The political establishment has thrown down the gauntlet, and now the anti-Bush protest movement has taken up the challenge.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silberman ruled late Wednesday against an attempt by United for Peace and Justice to open up Central Park's Great Lawn for a massive rally against the War and President Bush to follow Sunday's march on the RNC convention site at Madison Square Garden.
Sh-h-h-h. Don’t say it too loudly, but the rally at the Great Lawn is on.
Silberman (who faces reelection this year) lined up squarely behind the city administration saying that march organizers had not demonstrated any political motive behind the city's denial of a permit for a rally in the park. She also criticized UFPJ for "waiting" until August 18 to bring its suit. Her ruling followed a similar one two days earlier by a federal court hearing another case by International A.N.S.W.E.R. which wanted a park rally permit for August 28.
Expressing disappointment, though not surprise, at the state court court ruling, UFPJ announced that plans for the march, in which over 250,000 people are expected to go from Chelsea in lower Manhattan up to Seventh Avenue and 34th Street, will go ahead (the march has been granted a permit). Plans now call for the march to turn east at 34th, and to return downtown along Fifth Avenue and Broadway for a rally in Union Square at 14th Street (where protesters initially assembled spontaneously on the evening when the U.S. invasion of Iraq began).
Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of UFJP, condemned the court's decision, saying, "We believe the court is wrong and we believe this is actually a violation of our constitutional right to assemble." She added, "A Republican mayor hosting a Republican convention has done everything designed to undermine the demonstration against policies of a Republican administration."
Cagan acknowledged that many protesters remain outraged at the ban on a park demonstration and that many would probably continue on uptown from 34th Street towards the park anyway. She urged police and city officials not to interfere with their constitutional right to peaceably assemble, and then pointedely said that she herself planned to go to the park immediately following the march to Union Square.
The prospect of a sea of protesters angry at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s obstinate refusal to grant permission for a rally in Central Park’s Great Lawn, making their way up through the canyons of mid-town Manhattan to the unfenced and very accessible Central Park, whether from 34th Street or from 14th Street, has to be a crowd-control nightmare. Since the park will be open to the public on Sunday, it is unclear how police could legally distinguish between ordinary park-goers and demonstrators-especially if people heed advice being spread on the internet to protesters warning them not to carry large signs or other readily identifiable paraphernalia when going to the park.
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