The People Demand Central Park!

Announcement of plans to reopen the battle for a permit to stage a history-shaping, massive outpouring of protest and resistance to Bush and all he stands for in Central Park on August 29

Revolutionary Worker #1249, August 15, 2004, posted at

As the Republican National Convention approaches, there is a crucial political fight over the right of the people to dissent and protest in the streets of New York City. In April, city officials denied a permit to United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) for a rally at the Great Lawn at Central Park--claiming that protesters might damage the grass. In the July 25 issue of Newsday, columnist Jimmy Breslin called the denial of the Central Park permit "the work of dictatorship." He wrote that people should "rail and refuse to follow" the march route imposed by the city government and police and instead march to Central Park, with or without a permit. In the following statement, dated August 3, 2004, Not In Our Name (NION) announces the reopening of the fight for the permit for a rally at Central Park. NION is calling for more than a million people in the streets of New York to deliver an unmistakable NO to the Bush agenda. Information about the NION call and the permit battle is available online at

The City of New York's denial of a permit for a rally in Central Park is an absolute outrage and is nothing but a naked attempt to marginalize the anti-war movement and dissent generally. This is a part of an overall clamping down on protest and civil liberties that has swept the country since 9/11 which cannot be allowed to continue. The objective effect of conceding the right to protest in a central public space sets a dangerous precedent which we feel must be challenged. What follows is our understanding of the stakes of this issue, a plan to re-open a petition for the permit and an invitation to all other groups to join us in doing so.

Over 9 million people watched Michael Moore's new film and saw the live footage of U.S. troops kicking down doors in Iraq and dragging men out of their homes as their families watched horrified. We saw images of U.S. military culture compelling our youth to kill for sport and brag about the music that gets them most pumped to kill more.

We know that this war was based on lies, lies, and more lies. First, the links to September 11th which never materialized . then the claims of WMD's for which there was never any evidence . finally the flimsy claim of delivering "liberation" to the Iraqi people.

None of this is true; in fact, as the current administration have themselves made clear repeatedly, they have wild ambitions of entirely reordering global power and economic relations so that the U.S. is permanently on top and permanently unchallenged in this position. These plans have nothing to do with September 11th and protecting the American people--and they never have! As Rumsfeld himself said, hours after September 11th, "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

And, it is simply a fact that there is no presidential candidate who is even talking about pulling out of the brutal occupation of Iraq or stopping the chilling repressive moves domestically--even though millions in this country have repeatedly expressed their fierce opposition in countless ways.

It is in this context that there is the need for the most massive outpouring of opposition to the whole direction Bush and his team are taking the country, a massive NO! We must do this not because we expect them to listen to reason or to the truth, and NOT to just "register our dissent," but because there must be a visible and powerful resistance so that as the empire goes forward with their horrors against our country and the world all those who are outraged and have a conscience will know there is A RESISTANCE to support and join -- one that brings people together across borders to act in bringing forth a future that is livable for all the people on the planet.

This is what "more than a million taking to the streets on August 29th" means. And this is what the powers that be desperately want to prevent, intimidate, and render irrelevant. This is not, and has never been, about the grass in Central Park! Everyone knows this, and it is a subject of open ridicule in the newspapers every day.

This is also not about our safety--nor has it ever been. Just as the Bush regime has cynically used September 11th to carry out wars they were previously planning, so are they now attempting to use the pain and loss of New York City as a way to whip up fear and intimidate people into staying home, quaking and trembling, rather than pouring into the streets to express outrage and indignation.

First, in this proposition from Bush and company there is a profound immorality to acquiescing as our government terrorizes and destroys whole peoples and countries around the world for some narrow conception of a U.S. "gated community" of razor wire and wiretaps, police spies and roundups, for our "safety."

Secondarily, it is the crimes, murder, and torture our government is committing against people all over the world that makes the people in the U.S. "targets." We must let the people of the world know that we are doing everything we can to stop them! And, we are extending a hand of unity to the people of the planet -- trying to set terms where everyone can see more clearly the common interests of people all over the world and act together to bring into being a better world.

Finally, there is a basic principle that everyone in the movement must understand and base ourselves on. We are taking on the most vicious, powerful, ruthless rival our planet has ever seen! They are using force all over the world to push ahead their global agenda. They are not going to be easily derailed. And if we are serious about stopping them, and we must be this, there can be no compromise! We are not going to get them to back off the world by "appearing reasonable," cooperating with their restrictions, or "behaving well." We are not going to get further in our appeals if we accept their terms of how we resist. The ONLY way to stop them is to increasingly step into the ring with them, expose every new outrage, how this is part of their whole global domination scheme, and call forward many, many more in their outrage and resistance. Each new act from the Bush team and their flunkies should be seen as a new way to expose them and to bring forward more powerful resistance. This includes right now very urgently taking on and fighting against the city's denial of a permit to protest in Central Park on August 29th.

In doing this, we want to accomplish four things:

1. Call forward the many, many millions who deeply hate the Bush Agenda to be part of a protest that is RELEVANT and VISIBLE and a MASSIVE REPUDIATION to everything Bush concentrates and is doing to our country and our planet. This must be so massive and with such a strong message that it cannot be misinterpreted or covered up. Everyone everywhere, in this country and around the world, must see that no matter who becomes president that the people issued a huge "NO!" to the whole sweep of the Bush Agenda. And everyone everywhere will know there is a movement of opposition that they need to support and strengthen to ultimately stop this whole course as it goes forward.

2. In doing we will make clear that this is not a "token protest" but a mounting of opposition! Otherwise people will not be won to come out in the face of high levels of police intimidation, media persuasion, and rumors of terrorist threats. If we stop compromising and start putting out powerfully and clearly our intention to STOP the whole Bush Agenda, and how this protest is part of that, we can call forward and give expression to the seething anger many are feeling. So, fighting for the Park and the message about why this matters and the stance of not allowing ourselves to become marginalized, is critical to even calling forward the more than a million who can be won to protest.

3. Recast the political terms around the whole question of "fear" and "safety." As long as people are gripped with this fear and the supposed need to rely on the current powers to protect us, people, in the millions, will not themselves find the courage or the reason to step out to oppose and stop the detentions, the round-ups, the clampdown on free speech and all the wire-taps and invasions of privacy, no-fly lists, Patriot Acts I and II, etc. WE -- the anti-war movement--MUST start exposing that none of this has anything to do with our safety, but everything to do with carrying out their global-dominance strategy they had already planned and suppressing and crushing any group or movement that would effectively challenge them. We must shift the terms back--where people are no longer afraid of the people of the planet and standing with (or at least relying on) our government, but instead are afraid of the future as it will shape up if our government goes unchallenged and are fighting and standing with the people of the world to call forward powerful enough resistance to stop them.

4. We must not concede this permit battle and allow a precedent to be set that even when there are millions and millions who deeply feel something is outrageous and wrong, that at a moment when there are more people who are outraged by what their government is doing than in at least a generation but probably more, that the government ignores the will of the people, goes to war in the face of it, and then effectively tells people to "SHUT UP." If they do so without at least a fierce fight that takes a big political toll on their program, we will be a BIG step closer to a police state and it will be MUCH harder to build opposition in the future as the situation gets worse.

There are many who will be thrilled by this challenge to the city, and we invite all groups and organizations to join in this fight. We appreciate the efforts of UFPJ over the recent months in struggling to secure Central Park for a permitted rally. Now we feel it is on all of us to take this further. We will do this because we understand that history demands it. We respect other organizations and embrace the whole spectrum of antiwar outpourings and resistance that has been planned, but we feel obligated--to the people of the world and to the future of dissent in this country--to continue this permit battle in the midst of this.

We feel it is tremendously important to continue to dialogue with all the groups in the anti-war movement to coordinate logistics and how to conduct media in a way that does not create divisiveness or undercut each other's efforts, but which also doesn't demand that any group "trim its sails" in the name of unity. There is too much at stake for our country and our planet, and it is the future generations here and around the world we must ultimately answer to.