Tuesday, September 07, 2004

"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

Just got this from a friend who verified it was true and accurate:

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble..."

From: Sherry at Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus

Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2004 8:50 PM

Subject: Update from New York City


Sorry we haven't been up-to-date with our up-dates, but thanks to George Bush and Mayor Bloomberg, we've been in jail!

Here's what happened: We'd joined a march organized by War Resisters League, Schools of the Americas, Pax Christi, Veterans for Peace and

others. The event was framed with this statement:

Our aim is to confront the administration with the death and suffering for which they are responsible: more than 10,000 Iraiqs and Afghanis, as many as 1,000 Americans killed, thousands more wounded and scarred for life, as well as the economic victims of Bush policies - the unemployed, the uninsured, the undereducated. The Republicans have chosen to hold their convention in New York City to link George Bush and "Ground Zero". Bush's policies have created "ground zeros" of death and suffering throughout the world and we hold him accountable for that."

Organizers asked people to gather at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Church and Fulton Streets (just in front of Ground Zero). The plan was to march from Ground Zero up Broadway to Union Square and finally to Madison Square Garden where a "die-in" would be dramatized to honor the fallen.

We arrived early to distribute Progressive Democrats of America fliers to the crowd as they gathered. An estimated 1-2,000 people had assembled. After a brief negotiation between organizers and police, a police officer clearly in charge of the event (whose badge read "Shea") announced to the marchers over a megaphone that the march could begin. He cautioned marchers to:

1.. Obey all traffic lights

2.. Walk 2 X 2

3.. Stay close to the fence and keep the sidewalk clear

As we were told to do, we waited for the traffic light to change before crossing Church Street to begin marching East on Fulton. As we began to walk along the south side of St. Pauls's Church, we walked 2 X 2 and stayed as close to St. Paul's wrought iron fence as we could. When 100-200 had moved onto Fulton Street sidewalk, the march was halted by police at the front forcing marchers to spill into the whole sidewalk. The police (who numbered almost as many as the protesters) immediately closed off and circled the marchers contained on the sidewalk. We couldn't move. We couldn't back up or leave. We heard no warning and were not allowed disperse. We were enclosed by an orange net fencing and were told that we were being arrested.

At about 4:15 p.m., police began rounding us up, handcuffing us and putting us onto buses to be taken away. We then began being told that we were not "arrested" but merely "detained".

What followed was a 24-hour ordeal of being moved from a temporary holding facility and eventually to central booking. We were continuously moved from cell to cell - chained to each other in chain-gang fashion. Conditions were deplorable. The cells were overcrowded and filthy and the food was not edible.

As more and more people were brought into jail, we learned that similar sweeps had taken place across Manhattan. People were picked up at Union Square, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the Library, and various other locations. It was a planned sweep to interrupt and shut down growing nonviolent protests to the Republican National Convention.

Such is the "America" that George Bush has brought us to.

We do want to acknowledge that the rank and file police were overwhelmingly in support of us but seem to feel forced to satisfy the top brass to keep their jobs and feed their families. During our incarceration, we heard these comments from police:

One police officer looked us in the eye and sadly said, "I'm so sorry."

Another said: "You don't think that any of us want to be doing this, do you?"

Another officer told us during the wee hours of the morning, that "We're doing this to keep the rich Republicans happy."

Another officer reminded us that: "When you're feeling down and discouraged, remember why you're here and what you came to do."

And my favorite story. When a young 17-year-old woman began to cry as she was being fingerprinted, the officer finger printing her gently said to her: "Remember your cause and keep your mind on why you came hereand on what you came to do. Remember all of those people who came before you and did just what you did tonight for something they believed in".

But the issue is much bigger than whether or not the police were with us or against us. whether you're a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, a Libertarian or a Green. whether you're pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. whether you're pro-life or pro-choice. whether you're progressive or conservative. These are all diversionary divisive issues that are taking our focus from the real threat.

The real threat is to the very survival of our Democracy and our right to free speech and to dissent granted to us through the First Amendment to the Constitution!

If we don't wake up soon, people, it will be too late! Our Democracy is under siege and we must all have the courage to take a stand in its defense.

As one of our favorite sayings goes... "If you're not yet outraged, you're not paying attention!"

We'll report tomorrow on actions and events going on in the city. Plans were being made for a massive assembly around Madison Square Garden on the night that Bush accepts the nomination. We'll see if the current Republican Party power base is able to shut it down.

Sherry and Thom Bohlen reporting from New York City

September 1, 2004


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