Volume 75, Number 16 | September 07 - 13, 2005

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

New Orleans-style funeral march passes by the Washington Square Arch last Sunday, above. Later at Union Square, a student organizer was arrested when the marchers blocked traffic.

New Orleans protest ends in tense standoff

By Jefferson Siegel

A group called World Can’t Wait led a New Orleans-style funeral march through the West Village on Sunday protesting the slow government response to the hurricane crisis in the Gulf states and the Bush administration.

One organizer, a performance artist named Dread Scott, said, “Hundreds of these people are being held in refugee centers. These people are being treated like cargo. This is a crime being committed. We are mourning the massive loss of life and the criminal degradation of people.”

Chanting “Drive out the Bush regime — the world can’t wait,” the about 50 marchers started outside the L.G.B.T. Center on 13th St. and stayed on the sidewalk as they moved down Seventh Ave. But when they reached Greenwich Ave., they moved into the street and stayed there.

At Third St., they stopped while one of the organizers claimed to be speaking to someone in Baton Rouge, La., on her cell phone. “It’s a catastrophic event down here,” the organizer relayed to the crowd. The caller spoke of a man who was locked in his apartment for five days. “They’re not telling the truth about the shootings and the violence. There are bodies everywhere,” the caller was said to have claimed.

The group then marched into Washington Square Park, slowly circling the fountain, a lady playing a trumpet and a man slowly banging on drums as they followed a symbolic coffin with “New Orleans” spelled on the side in duct tape.

After a rally and short speeches, they marched up Broadway, causing traffic congestion. The group chose not to enter Union Square Park, instead blocking traffic at Broadway and 14th St. Several police officers kept asking marchers to move onto the sidewalk for their own safety. Various marchers kept running past the officers as traffic backed up. As more police arrived, small scuffles started breaking out. There was some pushing and shoving on both sides.

One of the marchers, Allen Lang, described as a student organizer of the group, was arrested. As he was being loaded into a Ninth Precinct police car, another particularly vociferous marcher jumped onto the roof of the police car and started jumping up and down and screaming. Before police could pull him off, he jumped off and ran into the crowd.

The atmosphere was tense as police began lining the curb to prevent anyone else from running into traffic. Eventually the marchers walked over to Camp Casey at the top of the plaza steps and made speeches.

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