Anti-Bush Park Protesters
Cheeky, Not Violent Say Cops
First there was pre-emptive war; now there’s pre-emptive policing. And it was on display around 3 p.m. on Aug. 29 at the 86th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station. That’s where an NYPD Critical Response Team, consisting of eight police officers and one sergeant, set up shop. Their mission was to catch the eye of anti-war protesters on their way to Central Park with anarchy on their mind.
“We were to be highly visible to prevent any disorderly group on their way to Central Park, since they were estimating such a huge crowd,” explained one of the cops assigned to the unit.
As it turned out, the officers had no need for their “hats and bats”-police parlance for riot gear-which remained stowed in their van: The protesters were orderly, and some even elderly. “They were coming off the train, asking us directions to the Great Lawn and which way Central Park was, so I guess the majority of them were not from the city,” the cop said.
She added that many were wearing costumes, some of them rather provocative. “I don’t understand what the purpose was, but they were wearing ass cheeks on their asses,” the officer said. “Now I know what people do upstate when they retire.”
She said that while the protesters weren’t throwing Molotov cocktails, they didn’t try to hug the cops, either. “They didn’t walk by and tell me to have a nice day,” she said. “A lot of them had obscene signs. A lot of them were vulgar: ‘My Bush smells like shit.’ I don’t think you can put that down.”
The officer said that it never occurred to her to ask the demonstrators to explain the symbolism behind their anally themed outfits. “I don’t entertain assholes,” she explained, apparently no pun intended.
Divide and Conquer
Another cop who’s been manning the barricades during convention week had a rather novel and counterintuitive theory for maintaining the peace: the more protests there are, the better it is for public safety.
“A lot of these people show up at the same events,” he explained. “So hopefully, if there’s a lot of them”-meaning protests-”fewer will show up at each one. They spread themselves thin.”
The officer continued: “You start recognizing people you saw at a different event. A lot of them, that’s what they do-we go to work; they go to a demonstration.” He was thinking in particular of a Yippie demo held at 79th Street and Fifth Avenue on Aug. 22. “They were annoying but peaceful. They’ve been doing that for 40 years, some of these people. They’re professionals. They smoke pot and protest.”
G.O.P. at the Zoo
A lone demonstrator showed up to protest an AT&T-sponsored reception for delegates at the Central Park Zoo Monday evening. The protester, a musician who declined to give his name, was exhausted from hours of beating his drum at Sunday’s anti-war rally downtown. Nonetheless, he had enough bile left to give it to the Republicans as they arrived for the party. “I tried to dig deep to summon up my Olympic protesting skills,” he explained.
“ALL RIGHT!” he shouted as delegates arrived, their color-coded credentials flapping in the breeze. “NOTHING LIKE A COMPASSIONATE WARMONGER TO BRIGHTEN YOUR DAY.”
He held up a coffee-stained cardboard sign that bore much the same sentiment. He said he just happened to be walking by when he got wind of the party, plucked the cardboard from the garbage and penned his protest. The coffee stain came with the sign.
“Unfortunately, it would have been nice if they had thrown some coffee at me,” he said, before getting back to his yelling: “ALL RIGHT! NOTHING LIKE A BUNCH OF HOMOPHOBES TO COVER THE BIGGEST QUEER FACTORY IN THE NATION!
“They think I’m the first of many,” he added, nodding in the direction of the zoo entrance where a half-dozen or so cops and plainclothes security agents kept a wary eye on him. “They said, ‘Go over there and wait for your buddies to show up.’”
And sure enough, a few minutes later, one did-two if you count his companion, who crashed on a nearby bench, seemingly comatose in a bright blue T-shirt that read “Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War.”
“He’s here in silent protest,” demonstrator No. 2 said of his prone buddy.
“Youracisthomophobes!” the musician shouted, clearly energized by the swelling of his ranks. “You got another protester here!”
Public opinion, at least in the form of traffic on Fifth Avenue, seemed about evenly divided between the protesters and the visiting Republicans. Several cars honked their horns in support of the demonstrators, but one cabby lowered his window and shouted, “You asshole!” And a couple of passengers wearing cowboy hats in a second cab-apparently delegates on their way to a different corporate-sponsored event-gave the protesters the finger, suggesting the Republicans are already starting to feel at home in the Big Apple.
The musician remained unfazed, even incorporating the Republicans tactics into his routine. “GO AHEAD, FLIP THEM THE BIRD!” he shouted at tourists sitting atop a passing double-decker New York Sightseeing bus. “YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!”
None heeded his call.
Ralph Gardner can be reached at RGard135@aol.com.