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Streets of New York
Anthony Barreiro - Wednesday, September 1
Hi family and friends. I'm writing Wednesday morning regarding the Tuesday protests.
Yesterday was a very stressful day for me. When I got to the convergence center at St. Mark's, the energy felt stagnant and yucky. The young anarchist kids and aging hippies who have been hanging out at St. Mark's during the day and evening and sleeping rough or in squats at night mostly seemed wilted by the heat and humidity, zoned out, not really aware of other folks around them, or talking manically when clearly they needed sleep. There was a palpable tension in the air surrounding the activists who were making final plans and props for some of the night's direct actions. On previous days the nonviolent direct action trainings had seemed light and playful; the training in the courtyard yesterday seemed more urgent and serious, you could see on people's faces they were really thinking about how they were going to deal with the cops in just a few hours. The medics in the healing space were busy coordinating who was going to be where, checking their street supplies, and mixing up dozens of little bottles of rescue remedy.
I had a nice talk with the Washington DC reporter from the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, Wes Allison. He's covering the protests. The story he was working on yesterday should run tomorrow, Thursday.
It took a long time to clean the healing space, both physically and energetically. I took the salt water from the altar and took it around the healing space and all around the perimeter of the church yard, inviting folks to release anything they wanted to get rid of into the water. It was fun to introduce some folks to this process for the first time. Several asked me "how?" I said, "any way that works for you, just no bodily fluids." Then I took the water out to the street and poured it down a storm drain where rain from the previous night's storm was still trickling down. That felt good.
After more fluffing in the healing space I went outside to eat lunch. As I was finishing my sandwich and trying to decide whether to go down to the jail to offer support there, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra started playing in the little park in front of St. Mark's. I went out to listen. A blend of traditional march band music, East Indian vocals, jazz, with a couple of hot young cheerleaders -- quite nice. Dress arrived a few minutes late and performed a beautiful klezmeresque solo on his clarinet.
As the RMO was finishing their final rehearsal before hitting the streets that evening, I noticed a few cops arriving on the corner outside St. Mark's. Then a few more. A couple of lieutenants in white shirts. A few sergeants. Lots of cops in fatigues with dozens of plastic handcuffs clipped to their pants, some holding their riot sticks in their hands rather than hanging from their belts. Cops on bicycles. Cops on scooters. Cops in vans. An empty bus with metal grates over the windows. Lots of cops arrived over a period of about half an hour and just stood outside the church, all facing inward. The bicycle cops and the scooters moved down the side streets, around the back of the church.
On Tuesdays there's a small farmers market in the tiny cobblestone park in front of St. Mark's. It was a really bizarre sight, the vendors and customers going about their business, with ragged anarchists on one side and a phalanx of riot cops on the other.
I got my stuff and went around to the different spaces making sure everybody knew there were lots of cops on the street outside. In one room there was a youth activism training going on. As I was leaving I heard one young man say, "I want to add 'the police state' to the agenda.'" Frank Morales, a deacon at St. Mark's and their amazing building manager, got on the phone to the police and made sure they understood that there were no problems at the church and the police did not have permission to enter.
Frank and Jimmy the custodian seemed confident that the cops were just making a show of force, and weren't going to do anything. Still, I didn't feel safe there, so I left the churchyard and went across the street, where I could still observe what was going on but I was on the other side of the cops with clear egress down 2nd Avenue, which has lots of pedestrian traffic. As I was walking through the police line I wished that I hadn't worn my Ruckus Society t-shirt that day. I called Deborah and let her know what was going on. She told me she was down near the World Trade Center with the School of the Americas Watch contingent as they were preparing for the evening march and die-in with the War Resisters League. She was planning to stay on the sidewalk, to leave if the cops gave an order to disperse, and not to get arrested. I also stayed in touch with Sarah, who is coordinating the schedule for the healing space.
There had been a few legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild at St. Mark's, including one man with a video camera. As the cops arrived, more NLG observers arrived in their chartreuse baseball caps with "LEGAL OBSERVER" on the front. The hats are really ugly, but I've been so happy to see them everywhere here in New York. The NLG is doing amazingly great work here.
After about an hour, just as casually as they had arrived, the cops left, a few bike cops or a vanload of riot cops at a time, until finally there was just a small cluster of lieutenants and sergeants up 2nd Avenue from the church entrance, standing and talking among themselves and on their radios and cell phones. I felt really drained and was trying to decide whether to go back to St. Mark's or just go to the hotel and take a shower, when Nyx and a couple of other pagan cluster folks walked down 2nd Avenue. When I told them what had happened, they said that the cops were probably just using the corner in front of St. Mark's as a staging area, with the added benefit of frightening and intimidating the folks at the convergence center. I told them it had worked, at least with me. Nyx gave me a hug and helped me ground, and reminded me that as a healer I do need to keep myself safe in order to be able to help others later, and she supported my decision to leave the space when the cops started arriving in force. That felt good.
As I was walking home, Deborah called me on my cell phone to tell me that the cops had fenced off both ends of the small downtown block she was on. She hadn't heard any order to disperse, and nobody with her had either. A few minutes later she called and said she was being arrested. I told her I would call the NLG and Chandra. The guy who answered the NLG hotline was very calm, took all the pertinent info, and asked me if I'd gotten any of the names of other people who had been arrested there. I hadn't, and wished I'd remembered to ask Deborah for names when we'd been on the phone. I called her back, but only got her voicemail.
Back at the hotel I had something to eat and some chamomile tea, a quick shower, and talked with Chandra on the phone. Through her previous work experience she's very familiar with how the NYC criminal justice system works, and that was helpful. She knows a couple of good criminal defense attorneys here, and called them, and one of them happens to be the NLG lawyer who will be representing demonstrators in court today. Small world. Good to have friends.
Even though I was really tired, I wanted to go back to St. Mark's to listen to the names of the dead in Iraq, and for the radical faerie drum circle and spiral dance. Walking toward the church, I hooked up with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and had a brief uplifting chat with Dress and Kala, told them about Deborah's arrest, and asked them to hold space for her safety and well-being. The RMO was off to the roving street party, a highly mobile, low-intensity, hopefully low-risk action.
On the corner of Houston and Bowery there's a lush green community garden on a long, narrow, south-facing corner lot. It's only open to the public Tuesdays from 6 pm until dusk. I walked by about 6:15, and went in. Cool leafy green shade. An older man intently painting with oils. A lovely rustic little barn with a porch and a gardener in a rocking chair. A pond with carp and turtles. Happy little birds in the sprinkler on the grass. A brief conversation about the garden, the demonstrations, and the interconnectedness of all life.
I was running late, so I decided to get on a bus up Bowery to St. Mark's. Across the aisle from me was an elderly woman with RNC credentials hanging around her neck that identified her as an alternate delegate from Alaska. I asked her how she was finding New York and she said it was too hot. I told her my best friend had just been arrested in the demonstrations, and she told me how you can't even take a bottle of water into Madison Square Garden. We agreed that we in this country need to learn how to get along with one another better. She thinks things will get worse until the election, and then things will get better. I was too tired to argue with her.
Back at St. Mark's, the names were being read in the courtyard. So many names. Many children. Many groups of five, twelve, fifteen all with the same surname, so I assume they were a family that died together. The story of a Japanese war correspondent who was killed in an ambush, along with his nephew/assistant. The correspondent had made arrangements for an Iraqi boy who had been partially blinded to go to Japan for medical treatment. The boy went to Japan shortly after the correspondent was killed. More helicopters tonight. It was hard to listen to each name, I tended to zone out.
In the sanctuary the New York radical faeries had created a pentacle altar with candles in the middle of the floor. There was a good drum circle, and dancing. I danced a bit with a borrowed maraca, it felt good to release some tension. I chatted with a few faeries I'd met at the full moon ritual Saturday night -- hard to believe it had only been three days earlier. I was too tired to stay for the ritual, so I walked back to the hotel -- it's starting to cool down, the sky was clear, I could actually see some stars. Back at the hotel I watched a bit of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the giggling dimwitted Bush daughters, and Laura, who trusts her man because, well because he's such a good man.
Chandra called me at 1:30 am Eastern time to tell me she's heard from Deborah.
Off to the jail this morning, hopefully to meet Deborah and to provide support to others being released from custody.
Thanks for reading. I'm aware that these messages are getting longer, and I hope they're not an imposition on your time. It feels important to get my experiences down, and I really appreciate knowing that folks are reading them.
Anthony Barreiro is a Reclaiming Witch, a radical faerie, a queer christian, and a clinical social worker who lives in San Francisco. His email to family and friends is reposted here by permission. ©2004 Anthony Barreiro.
Team Cascadia from Portland IndyMedia has a great report on the Tuesday street actions, with lots of photos
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