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February 16, 2003

The New York papers really

Daniel Radosh

The New York papers really fell down on the job in their coverage of at least one aspect of Saturday's demo. It's hard to complain about the Times' A-1 tongue kiss, but given the pre-demo uproar about security and the NYPD's ability to handle things, it's amazing that none of the local papers have reported just how severely the cops fucked this up. Think about: between 70 and 300 arrests were made in an event that should have had none. That's not the demonstrators' fault, it's the cops'. The people nabbed were not engaging in either civil disobedience or spontaneous violence, they were simply trying to get to the pre-approved rally site, an action that cops had essentially made illegal by blocking off all the streets leading to it. The group I was with ended up — out of confusion, lack of alternatives, and sheer joy — marching up 2nd Avenue, stranding cars, and forcing cops to rush barricades into place. Somewhere in the mid 60s at about 12:15 I heard one policeman declare to his colleagues, "We've lost the streets." When 2nd got too jammed, we moved (at an officer's advice) to 3rd, in order to keep heading north. Other protesters took over Lexington. We finally were able to turn east to 1st Ave at 70th, Street, joining the rally proper at about 2:00. Hey, it's all good as far as I'm concerned. Shutting down the Upper East Side, and getting to march despite efforts to prevent a march was great fun. But how much easier would it have been from the NYPD's point of view if they'd simply allowed a march in the first place, and cleared the route in advance? You can bet they wouldn't have had to issue their highest mobilization — or spent $5 million. Ray Kelly should stop whining about his horses and admit he made a mistake.

UPDATE: The L.A. Times, oddly, does a slightly better job reporting this angle:

"The New York event was engulfed in controversy before it began, when city officials -- citing security concerns -- denied organizers permission to march through the streets in front of the United Nations. Leaders of the event protested bitterly, and were forced to schedule a stationary antiwar rally on Manhattan's East Side.

"But they may have won a victory when police Saturday forced the larger-than-expected crowds to walk up dozens of heavily congested blocks to reach the site. As they inched forward, people staged their own impromptu demonstrations.

"'We're marching, we're doing exactly what they didn't want us to do,' said Bill Cohen, a Greenwich Village resident who looked warily at police on horseback trying to keep the crowd orderly."

UPDATE 2: The Washington Post is even better, quoting one police lieutenant saying, "It's nuts. If the city gave them a set march route down an avenue, you wouldn't have these problems." Why on earth couldn't the Times, the NY Post, the Daily News, or Newsday get even one comment like that?

UPDATE 3: The Times plays catch-up. What? I should have given them a day's grace period?

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