Protestors took to the East Village on Sunday afternoon to beat on the walls of the empty Charas Community Center, on 9th Street and Avenue B to demand its reinstatement to the people. In what could have passed for OWS looking for a residence, demonstrators held a traditional rally with a human microphone, music and of course, the drum circle. This time however, they bought their own batons in the hope of “turning the wall into a drum”, which unfortunately for the neighbors they achieved.
Organized online, the meeting started at 12:30 Sunday afternoon with community members taking turns to “speak about what Charas meant to them.” They echoed each other for half an hour, finishing up with a united message: “Give It Back.”
The Observer could see the demonstrations from our window, so we headed down to get a better view. It was a quintessential OWS protest with a one-woman-band, homemade placards and a giant papier-mâché Statue of Liberty whose delicate limbs made it difficult for her to join in the banging.
Charas Comes Home For The Holidays, as it is affectionately being called, is in support of the place that “served as the hub of a thriving movement of low-income, activist, and artist communities on the Lower East Side.”
The event was organized to mark the ten year anniversary of the eviction of the building and according to one protestor was, “a call to Mayor Bloomberg to tear the wall down and let the people in.”AnonOps, the website promoting the protest states that, “Ten years ago this Saturday, the community center was evicted, robbing New York’s left of one of it’s beating hearts.”
As the banging progressively grew louder the New York Police Department became aware of the disruption, dispatching five cars which pulled up only minutes after the drumming began. From then on, they attempted to get the situation under control, resulting in at least three arrests and numerous confrontations. Police at the scene declined to comment on what those arrested were charged with, and as The Observer was leaving one of the arrestees was let out of the car, but remained in handcuffs.
The crowd, who were ushered to the other side of the street, stood on the sidewalk chanting “Viva Charas!” and “Tear it Down!” while officers cleaned up the mess. This was part of a day of protests throughout the city which also saw an Immigrants Occupy! march and a speech from Tania Bruguera in Foley Square.