The Fight for Central Park

Revolutionary Worker #1250, August 22, 2004, posted at

"The city's denial of Central Park must be called for what it is: the chilling move of an emerging police state. Everyone who cares about the future of our humanity: Central Park, August 29, is the place to be."

Tanya Mayo, National Coordinator for Not in Our Name project
New York Times, August 11

New York City was picked to be the perfect backdrop for the re-election nomination of George W. Bush. The city that suffered a direct hit on 9/11 was supposed to warmly welcome this "war president." This convention was supposed to project a decisive president, a grateful population, a world of threats and a need for ongoing war.

There is no room in this orchestrated Republican fairy tale for massive resistance and protest by the people.

Obviously, the authorities in New York City don't want any protests at all around the Republican National Convention (RNC)--which opens in the last days of August. And just as obviously, all kinds of people are planning to step out around this RNC--to oppose this government, its wars, its lies, its clampdowns, and its policies.

All across New York City, and all across the U.S., people are planning to loudly say NO! to Bush and everything he stands for.

And, since the authorities can't simply PREVENT all this--they are working hard to marginalize it, to drain it of power and impact.

The result has been months of intensifying tit-for-tat struggle--over whether the political climate will be defined by fears of attack, over where marches will be held, over whether people will be convinced to simply leave town, and over whether a powerful mass repudiation--of Bush and everything he stands for--by more than a million people will be seen in the streets and around the world.


Both federal and city officials have tried to crank up fears of violence and possible terrorist attack to make people afraid to take to the streets, or even to stay in the city.

And the authorities have tried to tightly control where protests could be held--to blunt their power and impact, and to keep them far from the main media cameras.

Last spring, march organizers demanded official permits for hundreds of thousands of people to march past the Convention Center on August 29, the day before the RNC opens, and then rally on the Great Lawn of Central Park. There, in the very heart of Manhattan, is where huge and historic protests have traditionally gathered in New York.

New York City's arrogant, corporate-zillionaire Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg rejected this plan in April. City officials made outrageous and insulting claims that they were acting in order to protect the grass lawns of Central Park from trampling!

They said the only space available for a massive rally was a stretch of expressway along the Hudson River.

In their plan, the crowds of people would march past the convention site on August 29--but would then be funneled onto the West Side Highway. This is an exposed place that is perfect for heavy-handed police intimidation and control.

And, after lengthy negotiations, the city announced that this issue was settled. But this whole proposal simply gave many people the creeps.

People want to call out, expose and loudly reject the actions of this U.S. government. They did not want to start off these historic days of resistance by being led into a protest pen by police.

New York's respected gadfly Jimmy Breslin wrote (in his Newsday column) that denying the Central Park permit was "the work of dictatorship." Breslin called on everyone to "refuse to follow" the march route imposed by the city government and instead march to Central Park, with or without a permit.

On August 3, 2004, the Not In Our Name organization stepped to the front. NION announced they would fight to have the rally in Central Park on August 29. This move was instantly met with tremendous support.

A week later, on August 10, the United for Peace and Justice Coalition, which is deeply involved in planning the August 29 actions, re-submitted an application to rally in Central Park.


"Isn't it ironic, in the very country that claims to be waging a war for democracy, that there is such a heated battle for our freedom to have a mass protest?"

Tanya Mayo, Not In Our Name

This is where things stand as we go to press.

The city insists it will not bend. The New York Times argues that the city may face chaos and violence if march organizers don't give in.

Meanwhile, NION's AiMara Lin told the RW , "We should not accept any less than being in Central Park."

This fight over the permits has emerged as a key confrontation over whether New York City will see the kind of powerful, unmistakable resistance that these times DEMAND.

Will a vast river of protest be penned up and marginalized, while world conquest and domestic repression are packaged as "the will of the people"? Or will the people of the world hear the powerful voices from the streets?

Will New York become a police-controlled backdrop for a cynical imperialist infomercial--or will the city blossom with a historic festival of righteous resistance?

Will the message from New York be endless war and a permanent police state, or a unmistakable NO! that is so loud, so clear and so powerful that it cannot be obscured, covered over, or misrepresented?

The authorities have tried, at every turn, to present the protests as a security problem or a disruptive sideshow to the main Madison Square Garden event.

Paul Browne (the NYPD deputy commissioner for public information) told the New Republic that those planning to protest in NYC are "taking themselves too seriously" if they think the city government is trying to suppress their voices.

But such public statements are designed to hide reality.

The U.S. government claims it is conquering whole countries and hardening its "homefront" in the name of the people. And the authorities in New York are right in line--claiming the right to silence, suppress and frighten the people, in the name of their own "safety."

And so, as the eyes of the world focus on New York City, this moment DEMANDS that people fight to make their voices heard in a powerful and unmistakable way. This is an historic opportunity, with tremendous possibilities for exposing and weakening the Bush Agenda and its claim for legitimacy.

And so none of this fighting over march routes and permits is really about traffic patterns or the preservation of lawns, or convention timing. As NION's AiMara Lin said to the Revolutionary Worker , "This is about the future of humanity."