New York

Morning Report 9/20/05NYPD Blew It: Cindy Unplugged


For crying out loud

Defaced: The Gandhi statue in Union Square

Our homeland security suffered a major blow late yesterday afternoon when New York City cops rushed a podium in historic Union Square and pulled the plug on Cindy Sheehan.

It should be front-page news in this country that a prominent, peaceful protester, speaking to a crowd of 150 people, was silenced not far from a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, but it won’t be. And that’s frightening, because the bulwark of our security as a country is our cherished freedom to speak out.

Here’s how my pesky colleague Sarah Ferguson describes this baleful moment:

The NYPD pulled the plug just as Sheehan was calling on the audience not to lose heart in the fight to end the war in Iraq.

“We get up every morning, and every morning we see this enormous mountain in front of us,” said Sheehan, speaking on behalf of the other parents and family members of fallen soldiers who have taken up the crusade to bring the troops home.

“We can’t go through it, we can’t go under it, so we have to go over it,” she continued, just as the cops rushed the makeshift podium.

Police dragged away Paul Zulkowitz, a.k.a. Zool, an organizer with “Camp Casey NYC,” the small encampment that he and other activists set up a month ago in Union Square in solidarity with Sheehan’s vigil outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. The New York branch existed much to the ire of the city’s Parks Department. … Zulkowitz was arrested for failing to obtain a sound permit — a charge that normally warrants no more than a summons.

Of course, this was a political move by the authorities, whether or not it was planned or timed. The practice of this city in 2005 is to muffle dissent. And Sheehan has galvanized opposition to the war in a way that 500,000 protesters last summer in New York City couldn’t.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg put the NYPD at the full disposal of the Bush regime during the Republican National Convention to squelch protest. And it worked. The presence of half a million protesters has never had less of an impact in this country than that sad scene of Americans penned and herded like cattle — or sheep.

No permit for Monday’s speech in Union Square? Doesn’t make any difference

Did the Bush regime obtain a permit for a rally of war supporters outside the VFW convention in Salt Lake City last month? If you don’t remember that staged scene, when Bush’s handlers took the POTUS and fled Sheehan’s siege of Crawford for the succor of pro-war suckers, see my August 23 item.

Public order wasn’t threatened by that rally in Salt Lake. No permit should have been required, and it wasn’t. Likewise, Sheehan did not need a permit to speak, whether or not the “Camp Casey NYC” had a permit or not. The technicalities of the situation in Union Square do not matter. This is America. It isn’t, say, Uzbekistan, where protesters are not only routinely silenced but are shot.

Oh, I forgot. Bloomberg sat down with Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov in March 2002. The mayor rolled out the red carpet for a despot under whom protesters are boiled to death.

Karimov was even escorted to Ground Zero, where he signed the wall and laid a wreath.

It’s outrageous that Cindy Sheehan can’t command the same leeway, let alone respect, from New York City officials that this dictator got.

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