Looks like anti-war activists will get to be within shouting distance of President Bush when he delivers his “freedom agenda” before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Just yesterday the NYPD was refusing to grant United for Peace and Justice a permit to march from Herald Square to the traditional protest spot at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza opposite the U.N., telling Agence France-Presse that a march near the U.N. was “an absolute impossibility when the president’s in town.”
But after UFPJ declared it was prepared to risk arrests, the NYPD agreed to allow Bush opponents to march there on the sidewalk, though police say they will open a traffic lane if the crowd size warrants it.
“We’re delighted they’ve come to their senses and realize of course we have the right to march,” crowed UFPJ’s Leslie Cagan, who expects many hundreds if not thousands to turn out.
The NYPD’s chief spokesperson Paul J. Browne insisted the go-ahead did not amount to any sort of “reversal” by police. “That’s absurd,” Browne responded in an e-mail. “I said to anyone who asked me yesterday that the NYPD was still willing to try to accommodate UFPJ.” Browne said the NYPD’s objection had never been about limiting the group’s right to protest Bush at the U.N. Rather he said there were concerns that UFPJ’s requested route across 42nd Street would gum up traffic and security for the president’s and the other heads of state’s motorcades.
Fair enough, but these permit battles sure amount to great publicity for UFPJ.
Under the new agreement, UFPJ and fellow Bush foes will gather at 9 a.m. at Sixth Avenue and 37th Street, then march north to 47th Street and across town to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 47th between Second and First avenues, for a rally from 11 to noon.
“George W. Bush should not think he can come to an antiwar city like New York without hearing from opponents of his war,” declared activist David Dubnau of Northern Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice in a press statement. “For five years the Bush Administration and its allies have used ‘security’ as an excuse to wage illegitimate wars and curtail basic democratic rights—all the while making us less secure.”