Near Media Blackout on Massive Civil Disobedience in NYC

September 2nd, 2004 - by admin

Stephen Bartlett / Agricultural Missions / Oakland Institute – 2004-09-02 23:20:23

(September 1, 2004 ) — On the morning channel 7 television news here in New York City a total of five seconds was devoted to the direct actions and the 950+ arrests that occurred during yesterday’s August 31 Action Coalition day of non-violent civil disobedience.

The five-second spot featured an image of protesters being handcuffed and the words “nearly 1,000 arrested yesterday at protests here in NY.” In contrast, the fashion choices and inanities of the Bush twins during their speech got about ten minutes of coverage.

There is a kind of twilight zone in the corporate media concerning the protests, the motives and identity of the protesters, the police response to the protests, and the conditions of those arrested, some of whom are being held in large pens in an asbestos and chemical-ridden and condemned bus park on Pier 57.

While California Governor Arnold Schwarznegger was under the lights at Madison Square Garden extolling the so-called ‘American Dream,’ baiting ‘girlie-men’ and telling democrats they are really republicans, police were busy orchestrating often pre-emptive and sweeping arrests of protesters and passers-by alike at a myriad of locations around the city, from Wall Street, to Union Square, to Herald Square next to the Convention Center, as far north as 125th St. and Martin Luther King where protesters tailed in the subway from downtown were arrested for wearing bandanas on their faces.

Veteran activist Medea Benjamin, inside the RNC as Scharznegger was speaking and only 20 feet from Vice President Dick Cheney and Rudolph Giuliani and their wives, unfurled a banner that said: “Pro-Life: Stop the Killing in Iraq.”

When secret service agents approached her and then seized her, she managed to shout over and over: “Dick Cheney, Stop the killing in Iraq! Dick Cheney, how much money did you make on the war today?!” She was carried head first down a flight of stairs, put in a paddy wagon, questioned, then released shortly after.

Unprecedented Mass Actions
What occurred yesterday throughout lower and midtown Manhattan was unprecedented in terms of the scale and diversity of direct actions focused on the Bush agenda in places like Iraq and Colombia, on Rupert Murdoch’s FOX channel distortions and partisan propaganda, and on the transnational corporations, military-industrial and otherwise, who are perceived to be pulling the strings of US government actions and policy for profit and privilege.

The A31 Action Coalition had called for decentralized acts of civil disobedience and had distributed lists of the locations of the headquarters of war profiteers, government offices and media outlets, including the notorious FOX news network. Affinity groups made autonomous plans, some of which were communicated to other groups as they were taking place, again through text messaging.

A major action took place in a solemn march from Ground Zero headed up towards Madison Square Garden. An estimated 3,000 people, many dressed in white began to walk on the sidewalk two by two, headed uptown.

They had not gone far when police moved in and arrested some 200, whose only infraction was that they were the lead edge of a very large contingent of protesters, and the police had manpower on hand to pick them up. The large contingent regrouped afterwards and, relying on information on police positions sent by text messages to cell phones, were able to take alternative routes and eventually reach their goal miles later. Once they arrived there, however, before the mass die-in could happen, police again moved in and arrested an additional 50 protesters.

The ‘Shut-up-a-Thon’
A massive ‘Shut-Up-A-Thon’ was staged at the offices of the FOX news service by Code Pink at 48th and 6th Avenue, and thousands participated, including Robert Greenwald, director of the documentary “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.”

The talk radio program ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ was a focus of condemnation, with a recorded loop of O’Reilly’s voice saying “Shut up. Shut up!” to the son of a victim of 9/11 who would not buckle under his disrespectful interview style.

Despite the presence of thousands there, police allowed the protest to continue for some time.

Thousands of protesters amassed at Herald Square, where re-enactments of the tortures of Abu Ghraib were undertaken, capturing the attention of the media present. Also, Republican party delegates were delayed by these crowds from reaching the convention center. An interview by MSNBC at an outdoor studio was similarly interrupted by protesters.

Attempts to close down areas of Wall Street by other affinity groups led to a dozen arrests. The ‘Internal Noise Brigade’ playing at Union Square attempted to lead a march out of the park but did not make it a block before police divided the crowd in sections, and about 100 caught in the middle were all arrested.

Mopeds, plastic nets and metal barriers were used for these divide and arrest operations. Several bystanders were swept up in this dragnet, including at least two women who were interviewed on a cell phone smuggled into the temporary jail at Pier 57 some 13 hours later.

They described horrendous jail conditions that appeared to represent a disdain for the lives and health of the detainees. They had not been charged, had not been permitted a phone call, had waited four hours even for water or to use a toilet, and were left exposed to the night’s cold. Given these conditions, some had dubbed this improvised and unhealthy prison ‘Guantanamo-On-The-Hudson.’

I am writing this report after attending a large labor union rally at Madison Square Garden late afternoon on Wednesday, Sept. 1 and while listening to live speeches being made at rallies downtown that are soon to move to FOX news service office once again.

Tom Morelo sang militant union songs at the labor rally, and Danny Glover gave an impassioned speech about the fight we must wage as workers, the backbone of America, and continue to wage after November 2 to “take back our country.” The major slogan of the rally was “Push Bush out of the Door in Two Thousand and Four.”

The city is in a constant state of upheaval. Later this evening a party thrown by Coca Cola for Hispanic delegates to the RNC at the Copacobana will be met by a ‘Cacerolazo’ or Argentinian style protest of pots and pans being beat. (This is appropriate since Agricultural Missions just held a public preview of a documentary film about the Argentinian struggle for alternatives to the economy by the rich called “Hope in Hard Times”, a film that the producers attended with us here at the Interchurch Center.)

I will attempt to be present at the corporate Coke party that highlights the killings of union activists in Coca Cola plants in Colombia. This protest is sponsored by CISPES, the NYC Referendum on Free Trade, VOTE!, Ring Out and Killer Coke.

The marathon of protests and police repression continues in the city that never sleeps. Please pray for everyone in NYC to enjoy endurance, for calm under stress and for the peace that passes understanding.

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