NEW YORK—After meeting with George W. Bush yesterday to plead for funds for wartime security, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters in Washington that New Yorkers are “fully behind the president.”
But the streets and polls here tell a different story.
On Wednesday evening, nearly 1000 people gathered for an “emergency protest” near Times Square, and many thousands more are expected to rally there at 5 p.m. today to voice their outrage at the launch of a US-led invasion of Iraq.
Faced with “Operation Atlas,” the NYPD’s plan to “blanket” the city with security forces, organizers with United for Peace and Justice
(www.unitedforpeace.org) are encouraging people to join one of several feeder marches that will converge on Times Square from all sides. The thinking is that by banding together, people are less likely to be turned away from an area that is already under heavy surveillance for potential terrorist threats.
The following groups will gather at these locations Thursday, between 4 and 4:30 p.m., then march to Times Square:
* Columbus Circle (59th Street & Broadway): Reclaim the Streets, Mobilize-NY, and students will assemble at 4:30 pm for a spirited “carnival bloc.”
* Carnegie Hall (57th Street & 7th Avenue): Peace Williamsburg and R.U. for Peace
* Main post office (34th Street & 8th Avenue): New Yorkers Say No to War
* Bryant Park (42nd Street & 6th Avenue): The War Resisters League
* New York Public Library (42nd Street & 5th Avenue): Jews Against the Occupation and Free Palestine Contingent
For Brooklyn residents, there will be a rally at 6 p.m. at Borough Hall, organized by Brooklyn Parents for Peace (www.brooklynpeace.org).
Although the protest in Times Square has no permit, police officials said Wednesday there were no plans to prevent people from assembling. “As long as they’re orderly and not obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic, there’s no reason for us to stop anybody,” Detective Dennis Laffin told the Voice. “If there’s a threat in the immediate area, of course we will shut it down. But there are no threats for the area at this time.”
Still, there’s talk among some activists of roving traffic blockades. Members of one group say they plan to roam the streets in their underwear. Frustrated after months of marching peacefully, even mild-mannered New Yorkers are looking to turn up the heat. “We have to escalate the protest and bring more people out and shut down the stock exchange,” offered novelist Rick Whitaker of the Upper West Side, as he listened to speakers from the hard-left group International ANSWER rail about Bush’s “drive for empire.”
Bigger disruptions are planned in San Francisco, where activists have called for a day of nonviolent direct actions targeting major intersections and government and corporate offices (www.actagainstwar.org). Activists also predict widespread unrest in Europe, where mass demonstrations are planned for the weekend.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, New York City congressmen Charles Rangel and Major Owens, and nine City Council members say they’ll join the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who will parade down Broadway from 42nd Street to Washington Square on Saturday.
Organizers with United for Peace and Justice (www.unitedforpeace.org) say turnout for that event, billed as a local happening, could far exceed initial expectations. “Our Web site is crashing, our phones are ringing off the hook, and leaflets are going out in union halls and churches across the city,” says outreach coordinator Judith LeBlanc. “People are very concerned, and they want to be part of a massive group that can send a message to Washington that we want peace.”
In New York, marchers will begin assembling at 11:30 a.m. between 36th and 41st Streets. While police have agreed not to pen people behind barricades, access to Broadway will be blocked north of 42nd Street, so participants are encouraged to enter along the side streets between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.
Uptown for Peace and Justice (www.uptownpj.org), a coalition of high school and college students, is holding a 10 a.m. warm-up rally on the steps of the Harlem State Office at 125th Street and 7th Avenue, featuring the rap group Dead Prez.
And this Friday, Theater Artists Against War is launching a performance marathon from midnight to noon at HERE Arts Center (145 Sixth Avenue) and continuing every night “until war ends.”
Performers this weekend include Broadway actress Ellen McLaughlin, playwright Charles Mee, Jr., and the International WOW Company, but folks are encouraged to bring their own poems, songs, and antiwar statements to share.
“This is a filibuster of the arts against war,” says theater director
Josh Fox. “This is an open center for continuous expression. It’s also a place for people to go, so you don’t have to sit home alone watching the war on television.”