I went up to Central Park yesterday for one last reporting on its size and sturdiness for any rally, but lightning suddenly turned the sky orange, and low to the ground, too, and then the heavy thunder-rain drove me out of the place. The rain was the entire story anyway. By the time it got through soaking these acres and acres of green, the great lawns were as strong as railroad tracks.
All the more reason that the mayor, “Stay Off the Grass Bloomberg,” looks sillier by the half-hour.
There is going to be a demonstration of people against Bush and the war on the day before the Republican National Convention opens in Madison Square Garden. They are liable to draw any number, 250,000 and up. Unless you are living on Crazy Street, the demonstration should go past the Garden and straight up Seventh Avenue to Central Park. There, a crowd of any size you want can celebrate and do it safely, and with no inconvenience to the city.
Bloomberg doesn’t want it. He wants the demonstration to make a turn on 34th Street and go over to the West Side Highway, then go all the way down to the Sunday bleakness of Chambers Street. I am giving this step-by-step not to bore you; rather it is certification of government insanity. On Chambers Street, they can have a rally with the kind of speeches you always hear at rallies like this.
Speakers are the worst group of beggars and bindle stiffs and cheap stutterers. Their words die in the air in front of them. Never in all modern demonstrations have speeches been listened to by the crowds or noted in the news accounts. The only thing that matters is the size of the crowd. Please do not bring up the Martin Luther King speech in Washington. It cannot be classified with anything heard in our time.
A rally in Central Park without speakers or microphones is the way to hold the day without the slightest chance of turmoil.
The demonstration leaders have changed their minds about the West Side Highway and now want to go into Central Park. The Parks Commissioner just turned them down again with one paragraph. The guy comes out of a known liberal family and he battles against freedom of speech. Why did he turn them down?
He was told by the police commissioner and mayor, both of whom are acting as errand boys for the Republican National Committee. The Republicans want demonstrators to rally on Chambers Street, near the former World Trade Center site, in order to say, “Look! At the place where people died, they demonstrate against our troops.”
The mayor can’t continue to say, with no sane reason, that demonstrators cannot use the park they own. In 1968, Mayor Daley of Chicago wouldn’t let a couple of thousand demonstrators sleep in the park at night. Then he caused a police riot. Here in New York, if you attempt to block huge throngs, it must place the city at risk for disturbances, all over and not just in Manhattan. The demonstrators make up the most law-abiding, solid group of people, many older, you can find. In turning back marchers, a couple will get through if only by people squeezing them on both sides and popping them through. Once there is a hole in the wall of cops, here comes everybody. Any police grabbing a couple of old women with peace signs will be on news cameras, and now it gets more unruly.
While practically everybody is guarding Republicans, in the rest of the city store windows are at least vulnerable. This is not to point at our populace. In peaceful, lovely Iowa, you had bank robbers rush in where police just left to guard the candidates.
See how it can be with New York common sense. In the City of New York in the year 1982, there was a large nuclear disarmament demonstration. The crowd was going to be huge, everybody knew that. The Parks Commissioner, Gordon Davis, said they would ruin the park. He denied the permit. Then Ed Koch, the mayor, grew nervous when his people told him the crowd could be anything, a million. “Put them in Central Park,” Koch ordered. “They’ll be safe there.”
He was right. The crowd was a million and more. There were a couple of arrests, four or five, no more, for cheap misdemeanors. The day after the rally, the parks commissioner looked at Central Park and said it was neater than his son’s bedroom at home.
The director of that rally was Leslie Cagan, who is running the demonstration this time with undiminished skill.
The mayor and police commissioner have ruled that at any gathering in the park, no amplifiers can be used by speakers.
So you can’t have a permit for a rally because you can’t have speeches over loudspeakers. Rather than stop a rally, it is the point that allows it. Of course there shouldn’t be amplifiers at any rally, for there should be no speeches. As noted, they are dreadful and delivered by vile people. A straight-line march past Madison Square Garden and on to Central Park, where people can congratulate themselves and smile and sing, would be a lovely afternoon, made so meaningful by the size of a crowd whose orderliness, and love, would make the Republicans coming in, these mean whites from low-IQ states, look ill.