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WEF: 36 Arrested, But Protests Remain Peaceful

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  • Clore Daniel C
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo February 3, 2002 The New York Times PROTESTS 36 Are Arrested, but Demonstrations Remain
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2002
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      News for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      February 3, 2002

      The New York Times

      PROTESTS

      36 Are Arrested, but Demonstrations Remain Peaceful

      by DAN BARRY

      It turned out to be a beautiful day for protest yesterday,
      with a little something for everybody. Peaceful
      demonstrations, catchy slogans, colorful placards, plenty of
      police officers — and even a few arrests.

      Yesterday was the ballyhooed day when thousands of
      anarchists, socialists and just plain-old regular folks came
      to New York to rally against the World Economic Forum, which
      has brought 2,700 government leaders and corporate
      executives to the Waldorf-Astoria for the express purpose of
      "improving the state of the world." Adding to the mix were
      thousands of police officers assigned to keep the peace,
      along with untold numbers of federal law enforcement
      officials and armed bodyguards.

      By early evening, an estimated 7,000 protesters had engaged
      in a loud but peaceful rally within earshot of the Waldorf
      on Park Avenue, and then disbanded. By that point, police
      officials said, at least 38 people had been arrested, on
      charges of disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly and
      reckless endangerment, and three officers had been injured.

      "So far, so good," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said
      last night, although he added that other challenges
      remained. Some 2,000 guests of the economic forum were to be
      bused under heavy guard last night for a dinner at the New
      York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan. In addition, two
      more protests are planned for today and another on Monday.

      People intent on protesting had been trickling into the city
      for days, with a few joining some early demonstrations
      against the five-day forum, which convened on Thursday. But
      organizers have always maintained that yesterday would be
      the marquee day for peaceful protest, although they have not
      denied that outbreaks of unlawful behavior were possible,
      from civil disobedience to the kind of property destruction
      that has marred other protests against economic conferences.

      Yesterday morning, as guests of the forum — at least those
      who did not linger at any of the exclusive parties on Friday
      night — arose to choose from a breakfast buffet of panel
      discussions, their critics began to assemble outside. So did
      hundreds of police officers; for every protester's placard,
      there seemed to be an officer's helmet.

      Then, at 9:50, two young men were hauled away on charges
      that they had tried to block traffic by sitting on Park
      Avenue, across from the Waldorf. Although charges were
      dropped against one of the suspects, the incident seemed to
      serve as the starter's pistol for the day's events: Super
      Saturday had officially begun.

      As the sun rose above the tall buildings along the East
      Side, a few hundred protesters limbered up in the
      barricadelike pens outside the Waldorf. Tambourines chimed,
      cowbells rang, chants started.

      "Money for jobs!" shouted a man on the back of a black Ford
      pickup truck, his hoarse voice amplified by speakers. "Not
      for war!" responded the protesters — at least those who had
      not taped their mouths shut as a silent gesture of dissent.
      Meanwhile, hundreds of police officers stood on street
      corners or sat in vans, sipping coffee, waiting. There was
      nothing leisurely about that wait, as evidenced by the
      phalanx of 17 officers on horseback, directly across Park
      Avenue from the Waldorf.

      At the same time, on 59th Street along the southern rim of
      Central Park, hundreds of other demonstrators had gathered
      in two spots: on the West Side, near Columbus Circle, and at
      the corner of Fifth Avenue, across from the Plaza Hotel.
      Police officers on bicycles darted in and out of the crowd,
      while dozens of others stood in clusters, watching the back-
      and-forth flow of young people carrying sharply worded
      signs.

      "We're joking that their tactic must be to push us off the
      sidewalk," said Jeff Bale, 30, of a group called
      Mobilization for Global Justice.

      Why had the protesters come? Mary Libby, 25, who said she
      worked with the homeless in Michigan, explained that she was
      "trying to reclaim the streets and our lives." Everything is
      upside down, she said, when corporate executives hire Elton
      John to perform at a private party at the Four Seasons, an
      event that took place Friday night.

      She objected to paying Elton John a substantial fee to
      perform for an hour or two "when that money could be used to
      feed the homeless right outside the building they're in."

      For a while, the scene felt more like a giddy political
      bazaar than the staging area for imminent ideological
      conflict. It was a minifestival of dissent, with colorful
      puppets and placards bobbing in the air, drums beating out a
      catchy beat and people handing out leaflets that decried
      capitalism in general and the forum in particular. Even some
      in the blue arc of police officers around the scene allowed
      a few smiles.

      The intense preparation by the Police Department may have
      allowed for a relaxed smile or two from its ranks. As late
      as yesterday morning, police officials were meeting with
      Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to go over last-minute details,
      and Commissioner Kelly was planning to monitor the scene in
      a helicopter.

      From above, he might have seen general cooperation between
      those in blue and those who were not. At noon, Police Chief
      Allan H. Hoehl and other officials huddled with several
      lawyers for the rally; they looked like two sets of coaches
      wishing each other well before a game.

      Ronald L. Kuby, one of the lawyers, later said that the two
      sides were ironing out minor details, like whether speakers
      could stand on the pedestal of a statue of Gen. William
      Tecumseh Sherman. They were allowed to stand on the first
      step. "We compromised," he said.

      By 1:15 p.m., most of the protesters who had assembled at
      Columbus Circle had joined the others in front of the Plaza,
      and together they began a somewhat circuitous march toward
      the Waldorf, where hundreds of other demonstrators were
      continuing to chant and poke the sky with their placards.

      Near the front of the parade were several women dressed as
      the Statue of Liberty, draped in silver and carrying
      papier-mâché torches. At one point, people hoisted two of
      the women above the crowd, in classic cheerleader formation,
      bringing a chorus of approval. The women in silver also
      delighted the crowd by forming a chorus line and singing
      "New York, New York."

      Along the parade route, protesters stopped to photograph
      officers standing guard outside a Starbucks cafe, and
      occasionally shouted out to the people on the sidewalk,
      "This is more fun than shopping."

      And at East 51st Street and Lexington Avenue, the parade
      passed a small counterdemonstration, in which people waved
      signs that said, "The Police Are Great, It's Terrorists We
      Hate," and "Seek Therapy."

      But the day had its share of tension, of clashes between
      protester and police officer. Three people were arrested and
      charged with disorderly conduct at Columbus Circle; four at
      47th and Lexington; two others at 52nd and Broadway.

      The most dramatic moment, however, came at 1:30 p.m., when
      police officers waded into the tail end of the parade, at
      59th Street and Fifth Avenue, and arrested 27 people on
      charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct. Mr.
      Kelly said that the police had received information that
      this group — which included people who he said were carrying
      plastic shields and masks — "were about to attack the
      police."

      Debra Sweet, a spokeswoman for an activist organization
      called Refuse and Resist, said last night that the
      circumstances of the arrests were unclear. But, she said,
      "from reports we have, the police seemed to be extracting
      particular people, especially people wearing masks."

      After the arrests, a few lawyers and legal assistants stood
      alongside a large Department of Correction bus containing
      some of the arrested, and tried to get their names. One
      young woman mouthed her first name: "L-A-U-R-A."

      Another young man in custody shouted, "I think it's
      imperative to report that we did not do anything illegal."
      Then the bus pulled away.

      At Grand Central Terminal, a group of about 200 protesters
      entered the station just after 7 p.m. and were surrounded by
      dozens of uniformed police officers, many of them from the
      Metropolitan Transportation Authority. A number wore white
      visored helmets and heavy vests, carried riot sticks, and
      had gas masks and plastic handcuffs strapped to their belts.
      Two police dogs appeared.

      The protesters clapped, sang and beat on drums, and were
      then surrounded by the police. After a period of tension,
      the protesters sat down on the floor of the terminal, but
      neither side made a hostile move and the air of
      confrontation gradually dissipated. Eventually, the
      demonstrators wound up gathered in small groups in the
      terminal, chatting or eating, as the police stood and
      watched, chatting among themselves.

      --
      Dan Clore
      mailto:clore@...

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