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|September 11 and After|
|South Asia Politics|
The Feb. 1-3 protests against the meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel were seen as test of whether the anti-globalization movement has survived 9-11. By all accounts, New York was chosen for the WEF (instead of the usual Geneva) because it was perceived that protest--especially violence or property destruction--would by unpopular in a city still recovering from the terrorist attacks. The results of this test were decidedly mixed. Up to 20,000 came out for the protests, and there was comparatively little vandalism or property destruction by protesters. But draconian police control kept the protests effectively contained and isolated.
The first confrontations were on Friday Feb. 1, when 5 were arrested at an impromptu rally at Ave. B and 9th St. on the Lower East Side, outside the site of a community center which had been evicted by the City in Late Dec., Charas/El Bohio. The protest was set upon by police almost immediately, indicating the high degree of surveillance and probable infiltration. Several were beaten by the police, including a 14-yr-old who was bleeding from a head wound for several hours.
Saturday Feb. 2 was the day of biggest protests. The group Reclaim the Streets met at Columbus Circle, on the southwest corner of Central Park, shortly before noon, to hold an un-permitted march on 59th St. to meet up with the permitted "Green March" assembling at the Park's southeast corner. Rather than force a confrontation with the police, the group--resplendent with banners, costumes and giant puppets--marched through the south of the Park instead of taking 59th St. At 59th and 5th Ave., it met up with the legal "Green March," organized by the umbrella group Another World is Possible (AWIP). When the Green March started to leave this assembly point to march towards to the Waldorf-Astoria, police formed a "gauntlet," closing in on the procession on either side and forcing the protesters to pass through a narrow space between tight rows of intimidating riot police. Protesters who were wearing masks or otherwise looked to cops like troublemakers were picked off for arrest--especially the stragglers at the end of the procession.
The convoluted route to the Waldorf--overshooting Park Ave. by 3 blocks and doubling back--was the only one city authorities would allow for the permit. Closely hemmed in by cops for the entire route, confined to one traffic lane, it took the 10-to-20,000 marchers 3 hours to reach the permitted rally point on Park Ave. and 47th St., 2 blocks south of the Waldorf. There, things got worse. Protesters were squeezed into two "pens" behind police barricades along Park Ave. The pens were quickly filled, and thousands of marchers were backed up onto the side-street for 3 bocks. Police threw up barricades at the intersections, making new pens on the blocks. The vast majority of the protesters were effectively trapped blocks away form the Waldorf. Access in and out of the pens was entirely barred by police for hours. Even when the rally ended at around 5 PM, protesters had to line up single-file to leave the Park Ave. pen ten at a time. The pens on the sidestreet were released in a similar manner at 25-minute intervals.
Throughout the day, police on motorcycles, horses, scooters and bicycles nearly outnumbered protesters, as more surveyed the scene from helicopters passing overhead. Police video surveillance was ubiquitous--and since wearing masks was deemed illegal, this effectively meant that being recorded by police video units was the cost of exercising First Amendment rights. Several protesters were singled out and stopped for questioning and photographing by police. This was a probable violation of the 1985 Handschu agreement, which bars police from engaging in video surveillance unless there is a crime underway, or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Several protesters also reported that they had been followed by police over the course of the weekend--one as far as the home where he was staying on Staten Island (Arun Gupta for the NYC Indymedia Center <nyc.indymedia.org>)
"This was the most blatant violation of civil rights New York has seen in a long time," Bill Times Up of the activist group Times Up, a veteran of years of years of street actions in the city, told WW3 REPORT. "Forget about our rights to the street--most of the people were arrested on the sidewalk." But this kind of overkill--unlike the tear gas and club-swinging of Seattle--was safely invisible to TV cameras and the outside world, allowing the press to portray a tolerant new city under Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who recently succeeded the hardline Rudolph Giuliani.
All told there were 40 arrests on Saturday. Instead of being brought to Central Booking ("The Tombs"), as is standard practice, the arrested protestors were brought to the brig at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a decommissioned military base, where they were interviewed by officers from the NYPD Intelligence Division (the "Red Squad"), according to a WW3 REPORT confidential source.
Sun. Feb. 3 saw smaller protests--but 155 arrests. A samba band gathered at noon at 2nd Ave. & 12th St. on Manhattan's Lower East Side for an un-permitted street march-cum-dance party, aimed precisely at protesting the tight police control of the streets. The police shut the march down almost immediately. Many were arrested just watching from the sidewalk. 2 hours of street chases ensued. A couple of hours later, an animal rights demonstration at 2nd Ave. & 60th was also shut down. This was the only action which saw any property damage, as one protester smashed the lobby window of an apartment building where the activists said the CEO of animal testing firm Huntington Life resides. (Sarah Ferguson in the Village Voice, Feb. 12)
Property damage was at an all-time low for the anti-globalization protests, but TV news kept showing footage of windows getting smashed at the Nov. 1999 Seattle protests. TV news also showed police preparing for the protests in exercises at Shea Stadium, with profligate display of batons, guns and helicopters. Activists were also shown preparing with giant street puppets, costumes and banners. Yet reporters only asked activists--not the police--if they intended to be violent.
A few mysteries also surround Saturday's events. The AFL-CIO was mysteriously denied a permit for a march on Saturday (Esther Kaplan in the Village Voice, Feb. 5), while their president John Sweeney attended the Waldorf meeting (NYT, Feb. 1).
While AWIP held their rally just south of the Waldorf, another group, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), held a permitted rally on Park Ave. just north of the Waldorf, at 50th St. The deceptively-named ANSWER is a front for the International Action Center (IAC), which is fronted by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark--the two groups share an address, phone number and leadership, and are, in effect, the same group. The IAC, in turn, is a front for a Stalinist cult known as the Workers World Party (WWP). During the "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnia and Kosovo, IAC/WWP served as the stateside propaganda arm of the Serbian regime, dismissing all accounts of atrocities by the Serb forces as "imperialist propaganda." WWP also favors the cheerless, ritualized, tightly-controlled mode of protest which the anti-globalization movement finally broke out of, and for years monopolized large-scale left protests in the Northeast. The Feb. 2 ANSWER rally was considerably smaller than the simultaneous AWIP rally. But WW3 REPORT asks why ANSWER has not been exposed as a front for the sectarian, genocide-apologist IAC/WWP, and generally repudiated and isolated within the movement. (For more info on IAC/WWP's real agenda, see "The Mysterious Ramsey Clark: Stalinist Dupe or Ruling Class Spook?" by Manny Goldstein in The Shadow, <http://shadow.autono.net/sin001/clark.htm>)
The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail email@example.com
2 Feb 2007
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