Volume 73, Number 45 | March 10 -16, 2004

Camping it up for R.N.C.

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

From left, signing their anti-Bush camping permit application at Odessa restaurant on Avenue A on Sunday, John Penley, center, and Aaron Kay, the Yippie Pie Man, right, were joined by Bonnie Tocwish, who helped organize the campout at the last Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

On Sunday at Odessa restaurant on Avenue A, East Village activist John Penley and Aaron Kay, a.k.a. the Yippie Pie Man, filled out their application to the Parks Department for a camping permit for Tompkins Sq. Park or East River Park during the Republican National Convention. The convention is from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, but the permit is for two weeks, from Aug. 27 to Sept. 12. Protesters plan to stick around because President Bush is expected to visit ground zero on Sept. 11.

The name they filed under was “The John Lennon Abbie Hoffman Memorial Camporee,” since their first choice, the Rainbow Family, has an official policy of never putting its name on permit applications.

Penley said they think East River Park would actually be better since it’s farther away from residential areas, so noise would be less of a problem, though residents of the housing developments along the F.D.R. Drive might choose to differ.

Activities listed on the application, which cost $25 to file and which they mailed on Monday, include “weddings, tai chi, poetry, drumming, bongo playing, massage, meetings, cooking, protest planning and camping.”

“You know what kind of weddings we’re going to do. We’re trying to get that guy from New Paltz to come down,” said Penley, referring to New Paltz Mayor Jason West, who has solemnized gay marriages.

“I think we’re doing a service by this,” Penley said. “All the hotels are going to be filled with Republicans, and not everyone will be able to afford a hotel. Especially, with the gay marriage amendment — I just added on another half a million protestors.”

Although protesters have camped out in Central Park at past political conventions, Parks says it doesn’t issue permits after park closing times, generally 1 a.m. Penley has faith they’ll get the permit, though probably at the last minute.


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