush," (http://liteupbush.com/), told me on the morning of the rally, "Don’t believe the controlled media." He added, "The crowd today will exceed 500,000." According to the United for Peace & Justice, one of the organizers for the rally, McDonagh was right on the money in his estimate.
The massive event started around noon at 15th St. The parade then moved northward on 7th Avenue past Madison Square Garden, where the GOP convention was to open the next day. It then progressed eastward on 34th Street to 5th Avenue. From there demonstrators marched south on 5th Avenue to 23rd Street, then east to Broadway, and south on Broadway into the Union Square Park area for the rally. This neighborhood is famous in NYC history as one of the leading symbols of the origins of the Labor Movement in America, that dates as "early as 1882"(http:www.mcny.org/Collections/paint/Painting/pttcat69.htm).
Finally, despite all the opposition, scare tactics and demonizing, the rally was a huge success, with no thanks due to NYC’s "Mayor Bully" – Michael Bloomberg!