Elephants in Our Living Room

Ignorance is not an option—here's a guide to get you primed for the convention

A stampede of elephants is about to invade Manhattan. So are hundreds of thousands of protesters, who'd like nothing more than to jab a few thorns in those gargantuan feet. But whether you're a pachyderm or a mouse, you'll need a place to stay, a way to get around, and in case you get trampled, some help getting out from underfoot. We've compiled some important phone numbers and insider tips so you can get the most out of this historic week.


Emergency

It's not all black and white when the ladies of Code Pink protest.
photo: Shiho Fukada
It's not all black and white when the ladies of Code Pink protest.

Call 911 for a fire, medical, or criminal emergency.

Another good local number is 311, the city's information hotline, which can be used to report potholes and noise violations, but during the convention will be programmed to provide information on street closings, bus and subway route changes, and cultural events and restaurants.

Other important numbers:

CRIME VICTIMS HOTLINE: 212-577-7777

PHYSICIANS ON CALL (doctors who come to your hotel; not for emergencies): 718-238-2100

REPORTING POLICE MALFEASANCE: 212-442-8833


Transportation

Check the MTA website for subway maps (mta.info/nyct/maps/submap.htm) and for individual line schedules (mta.info/nyct/service/schemain.htm). As of press time there are no expected schedule or route changes during the convention, but just to be sure, call the MTA hotline at 718-330-1234 for updates.

TAXIS are convenient but can be costly, especially since March's fare increase. The meter now starts at $2.50 and charges 40 cents for each one-fifth of a mile (or for every two minutes of sitting in traffic). There are also surcharges at night (50 cents between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.) and during rush hour ($1 between 4 and 8 p.m. on weekdays). The costs of cabs into Manhattan from New York area airports can vary, depending on the time of day and traffic, but should you be arriving at JFK there is a flat fare of $45.

Forgo car and train rides altogether by renting a bike. Urban warriors willing to brave Manhattan's busy streets can rent one for about $25 to $40 a day, depending on the shop. CHELSEA BICYCLES (156 West 26th Street, 212-727-7278) and CITY BICYCLES (315 West 38th Street, 212-563-3373) are both close to the convention venue, but for a full list of rental shops check bikenewyork.org.

Other modes of transportation are easily accessible. The LONG ISLAND RAILROAD can get you to an area beach or JFK; check its website at mta.info/lirr. Seafarers can catch WATER TAXIS (nywatertaxi.com, 212-742-1969), which stop at six different landings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, or FERRIES that travel between Manhattan and the other four boroughs or New Jersey. For more information, ferry phone numbers, and route details visit nyc.gov/html/dot/html/masstran/ferries/ferintro.html.

Looking for a cheap and easy way to get home from the convention? Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., residents can take one of the Chinatown-to-Chinatown bus services. Contact FUNG WAH BUS (fungwahbus.com), SUNSHINE TRAVEL (sunshineboston.com/bustours/nyc), or LUCKYSTAR BUS (luckystarbus.com) for northbound rides and DRAGON EXPRESSWAY (ivymedia.com/todaysbus) or NEW CENTURY TRAVEL (2000coach.com) for southbound ones.


Legal help

Protesting at the RNC but want to stay out of trouble? The NEW YORK CITY PEOPLE'S LAW COLLECTIVE, a radical advocacy group that provides legal support, training, and education to activists, has compiled some helpful information on your rights as a protester on its website nycplc.mahost.org/KYR.htm. Also, the NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION is running protest training throughout August at its Civil Liberties Storefront (520 Eighth Avenue) as part of its campaign to ensure safe and legal protesting during the convention. See rncprotestrights.org for details.

Suppose you are already in trouble, though. What should you do if you or one of your friends is arrested? How do you find a lawyer and bail bondsman?

In preparation for the tens of thousands of expected protesters, the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild has coordinated its efforts to provide RNC MASS DEFENSE legal support, along with the People's Law Collective, the NYCLU, the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. They are setting up a hotline (212-679-6018) and recruiting pro bono and low bono lawyers to represent arrested protesters. The lawyers of RNC Mass Defense will also help obtain permits for protests, provide legal observers to monitor protests, and offer a "Know Your Rights" training.

Most bail bondsmen in Manhattan are downtown, close to the courts and city jail. For a full list of local bail bondsmen check thecityofnewyorkcity.com/bailbond, but your best bet in an emergency is to call 800-BAIL-YES, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Another important number to have is that of CENTRAL BOOKING (212-374-3916; 212-374-3921; 212-374-3942), so you can find friends who have been arrested and determine when their arraignment will be. More details of what to do when someone you know has been arrested are included on the New York People's Law Collective website.


Up-to-date websites

Of the hundreds of organizations that are planning some kind of protest during the RNC, 175 of them are registered with COUNTERCONVENTION.ORG, making it the website to check for events during the convention week. It has a detailed calendar that features over 10 pages of anti-RNC activities over the five-day convention, and more are sure to be added in the coming days.

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