The New York City Police Department forcibly broke up this afternoon's rally for Cindy Sheehan, moving in as Cindy was speaking at about 3 p.m. in Union Square. The rally had been underway for about an hour, and was about to conclude as Cindy spoke following several other speakers, including a few who are traveling with her on her caravan.
As Cindy was speaking, a large platoon of police massed behind from the interior of the park, then formed a circle behind her, the speakers' area and a few dozen people who were deployed in an arc behind her. Overall, about 200 people were in attendance, with the crowd steadily increasing in size as the rally progressed. As the police formed their arc just behind, the men and women immediately behind Cindy linked arms. A captain made a cutting motion at his throat, signalling he wanted no more free speech. He waited about 30 seconds, then the police moved in. They didn't dare arrest Cindy, but they immediately moved in and grabbed zool, the event's organizer and one of the main organizers of Camp Casey-NYC, pulling him away and arresting him. I do not believe anyone else was arrested; at least I didn't see any other arrests. I was nearby, and there was no hesitation on the part of the police in specifically targetting zool.
The police also took the microphone and sound system. The crowd shouted "Shame! Shame!" at the police and asked what they were so afrraid of, but made no response. There was a moderate press presence, even a bit of corporate media there, although the only television crew covering the rally was RTV from Russia.
No warning of any kind was given, and this was a permitted rally. Other than the captain making his cut motion, 30 seconds before forcibly breaking up the rally, there was no warning, verbal or in any other fashion. The police had massed perhaps three or four minutes before moving in. Until then, the rally had gone smoothly, starting just after 2 p.m. as scheduled. Cindy and the rest of the caravan arrived sometime after 2:30; the rest of the rally was comprised of speakers from the caravan. Many groups were in attendence besides Camp Casey-NYC, including Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, the Troops Out Now Coalition, the No Police State Coalition and the Green Party, among others.
As several people confronted the police in the minutes following the arrest of zool and the stealing of the sound equipment, a woman from the caravan said they had done more than 100 events in 51 cities, and nothing like this had ever happened to them. There is no free speech in Crawford, Texas -- Camp Casey has been under attack there -- and there is no free speech in New York City. The police have attacked Camp Casey-NYC on at least two previous Mondays, have taken the camps's tents, confiscated banners and made arrests. This is merely the latest example of Bloomberg's contempt for opinions that challenge the authorities, particularly Republican Party authorities. And where are our supposed policital leaders? Nothing but silence.
Free zool now!
Defend free speech in New York City!