Volume 73, Number 6 | June 9 - 15, 2004

Gotta have park, say G.O.P. Convention protesters

By Lincoln Anderson

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

Dana Beal, second from right, speaking at R.N.C. protest strategy session on Bleecker St.

Although they’ve encountered setbacks from the city, protesters planning demonstrations during the Republican National Convention are still hoping for access to parks — Central Park and Tompkins Sq. Park or East River Park — for rallies and campouts.

Last month, the Bloomberg administration rejected United for Peace & Justice’s permit application for 250,000 people to use the Great Lawn for a planned Sun., Aug. 29 rally, the day before the four-day convention starts.

Bill Dobbs, United for Peace & Justice’s media coordinator, said they’re not giving up on their initial proposal; they still want to gather in Chelsea between 14th and 23rd Sts. between Seventh and Ninth Aves., then march straight up Eighth Ave. and Central Park W. and into the park at W. 79th St. for a mass rally on the Great Lawn — passing Madison Sq. Garden, the convention site, along the way.

Dobbs told The Villager they rejected an alternate combination march route/rally site offered by the city that would have the protesters gather and rally in the West Village on the West Side Highway south of 14th St. — the protesters would then march up Tenth Ave. to 34th St., east to Eighth Ave., up Eighth Ave. to 57th St., west to 11th Ave. and back down to the West Village to finish rallying on the highway south of 14th St. Dobbs said they didn’t like this proposal because it will be too hot on the highway in August, the route doesn’t pass close enough to the Garden — which is between 31st and 33rd Sts. — it has too many turns, which would detract from the feeling of being in a long, mass march and the starting point isn’t near public transportation.

“I think it’s a difficult route — as much as many of us love the Village,” said Dobbs, a Soho resident.

The largest protest rally in the city’s history, 1982’s No Nukes drew an estimated 750,000 people to the Great Lawn; a 1981 Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel concert drew almost 400,000 fans; hundreds of thousands more crowded the lawn in 1995 for Mass with the pope.

However, the Great Lawn was renovated in the late 1990s, and the city now says the newly pristine, picnic-quality grass can’t accommodate more than 80,000 people without damage. The administration has instead offered the protesters Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.

“We’ve said we want to continue to struggle for Central Park,” Dobbs said last week. “We’ve asked people to call and fax the mayor. For now, this is in the court of public opinion. The mayor is flirting with chaos to drag this out.”

Asked if United for Peace & Justice plans a lawsuit, Dobbs said, “We might go to court — but we’re not anxious to.”

United for Peace & Justice organized the February 2003 rally near the United Nations before the Iraq War and also the March 22 march down Broadway to Washington Sq. Park after the war’s start.


Meanwhile, Yippies, frustrated so far in their efforts to get a permit for a campout for thousands of people in either Tompkins Sq. Park or East River Park during the convention, gathered recently at Dana Beal’s home at 9 Bleecker St. to be interviewed for a CNN segment.

In front of the building hung a banner reading “Yippies welcome G.O.P. Convention protesters!” and there were votive candles and a piece of oak-tag board with photos of David Dellinger, the anti-war activist and Chicago Seven member who died on May 25. Inside, the group observed a moment of silence for Dellinger, who along with the other Chicago Seven members — including Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin — stood trial on charges of inciting protesters to riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

“We’re at war. This is the first time the Yippies have faced a convention at war since ’68 and ’72,” WBAI producer Paul Di Rienzo told CNN’s Maria Hinojosa, who said she’ll likely be the network’s protester correspondent during the convention.

East Village activist John Penley and “Yippie Pie Man” Aaron Kay — who earned his moniker by pelting public figures with pies — filed a permit application to camp in either Tompkins Sq. Park or East River Park for two weeks. Though the Parks Department denied the permit, Penley said they still plan on using the parks.

“We’ll open up a welcome center in Tompkins Sq. Park — manned by anarchists and punks — with a soup kitchen and information on where to plug in. We’re going to set up a campsite whether they like it or not,” Penley said. “And if they run us out of there, we’ll go down to Ed Koch’s condo at 2 Fifth Ave. It’ll be a mobile campout.”

Former Mayor Koch is heading the R.N.C.’s Volunteer Committee and is vice chairperson of the R.N.C. Host Committee (Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is chairperson of the Host Committee.)

There were Greens, communists and others mixed in among the Yippies.

“Not all of us are for Kerry — but all of us are against Bush,” said Paul Gilman, a Green who ran for the Assembly in Queens.

“Whether you’re a hippie, Yippie, yuppie, buppie, whatever — this war’s wrong,” said Tylon Washington, an executive with Black Waxx recordings inc. Nana Soul, a Black Waxx artist, is scheduled to sing at a planned Yippie Tea Party on Sun., Aug. 22, outside Mayor Bloomberg’s home at 79th St. and Fifth Ave. — a protest for the city’s not giving the Yippies a permit for their “camporee.”

Introducing himself for CNN’s camera as “a communist and avowed atheist,” Carl Rosenstein said he thinks the National Guard will be sympathetic to the protesters during the R.N.C.

“We need the children of the working class on our side,” he said, adding he hopes workers will also go on strike.

However, doubting protesters will be able to “get near any actual Republicans,” Beal, organizer of the annual Million Marijuana March for pot legalization, asked the group if an alternate protest target could be his landlord. Beal claims the landlord recently sent him back a contract and rent checks, and Beal fears 9 Bleecker St.’s tenants could be facing eviction.

“You notice that banner that is on the front of this building? That was made in this room,” Beal told the group, sitting in the living room, whose walls sported 1960s posters and a colossal, painted marijuana leaf. “There’s not that many rooms left where you can make a radical banner,” Beal said. “You’ve got to save 9.”

A vote was taken and an alternate protest to keep the Yippies from losing the building was approved. But by Tuesday things were looking up; Beal said the landlord told him he’d give them a new contract on Friday.

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