By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
New York City police said Friday that The Village Voice's float was pulled from a Halloween parade because the truck was unsafe. Lieutenant Stephen Biegel said he had few details because in the rush, police had not filled out any paperwork. "They should've written the violations on the drivers," he said, "and then it would have had to go to court."
On Monday, another police spokesperson alleged that the float had an unsafe tire and too many riders, some of whom were throwing things into the crowd, causing people to surge against barricades. "There is a potential for injury," said Captain June Martucci.
Attorneys for the Voice say they are still considering suing the city for what they say could be violations of the paper's civil rights.
The brouhaha began as 20-odd revelers, dressed in their Halloween best, bounced on the float to DJ Steve Travolta's music while a performer dressed as a giant vagina danced around the makeshift stage. The crowd booed as half a dozen cops surrounded the float, about two blocks into the 27th annual Village Halloween Parade route, and began kicking people off.
Voicepromotions director Jen Gapay says cops initially told her the float was overloaded and asked for a few people to get off. Gapay says the riders began to comply, only to have cops kick everyone off and yank the float.
The president of Bond Parade Floats & Displays insists the trailer and relatively new truck were in fine condition. Robert DeVito says they were inspected before the event and should have been able to carry the weight. DeVito says that on the night of the parade, he heard the Voice float had too many people and that they were tossing things into the crowd. He says no one mentioned an inspection of the equipment. "There's not a thing wrong with it," he says.
A videotape of the incident shows that an officer lifted the float's skirt and shined a flashlight underneath for a second. Shortly afterward, the sound system was cut off and chaos ensued. According to some of the riders, a few officers at the parade said they were just following orders. Other cops said the float was "unsafe" because a wheel was supposedly coming off the flatbed truck. One officer told this reporter, "You guys were acting inappropriately." One employee says an officer told her the riders "were all drunk," but then admitted that's just what he'd been told.
Biegel did allow that cops on the scene might have "speculated," adding, "from what I understand, there weren't people drinking on the float."
When Gapay appealed to police at their temporary headquarters on Bleecker Street, the cops there were slow to help, she says, and even jokingly suggested the paper's coverage of the NYPD was to blame for the minimal response. "They said, 'You're from The Village Voice. Why should we help you? You guys are always writing bad things about us.' "
Gapay has another theory for the crackdown. One float performer, Lola Rock 'N' Rolla, was dressed as a vagina for the nationally televised event. "I think it had something to do with the pussy," Gapay says. "I think they didn't want that on TV."
Parade organizers say they were unaware that the float had been yanked until a Voiceemployee told them what had happened. Parade director Jeanne Fleming says police haven't banned a float for many years. This year, three other floats and one car were taken out for safety reasons, police say.
The Voice's troubles continued after its float was tossed. When riders who had been booted attempted to retrieve their belongings, police told them they were holding up the parade and would have to wait until the party ended. The whole affair "felt like an ambush," says DJ Steve Travolta, "or a surprise attack."
"If I was a big dick," suggested Lola Rock 'N' Rolla, "this never would have happened."