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

Melee over break dancing breaks out in Union Sq.

By David H. Ellis

Villager photos by Bob Arihood

Break dancers take the sound system back from a Parks Department vehicle, left. Right, Geoffrey Blank of the No Police State Coalition gets arrested in the ensuing fracas.

A dispute between Parks Department employees and several break dancers over a sound system at Union Sq. Park last Friday evening erupted into a melee, leaving one police officer injured and two individuals arrested.

According to police, at approximately 7 p.m. on Friday, employees of the city’s Parks Department attempted to issue a summons to the group of dancers for using a loudspeaker system at the south end of the park without a permit.

Photos of the event show a loudspeaker was confiscated by Parks and put in the back of a Parks vehicle before the break dancers grabbed it back.

Nearby protestors from the group No Police State Coalition allegedly intervened and fighting ensued between Parks Department employees and the two groups. One police officer suffered minor injuries attempting to break up the scuffle.

“We’ve had numerous complaints from nearby residents regarding those groups,” said Parks Department Manhattan Borough Commissioner William T. Castro. “People can plan protests and speak freely, but there are rules and regulations about unreasonable noise.”

Two individuals, Geoffrey Blank, 29, of the No Police State Coalition and Aaron Ellison, 23, who was performing at Union Sq. with the break dancers, were both charged with resisting arrest on Friday. Blank was charged separately with inciting to riot and two counts of disorderly conduct and could face up to one year in jail. Ellison faces additional charges of assault in the second degree and obstructing governmental administration, both of which carry penalties of up to seven years in jail.

“I felt I had to stand up for the breakdancers for having their stereo stolen,” said Blank about the Union Sq. incident. “If they are going to come to the park and shut down a perfectly peaceful group of people, how precarious is our freedom?”

Blank added he felt he was targeted because he was using an electronic bullhorn. He said a police officer asked him if he had a permit for the bullhorn.

“I said, ‘Yes I do, the First Amendment,’” he said he told the officer, before he was pushed and eventually wrestled to the ground. He claimed he was choked.

“I think they want to clear the park out for the Republican National Convention,” Blank commented. “They don’t want a place where people can discuss the war in Iraq. — This might be from Washington.”

According to Blank, he has been arrested about 10 times. On Sept. 28, 2003, during a demonstration at the United Nations he was charged with attempting to take a police officer’s firearm. Other charges from that arrest are still pending, although the two charges of attempted criminal possession of a weapon have been dropped, according to the Manhattan district attorney.

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