Last Friday night, huddled together at the corner of 111th street and 5th Avenue in Harlem, a circle of about thirty individuals held hands. Their eyes were closed in prayer. The orange glow of the headlamps formed neon smudges against the black night sky. Two NYPD officers stood nearby, arms crossed, waiting. Opposite a church on the corner of 129th Street and 7th Avenue, a similar crowd looped around a stage, surrounded by blue lights and peace signs painted gold. Some youths lined up to perform raps and songs, which they had written themselves.
This was the last weekend of Occupy the Corners, an initiative created in response to the recent wave of shootings and organized by National Action Network (NAN), a not-for-profit civil rights organization. For the past four weekends, community activists, politicians, church leaders and local civilians have stood in solidarity at the most dangerous corners in New York, watching for any signs of violence.
On Friday, NAN founder and president, Reverend Al Sharpton, joined the campaigners.
“Let our sisters go! Let our sisters go!” about 25 protestors in support of Pussy Riot chanted as they walked east on 91st st. toward the Russian Consulate on the east side of Central Park this morning at 10 a.m.
The Observer was waiting on the otherwise peaceful Upper East Side block as approximately 25 people cloaked in colorful masks and capes marched to the front of the consulate after the announcement of a guilty verdict and 2-year prison sentence being dealt to the feminist rock band. We witnessed the protestors’ songs and arrests at the consulate (six in total, a number confirmed by an NYPD spokesperson), their peaceful march down Madison Avenue and their closing rally in Times Square. See it all in the slideshow.
Last night, on the eve of a verdict that will decide the fate of the incarcerated members of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot, an array of musicians, artists, activists and feminists amassed at the Ace Hotel to hear the words of the imprisoned Maria Alyekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnokova and Yekaterina Samutsevich. Letters from prison, lyrics to their songs and the women’s opening and closing statements from the trial were read aloud by a collaborative force made up of Riot Grrrls, a sexual limit pusher, a poet, an artist, a transgendered avant-garde cabaret singer and one Chloë Sevigny.
The members of the politically motivated group have been in a pre-trial detention center since March after a guerrilla performance inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in which they were only able to execute a 40 second rendition of their song “Our Lady, Chase Putin Out” before getting escorted out by security guards. The women could be facing a three-year prison sentence for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” Pussy Riot adamantly denies any malice to Catholicism; they maintain they were only making an artistic political statement. Over the past month, support for Pussy Riot has poured in from the likes of Madonna, Paul McCartney and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Peaches has released a tribute song, all proceeds will go to the band’s legal fees.
Karen Finley, performance artist and one of the most animated readers of the night gave The Observer her stance on the trial: “There’s a history of the church being a place for prayer but also for speaking one’s mind. Yes, we’re using these larger-than-life statements, but that’s part of the art and the expression.”
As hundreds of union members and their allies remained camped out inside the Wisconsin state capitol building in Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker efforts to end collective bargaining rights for state workers, New York Senator Chuck Schumer has sent out a letter to his supporters expressing solidarity with the demonstrators.
“[Walker] may wish to Read More