New York - Feb. 15, 2003
- by Myshele
The line for the women's bathroom in Grand Central Terminal
was enormous, so I just used the men's room. As I was coming
out, several cops were blocking the door, trying to keep it
a men's only bathroom. Cops blocking things would become the
theme for the day. Out in the main station, every space was
packed with protesters of every size, shape, and color! All
the beautiful signs made me think of gypsies....
Since I was late, I didn't get to meet up with all the Goo
fans -- but I did manage to find my friend Erin, her boyfriend
Chris, and Diane from plasmachannel. As soon as we assembled
our big pink banner, a cop took away the PVC tubes that were
supporting it, claiming they could be used as weapons. This
from a man who was packing live ammunition, among who knows
what other weapons. Eventually, we found some abandoned cardboard
tubes and jury-rigged them to the banner with packing tape
and a little ingenuity. Take that, cops!
From the Library, we walked along 42nd Street, towards the
rally. Through the blockaded streets, we could see the crowds
of people on 2nd Avenue, and could guess at the masses on
1st. We started walking north along 3rd Avenue, confident
that we'd soon get to cross over to the rally. No such luck.
Five blocks, ten, fifteen.... Despite the ban on marches,
the blockaded streets forced us to march down the middle of
3rd Avenue with thousands of other protesters, stopping at
traffic lights. The mood was cautiously joyful, and every
now and then a wave of cheering would wash through the crowd.
Colorful signs and banners were interspersed with giant dove
puppets, streams of bubbles, and angels on stilts. But lest
we forget ourselves and imagine ourselves in a parade, the
police stood grimly watching in packs of twenty or more. We
saw mounted police ride by, and clusters of riot cops staring
out from behind plastic helmets and shields. I decided to
leave my silly string inside my bag.
As luck would have it, we found an opening in the blockade
on a nice residential street around 56th, and we passed through
to 2nd Avenue. It was twice as crowded as 3rd, and the crowds
were moving north. We joined the flow, happy to be nearer
the rally, even if we were going the wrong way. When we reached
71st Street, the police were trying to stop people from crossing
because of the traffic light. While their efforts kept them
in the middle of 2nd Avenue, there was a brief hole in the
blockade, so we slipped through.
We finally reached the rally at 71st and 1st Avenue -- over
two miles away from the stage! 1st Avenue was packed with
people as far as the eye could see. We started moving south,
only to be stopped at 69th Street by yet another police blockade.
The streets going east and west were blocked, and heading
north was not an option. We were trapped, and the crowd was
getting more and more frustrated. Two or three times, the
police opened the barrier for a few seconds and a mad rush
of people crushed against them. Then they closed it again.
Diane made it through to the other side and videotaped the
exchanges. An elderly woman near me politely asked the police
to let her through, she had lost track of her son. She had
to ask several times before they let her through. On our side
of the blockade, people chanted, "Let us through! Let
us through!" On the other side, they chanted, "Let
them through! Let them through!"
This continued for a tense ten or fifteen minutes, during
which time the press of the crowd could have gotten dangerous.
More and more people were spilling in from cross-streets further
north, and the tension was high. Eventually, the police opened
the barrier and we ran through, joyfully. The drummers started
drumming, the dancers (including me!) started dancing, and
everyone chanted "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" It
was a small victory, but an important one.
This scene was repeated several times on our journey south
towards the stage, though less intensely. Overall the crowds
on 1st Avenue were relaxed and energetic. We were entertained
by the GLAMericans for Peace (Baby, *I* am the Bomb!), jugglers,
and a troupe of Picasso puppets (none of Johnny's tattoo,
unfortunately). People came up to us and asked about our banner
-- some who knew the Goos' music, others who wondered "What
the hell is a Goo Goo Doll?" One guy started a conversation
with me about Husker Du, the Ramones, and the Replacements!
So some people DO remember the Goos' good ol' punk days :-)
We didn't get to hear most of the speakers, but we made it
as far south as 48th Street. It was wonderful to connect with
half a million people working towards a common goal, and despite
police provocation, wonderful to see the peaceful world we're
trying to build.
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