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Parade Without a Permit!


In 2006, multiple courts ruled the City’s assembly rules unconstitutional, and City Council was charged with fixing them. Instead of conducting public hearings and placing the matter into the hands of City Council, Speaker Quinn abdicated her responsibilities and allowed the NYPD to write these rules behind closed doors.

In February 2007, she rubberstamped the new rules into effect. Suddenly, it became illegal for 50 or more people to gather and process through New York City -- unless they request and are given prior permission from the police.

I've been a political activist since I was young, so I spent a dozen or more years being told that someday I would "grow up" and leave these silly politics behind and also being reminded that no matter how bad it was here we were more free than those living under Communism.

One of the things I was told over and over again that made us free was our right to protest. The right to public assembly was always referred to when people wanted to remind me why I should shut up and be happy I was not living under a more repressive State.

Well folks, that right no longer exists for us in New York City. The police, with an after-the-fact rubber-stamp by our elected officials, have decided to "re-interpret" the law. In the opinion of the NYPD the Constitution does not provide for legal assembly and protest if the State does not approve your protest (which to me seems counter to the very concept of protest -- protests don't get permits, concerts get permits).

Any public gathering of 50 people or more is now a crime here in NYC! This saturday people are getting together to raise their voices about it.

if only they could get a tofu pig...

I saw this today and it made me so happy. Even though I'm not all that into the roasted pig, I'm so glad that John is still up to his old crazy stunts...


Bruce Willis is not being warmly welcomed by the anarchists, Marxists and counter-culture riffraff of the Lower East Side now that he's opened the Bowery Wine Company on East First Street. "We want to show our opposition to right-wing Republicans opening yuppie wine bars in our neighborhood," activist John Penley told Page Six. Penley, who is organizing the August celebration of the 20th anniversary of the riots in Tompkins Square Park, said, "We're getting a pig and we're naming it Bruce." The whole, roasted pig from Chinatown will be served while folk singer David Peel serenades with his anthem, "Die Yuppie Scum!"

How I Mis-spent My Youth, Chapter 2: June 12/14 1982

This is going to be another long post, so as with my earlier story, today the photo comes first


Reagan was visiting Berlin, we were in the streets in NYC:
"Ronald Reagan don't come home, we'll run our country on our own!"

My friend's father who ended up coming along with us looked at me in horror as I joined in the chant. He was not happy with this segment of the demonstration and wanted us to walk faster so we could get to whatever the next group ahead of us was. Maybe if we walked faster we could catch up to the folks we planned on marching with.

It's only now, looking back, that I realize while chanting about Reagan I had ended up in the middle of one of the anarchist sections of the protest -- a place that would later become familiar and comfortable territory to me.

We got to our staging area/starting point really late, the person that was supposed to pick us up in his van totally flaked out on us -- lesson learned, always have a backup plan. Instead of 6 or 7 people I knew from school driving into the City with the crazy guy in the van, it turned out to be me along with one classmate, her sister and father. He drove us to the train station and insisted on coming along to keep an eye on us.

It was June 12th, 1982, at that time it was the largest protest in US history. Over 1 million people gathered during the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament to make our voices heard. Two days later, hundreds of people would be arrested blockading the UN Missions of every nuclear nation in the world, sadly I was not able to make it to the Blockade the Bombmakers event. From what I understand, this was the first in a long history of using more mainstream events to lead into more radical direct action.

We started off much farther back in the crowd than we expected and tried our best to move faster than the group looking for the NFTY delegation (national federation of temple youth, the reform Jewish youth umbrella organization).

As we moved through the crowd, the diversity of organizations built a sense of mass organization.

I'm happy to have been among the crowd; I'm proud that I did my tiny little part of helping to make the event happen. It was the first time I had been around the organizing of a protest. I learned a ton from the people I met who were willing to take a 16-year-old clueless kid seriously.

All I did for the event was make some phone calls and hand out leaflets, but that put me around some really amazing people that changed my life. Sadly I can not remember any of their names. I have no idea who they were, but if it makes any sense I'll never forget them.

During my early activist days, much of my activism and organizing was connected to the Temple Beth David youth group. It was a way of combining what my parents wanted me to do and what I wanted to do. It was a safe place to do political work. If they only knew how much pot and alcohol went along with those youth group meetings.

My first real organizing effort was a campaign to raise money to make the temple's synagogue handicapped accessible. The first stage of that was a system for the hearing impaired. At the time it was cutting edge technology, strange looking headsets that people could put on combined with an infrared transmitter connected to the sound system.

In a way, that was another of my failed attempts to connect with my father. His hearing was bad, damaged during his time in the Air Force in Korea. The Temple Beth David community that he saw every Friday night at services was one of the few places he seemed happy.

In addition to the youth group "activism," I also kept participating in the protests about the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, and often talked with (ranted at?) people during the youth group events about these other events and the politics related to them. One evening, after the weekly youth group meeting while I was sitting on the hood of a friend's car babbling about politics passing a joint around, someone -- my god I wish I could remember who she was, a friend of the assistant youth group adviser maybe? -- came over to me and said "If you ever want to do more than sit around smoking and talking shit, some people I know are organizing some protests this summer."

A week or two later, I called the number she gave me. A few days later I was somewhere in Manhattan (I think it might have been the War Resisters League office on Lafayette) learning my first lessons about how much tedious and boring work is necessary to make serious things happen. I made phone calls, mimeographed copies of leaflets, and got to listen to some amazing conversations. I think that my favorite (and certainly most educational) moments of being an activist are some of the conversations among brilliant people that I've had the chance to be a fly on the wall for (in the mid 90's as part of my job as Art Director for Tikkun Magazine, I'd have the best of these fly on the wall moments, sitting in on a conversation between Manning Marable, Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West).

Those conversations in 1982 introduced me to the writings of Saul Alinsky, Karl Marx, Emma Goldman, Gandhi, King, and Malcolm X. My mind was blown. I started seeing connections between my life and these politics; e.g., my father's union being on strike. I started believing in the potential of revolution, massive social change in America, the power of the people over forces of oppression. Two seeds were planted, one of my determination to make things different and the other would germinate into my future cynical grumpiness.

Both of those are important and playing them off each other has helped me be both idealistic and pragmatic. Demand the impossible, expect to be crushed, enjoy anything in between.