Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Republicans are here...

and the question on every red-blooded New York girl's mind is: What to do?

Corie provides links to many events, so I'm not going to re-invent the wheel. She also has beautiful pictures of last night's Critical Mass, in which thousands of people rode bicycles through the streets to promote transportation alternatives and protest the Bush administration. It ended with about 100 arrests, although most of the bicyclists rode in a peaceful and orderly fashion. My friend P. rode and called me this morning to warn me that the police were pretty, um, aggressive at that event, in his opinion, so I should be careful at any events I attend. My friend W. missed a Fringe Festival play waiting to cross the street while Critical Mass rode by, but she wasn't bitter; she said the energy was amazing and that it inspired her to see such an upswelling of political action from the community.

I attempted to volunteer for the Kerry campaign here in New York this past week, but due to my lack of email access and changes in their process for volunteering, it didn't happen.

This morning, I met three friends for brunch in Brooklyn and then marched across the Brooklyn Bridge along with several thousand others in the New York March for Women's Lives. It wasn't as high-energy as April's march in Washington, D.C., but it was still a good experience and a great way to take action. I like these marches because the issue is very important to me, the marches are extremely well-organized and peaceful, and the message is clear. I am not so wild about larger, less-focused protests; I'm worried about the possibility of violence and I think that lack of focus often undermines the effectiveness of the message. The funny thing about New York City is that an event that would be huge in most cities can take place while people only a few blocks away go about their lives without noticing. As I walked uptown from City Hall, leaving the rally, I walked through Chinatown and SoHo. Thousands of people there blissfully went on shopping for lychee fruit, dried squid, trinkets, and fashionable clothing while we marched and chanted and rallied. And we're used to a crowd; I think Chinatown was actually more densely packed with shoppers than the Bridge was with marchers! I don't have any photographs because I was filming it as a favor for a friend.

Tomorrow, I will possibly go take a look at the large and controversial march and rally planned by United for Peace and Justice. The consensus among most people I know is that we want to see it, but don't necessarily want to find ourselves in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by police officers and metal crowd-control barricades. I am not normally a conspiracy-theorist, but I don't find the idea completely ridiculous that conservatives/Republicans/Bush supporters/someone might send people to the protest specifically to stir up trouble and discredit the protest movement. Add that to the mere presence of thousands and thousands of people in a small area, hundreds or thousands of police officers, a high level of general tension and holding-of-breath, the existence of small groups of protesters who do not want a peaceful march or at least are not particularly attached to the idea, and the controversy between protesters and the city and within protest groups over the location of the rally... well, anything could happen. Including a perfectly peaceful, uneventful, effective political action!

I might attend the panel of political bloggers speaking at PS 122 that takes place at 7 pm on Tuesday, August 31st as part of the Imagine Festival. I will definitely be at St. Mark's Church on September 1st at 8 pm for DEMO: A Demonstration in Words Featuring 20 poets. Grace Paley will be there - she's a poet, essayist, and has been working for peace and human rights for longer than I have been alive.

I hope to see you New York readers out there standing up for what you believe in!


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