Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 26, 2011

Sucky demo in NYC

This morning, New York City joined many other localities around the USA in mounting demonstrations in support of the Wisconsin workers. It was nothing like Madison, let me tell you.

As I noted in one of my reports from Madison last week:

A New Yorker couldn’t help but be struck by how there was no effort to keep people out of the Capitol—no metal detectors, no police lines, in fact only a handful of cops inside the building. Indeed, in New York City you can’t even get near City Hall any longer, much less just walk into the building. You’d have been cordoned off blocks away, where no one important would have to see or hear you.

The city lived up to this sad tradition. Here’s what City Hall looked like as the demo was going on—fenced in and nearly lifeless.

City Hall, during the demo

Down the street a bit, even City Hall Park itself—once the site of  a vigorous protest culture before Giuliani shut everything down in the name of fighting terrorism—was empty.

The only area open to demonstrators was the sidewalks on either side of the triangular park, safely south of City Hall itself, along Broadway and Park Row.

The officially sanctioned demo pen was a fenced-in area along Broadway, mostly south of Murray St. Once the area was full, cops forbade any further entry.

When we arrived, gasbag and tax cheat Rep. Charlie Rangel was going on about taxing the rich—not mentioning the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, was blocking the extension of a surtax on high incomes in New York, against the wishes of about two-thirds of New Yorkers. When he was done, he was succeeded at the podium by New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who took some pot shots at Scott Walker and Chris Christie—who are odious, no doubt—but again, not a word about Cuomo, who prefers laying off teachers to extending an existing tax on the rich.

(Side note: the Working Families Party, which had once agitated for the extension of the Millionaire’s Tax in New York, seems to have gone quiet over the issue—nothing on their website on the issue for more than a year. Let’s hope this is a temporary aberration, and not a sign of their subordination to Cuomo’s agenda. A query is in to WFP director Dan Cantor.)

What an ossified political culture. Penned in, to listen to politicians spew bullshit. Very different from listening to people chanting “We will fight back” inside the Wisconsin state capitol.

signage

A few of the signs. Here’s one for Camp Kinderland, an old, mostly Jewish, Commie children’s camp in the Berkshires. Among its more distinguished alumni: progressive educator Michael Klonsky, right-wing pundit Sol Stern, Nation associate publisher Peter Rothberg, and actress Marisa Tomei.

Heartwarming, but the place’s glory days are well behind it.

And this:

Yeah, the Koch’s are a horrorshow, but it’s not like they’re responsible for the right turn in the USA.

Curiously, unlike Madison, not a visible or audible word about Cairo.

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Responses

  1. I was more under the impression that Ghouliani cracked down on everything from sitting on milk crates to smoking on the subway stairs in the name of i-bankers from Hoboken.

    The Kochs may not be responsible for the right turn in American politics, but they certainly underwrite a very substantial part of it–all the hot air from Cato to a seemingly never-ending mouthbreathing Hayek Fan Club lecture campaign on every college campus in America–probably being the most visible of the invisible agents of the invisible hand.

    Speaking of shifting cultures, my impression of college campus political organizations has changed dramatically since I was an undergrad ten years ago. My own judgment is that political groups are either of the College Republican / Jr. Tea Party stripe, or belong to “post-partisan” “solution-oriented” Bicycle-Powered Vegetable Gardening Enthusiast Sustainabilitizationalism Club contingents. But activity in the Facebook Era also just seems less visible to someone who needed a year and a half to realize that there wasn’t a campus radio station b/c it had sold its license to NPR and gone to the internet. Which isn’t heartening.

  2. Doug,

    If you ever get an answer from Dan Cantor, please let us all know. I wrote to him immediately after Cuomo’s election about just this issue, and never heard anything back. Very disappointing and discouraging…

    Michael

  3. Campuses are just not hotbeds of protest – partly because the broader society has become politically demobilized and also because they’ve grown up in world where even the hint of collective action is viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Ironically, many profs try to make group projects a big part of their courses and “teamwork” is big in strat management courses in b-schools. Of course when all those MBAs get to Goldman Sachs I’m sure they quickly realize that there is no “t” or “e” or “a” or “m” in “b-o-n-u-s,” – but whose counting.

  4. I had a more positive impression of that demo, maybe in part because I couldn’t hear the speakers. I was handing out flyers for an event on Egypt – http://www.nycsocialist.org/2010/04/revolution-in-egypt-another-world-is.html – and got a lot of enthusiastic response.

    The really sucky demo yesterday was the one in support of Planned Parenthood which took place right after (with many people marching from one to the other). It was mostly silent except for the speakers, who – like all too many in the crowd – were afraid to even mention abortion (except when the MC, introducing some Democratic state senator, said “there are no barriers to abortion” in New York State, not even “ability to pay”. Um…

  5. Fair and square, good report – Rangel, of all pols? – but you did vote for Cuomo the announced slasher, so I don’t get the basic complaint.

  6. Fair enough, I guess, but I my expectations were so low that I was pleased to see anyone turn up at all. Most ironic moment: the forlorn US Out of Iraq sticker trampled underfoot. Note to over 60 leftists: “This Land Is Your Land” is not the siren song to get folks marching in the streets. Even the fight song I’ve nominated, “People Have the Power,” is seriously outdated–but it least it has some pep.

  7. Yours isn’t the only version of events.
    http://alicublog.blogspot.com/2011_02_20_archive.html#6586055983044296245

  8. Bernard Harcourt has a new book with some shrewd observations about the carceral state and “free market” mythology:

    http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?recid=30909

  9. Working Families is going to maintain radio silence on Cuomo for an unspecified grace period in exchange for the deal that got him to agree to accept their nomination, and hence the votes to retain their ballot status in NY (which would have been less likely, although possible, had they run a truly independent progressive (the Green Party pulled it off, but not by much). When and if that grace period actually ends remains to be seen. Interesting that both the pro-landlord and bizness “Independence” Party and the WFP both gave Cuomo the line.

    I knew there was something I really liked about Marisa Tomei.

  10. So what is to stop people from just going over the little fences ?

    Americans really are afraid of their government, but maybe for good reason.

    After all, our incarceration rate is ten times that of Egypt.


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