Received via email:
I was in the city Thursday, and those orange barricades were there;
they were netting on the street corners, moved by police members when
we were allowed to cross with the light. Thursday, the City was pretty
dead near Penn Station and the shop owners were grousing about the lack
of business this week. There was about one police person to every five
citizens. It was weird. Groups of police every fifty feet or so. Not so
many army personnel, which was different than it has been, recently. (Did
the powers that be not want any strangers to know how beefed up the City
has been lately with armed personnel all over?)
I didn't know the police department had so many members.
Subject: CRITICAL MASS IN NYC
Sent: Thursday, September 2, 2004 2:10 AM
Sherry and Thom Bohlen are friends of mine who are politically active
in the Progressive Democrats of America. These people are what I would
describe as "upper middle class" professionals. (Thom is an
architect in North Scottsdale. They live in a beautiful custom home in
the mountains of Scottsdale.) Sherry was with us in Boston and she told
me that she and Thom were planning on going to NYC for the Republican
convention. I remember telling Sherry to be careful.
Last week Sherry wrote to me and stated that she was on her way to NYC
and would write to me everyday with an update. I got e-mails from her
on Sunday and Monday, but not Tuesday. I figured she was busy and eventually
she would get back to me with the latest news. Below is an e-mail I just
received explaining why there was no Tuesday update.
Here is what she wrote:
ARRESTED IN NEW YORK CITY!
Sorry we haven't been up-to-date with our up-dates, but thanks to George
Bush and Mayor Bloomberg, we've been in jail!
Here's what happened: We'd joined a march organized by War Resisters League,
Schools of the Americas, Pax Christi, Veterans for Peace and others.
The event was framed with this statement:
"Our aim is to confront the administration with the death and suffering
for which they are responsible: more than 10,000 Iraiqs and Afghanis,
as many as 1,000 Americans killed, thousands more wounded and scarred
for life, as
well as the economic victims of Bush policies - the unemployed, the uninsured,
the undereducated. The Republicans have chosen to hold their convention
in New York City to link George Bush and "Ground Zero". Bush's
policies have created "ground zeros" of death and suffering
throughout the world and we hold him accountable for that."
Organizers asked people to gather at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Church and Fulton
Streets (just in front of Ground Zero). The plan was to march from Ground
Zero up Broadway to Union Square and finally to Madison Square Garden
where a "die-in" would be dramatized to honor the fallen.
We arrived early to distribute Progressive Democrats of America fliers
to the crowd as they gathered. An estimated 1-2,000 people had assembled.
After a brief negotiation between organizers and police, a police officer
clearly in charge of the event (whose badge read "Shea") announced
to the marchers over a megaphone that the march could begin. He cautioned
1. Obey all traffic lights
2. Walk 2 X 2
3. Stay close to the fence and keep the sidewalk clear
As we were told to do, we waited for the traffic light to change before
crossing Church Street to begin marching East on Fulton. As we began to
walk along the south side of St. Pauls's Church, we walked 2 X 2 and stayed
as close to St. Paul's wrought iron fence as we could. When 100-200 had
moved onto Fulton Street sidewalk, the march was halted by police at the
front forcing marchers to spill into the whole sidewalk. The police (who
numbered almost as many as the protesters) immediately closed off and
circled the marchers contained on the sidewalk. We couldn't move. We couldn't
back up or leave. We heard no warning and were not allowed
disperse. We were enclosed by an orange net fencing and were told that
we were being arrested.
At about 4:15 p.m., police began rounding us up, handcuffing us and putting
us onto buses to be taken away. We then began being told that we were
not "arrested" but merely "detained".
What followed was a 24-hour ordeal of being moved from a temporary holding
facility and eventually to central booking. We were continuously moved
from cell to cell - chained to each other in chain-gang fashion. Conditions
were deplorable. The cells were overcrowded and filthy and the food was
As more and more people were brought into jail, we learned that similar
sweeps had taken place across Manhattan. People were picked up at Union
Square, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the Library, and various
other locations. It was a planned sweep to interrupt and shut down growing
nonviolent protests to the Republican National Convention.
Such is the "America" that George Bush has brought us to.
We do want to acknowledge that the rank and file police were overwhelmingly
in support of us but seem to feel forced to satisfy the top brass to keep
their jobs and feed their families. During our incarceration, we heard
these comments from police:
* One police officer looked us in the eye and sadly said, "I'm so
* Another said: "You don't think that any of us want to be doing
this, do you?"
* Another officer told us during the wee hours of the morning, that "We're
doing this to keep the rich Republicans happy."
* Another officer reminded us that: "When you're feeling down and
discouraged, remember why you're here and what you came to do."
* And my favorite story
When a young 17-year-old woman began to
cry as she was being fingerprinted, the officer finger printing her gently
said to her: "Remember your cause and keep your mind on why you came
here and on what you came to do. Remember all of those people who came
before you and did just what you did tonight for something they believed
But the issue is much bigger than whether or not the police were with
us or against us
whether you're a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent,
a Libertarian or a Green
whether you're pro-Israel or pro-Palestine
whether you're pro-life or pro-choice
whether you're progressive
or conservative. These are all diversionary divisive issues that are taking
our focus from the real threat.
The real threat is to the very survival of our Democracy and our right
to free speech and to dissent granted to us through the First Amendment
to the Constitution!
If we don't wake up soon, it will be too late! Our Democracy is under
siege and we must all have the courage to take a stand in its defense.
As one of our favorite sayings goes
.. "If you're not yet outraged,
you're not paying attention!"
We'll report tomorrow on actions and events going on in the city. Plans
were being made for a massive assembly around Madison Square Garden on
the night that Bush accepts the nomination. We'll see if the current Republican
Party power base is able to shut it down.
Sherry and Thom Bohlen reporting from New York City
September 1, 2004