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News ::
NYC Peace Rally Blocked at 62nd Street (english)
17 Feb 2003
A thousand or more demonstrators blocked at 62nd and 2nd were repeatedly blocked from proceeding to the rally by police lines, barricades and mounted police.

NYC Peace Rally Blocked at 62nd Street.

My last visit to NY was November of 2001, when I brought my 13 year old son to see new York for the first time, I wanted to contribute to economy with our tourist dollars after 911 and as well I just wanted my son to see this amazing city. We had a fabulous visit and were treated well by the many New Yorkers we met.

This time I returned with possible war on my mind, and my own remembrances of being draft age during Vietnam. I wanted to say no way to Bush's unbridled aggression. Let me make this clear, I want this fool out of office, the sooner the better. I can see through the lies and propaganda coming out of the Whitehouse and I completely reject their arguments.

However this time the NY hospitality went a bit differently, here is my account.

At 6 AM Feb 15, I took the bus from Alewife station in Cambridge MA into NY for the Peace Rally. We arrived at Shea Stadium and disembarked to the trains, as our huge lines snaked their way into the train station, police manned the gates collecting any wooden sticks or props used on protest signs. They also let us ride in free of charge. I'm sure too much of a logistical problem to collect and pay for tokens.

At Grand Central Station we got out and walked up to street level. It was about Noon, the crowds of protesters were already massive at this point. I wondered how we would ever make it to the rally by staying on the sidewalks. In the crush of marchers pouring in from all directions we marched up 3rd avenue, to a point where one group broke off to the right, and one continued north on 3rd.

I was in the group going further up 3rd and later regretted it. As the marchers moved up the street the crowd of marchers became so huge that it was impossible to stay on the side walks, it was just physically impossible. Nevertheless the police, sometimes assembled in lines began to yell and move us to the sidewalks, the street barriers put up alongside the sidewalk and street, became hazards that people sometimes stumbled or climbed over, some were pushed out of the way, or angled to allow access for marchers to pass around them.

All the while police vans and busses ( I assume potential vehicles to haul away arrested protesters) zoomed up the street alongside us , the traffic began grinding to a halt as the congestion of marchers too numerous to be contained on mere sidewalks spilled off into the street. At about the intersection of 62nd and 3rd Ave. it all came to halt. The police barricaded our movement further up 3rd Ave. and would not let us move down 62nd street to reach 1st Ave where the rally was being held.

At this intersection of 62nd and Third a thousand or more people were locked in and could not move. Chanting began : "Who's Streets" "Our Streets" and "Let Us Through" . This continued for a good half hour as police tried to trim back the perimeter of marchers to the side walks, which was impossible as we filled the intersection.

Then some marchers were able to go through the barriers blocking off 62nd Street, I could not see how this was done from my view but rather than being penned in, decided to move with the crowd towards the Rally on 1st Ave. We walked down 62nd, to 2nd Ave chanting VERY LOUDLY, walking around cars hopelessly gridlocked on the street. One car with a family with young kids in it were blowing us kisses and waving, as we surged around them chanting "NO WAR" , "NO WAY", "STEP BACK" "DONT ATTACK". One elderly woman crossing the street making her way through our spontaneous street march was clearly angry with us saying "Why don't you.... something something, the chanting was too loud to hear her.

At 62nd and 2nd Ave we were again blocked by the barricades and could not go down 62nd any further. This time about a dozen mounted police came up 2nd Ave and began pushing people back towards the sidewalks, yelling at us "Get on the sidewalks!" A physically impossible demand. I was crushed up against several hundred people who were being herded up against the buildings by the physical force of the mounted police. A lot of cursing and angry remarks erupted towards the mounted cops and the crowd began chanting "HOLD YOUR HORSES" and "YOUR BREAKING THE LAW" with angry fingers pointed at them.

I realized that if I stayed here I was likely to be crushed by the crowd or go down under a police horse which was right up against my side, so I looked further down the street and saw an opening to get out. I ditched my signs which were to big to negotiate through the crowd and hung them up on the scaffolding along the street like billboards. As I moved down to 61st I found the barricade unmanned with enough of an opening to get through. This allowed me to walk down 61st to 1st Ave where the Rally was being held inside the "Pens" (More of the same barricades ringing the street, with all of the entrances and exits controlled by the police. I passed one poor guy hauled off to the side by two police who had him down on the ground and handcuffed. He was an older guy with long white hair and he looked pretty distressed.

Once in the Pen, it was very difficult to move out or onto the next block, later on when I left the pen I was denied access back in (4PM). Some poor women, I assume not a protester, just someone trying to get to her apartment was not allowed to go down the sidewalk, she was very distressed and on the verge of tears.

The pens contained huge crowds and their were enormous video displays and speakers broadcasting the event from the main stage. The pen I was in contained a couple hundred people who made there own dance group, dancing , jumping up and down and chanting, it evolved into a lengthy conga line, witnessed by window watchers from the Starbucks on the street-side.

I struck up a conversation with a women in her 50's who had come with a small group of friends and Catholic Sisters from Kansas City, she said they had been doing regular local vigils which grew from under a hundred a people initially, to 700 at the last vigil they held.

I would like to say that there were a lot of young people in this crowd and there were plenty of veteran protesters like myself, the energy was very passionate and I was very glad to be a part of it.

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