The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Books Not Bombs

Mary La Rosa • 7 September 2004
While wondering how long it will take to find all the mainstream and alternative news links, blogs, web sites I have recently seen in the past week in order to document those blatant differences between my unique experience of Thursday through Thursday in protest of the RNC in New York City in comparison to the mainstream medias', I have quite simply decided to use as little newsmedia as possible. 
 
I am One with the Primary Source.
 
In keeping with that flow of consciousness, I shall include only website organizations with which I made contact and have had personal experience.  It's been a full week.
 
By now any who attended or carefully followed the protests in mainstream and alternative news will know, the American public has received its usual slant and short change in news media propaganda.   Only the Primary Source knows that every night a breach in security at Madison Square Garden made testament to a President who is not capable of securing his own convention, let alone keeping safe the rest of the country.  Women from Code Pink  and Act Up illicited true Republican response to free speech and then further displayed the abuse they suffered for it, including the one woman who was kicked, while she lay on the floor of the convention.  I hope the media has enough pictures of the face of the young man who took such action, as he represents Young Republicans in support of their President.
 
Around the city Aids activists took their clothes off. Axis of Eve applied feminine wiles with political comment. And I can tell you that in Elmhurst, Queens where I was born the President did not go the the Firehouse and make his next stop because all of the protesters along his route would have been visible to the rest of the country and the world.  But Elmhurst knows the truth , despite the mainstream media's lack of accurate full reportage.
 
One of my Primary Sources of dissatisfaction with how American ideals are currently "misrepresented" by my elected officials includes a too close for comfort association of government with its corporate controlled media.  For my protest and March on the Media, I got all dressed up in widow's weeds, including a long black veil and a sign that said, "I mourn the loss of the Free Press. Do Not R.I.P."
 
In case such theatrical gesture might be misconstrued as superficial clowning, those who may harbour such thoughts, neither know nor understand the true extent of my frustration and continuous commitment to bring accurate and diverse information services to the American public.  I am not a journalist.  I am a librarian and when I tell you that I am consistently forced to reach outside US mainstream medias in order to retrieve better news coverage from foreign news medias,  I do so with sincere sadness, outrage and the deep sense of loss symbolic of the clothes I wore. Reportedly 2,000 people turned out to walk between CBS and NBC and stood in outrage in front of Fox.   
 
As someone who worked for an alternative news media, Yellow Times, in the last remaining months still free from Bush's War, I still can not dismiss my sense of outrage brought about by purposeful and sytematic attack to the website and all of our mailboxes  after one of YT's writers, an Iraqi scientist who lived in Iraq up until 1999,  repeatedly stated with all expertise as a nuclear scientist, that there was absolutely NO capacity for nuclear weapons in Iraq after 1999. Imad Khudurri continues to write for Yellow Times and he remains one of the reasons why I dramatically mourn the loss of the Free Press. No mainstream medias felt the necessity to contradict or to run with his story.
 
However, there at the March on Media I found dissidence in the dissent. Many in the crowd called out, "Shut Up Fox" and "Shut Down Fox" while I thought what an indication of the times we live!  Especially when we need encourage journalists, even ones making a living at Fox to:  Speak out ! Speak up! Say more! Give us the whole story ! Seek truth!
 
About one month prior to the RNC I found myself in the offices of United For Peace and Justice then still in struggle and negotiation to make a deal with the Mayor over the march past Madison Square Garden that would include peaceful rally in Central Park. Almost every major event that demonstrates for peace and social justice in New York City has probably been facilitated under the well organized umbrella of UFPJ. 
 
After receiving emails and updates I decided not to participate as part of one homogenous kind of protest group,  but rather to make my protest representative of my diversity as a true New Yorker and American.  And so when I saw an ad for drummers, no experience necessary, I decided to show up and not only was there Manhatten, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County, there were delegates from Israel,  Las Vegas and even New Jersey, with a familiar face as well.
 
New York City Rhythms of Resistance practiced sometimes twice a week, under the auspices of 58 year old David Marcial, dedicated drummer and teacher of drumming, who projects his spirit and love of drumming into a life long commitment towards social statement. 
 
Thursday August 26, 2004 was not only my drum debut but I was able to welcome marchers and friends coming from Boston with the DNC2RNC and the Pagan Cluster along with a group of others who took the journey between conventions.  We greeted them at Columbus Circle expecting all sorts of anticipated police problems. It was a legal march but some of the marchers were coming Zapatista style (kerchiefs covering half the face) which is illegal in the city and NYPD has been known to confiscate drumsticks as illegal weapons. However, compromise was established and we drummers drummed as loud and as long on the edge of Central Park, while marchers appeared with kerchiefs and somehow convinced the police that it was as much dramatic effect as the Green Dragon marchers who appeared to look like Paul Revere et al.  A picnic took place while this was being negotiated and I was able to greet pagan activist Starhawk who said it seemed like a reunion to her.
 
Our march to Union Square went rather well, even with the limitations.  We were not allowed to use our sticks during the march and most of us thought it was either NYPD asserting their level of authority early on, or just the fact that we were marching through the exspensive part of town and making less noise without sticks.
 
We drummers had previously discussed civil disobedience.  The majority of us agreed that we needed our sticks and persons until at least Sunday and so we marched in compliance with all imposed mandates.
 
The first large arrest (264) came on Friday night when Critical Mass, who everyone knows has regular monthly protests of too many cars by showing up and riding throughout the city,  emassed 5,000 bikes and proceeded to ride through the streets including all Republican routes! Streets were closed; fire trucks backed into streets and eventually the bikers slowed enough to be arrested. How is it too many cars never get arrested? Word spread that the police were particularly harsh.
 
Saturday was Planned Parenthood's March for Women's Lives  which also went off without much hindrance. Rumor has it that NYPD never hassles women's marches but most of us weren't taking any chances. Since previously, we were not allowed to drum with "weapons" such as drumsticks, I thought to come prepared wearing a black pointed hat and carrying large wooden spoons so I could at any moment turn my large plastic drum over and make like I was stirring the "cauldron of changes" or a pot of fresh tomato sauce.  
 
We drummed across the Brooklyn Bridge and in front of us danced two middle aged women who created a dance with a banishing ritual and used different colored scarves.  One of the women , who I would later meet all over the city, came up behind me and whispered, "Thank you, Sister Witch", and I answered that we best wear all our old symbols before the right is taken forever from us by the Fundies in power.  
 
That evening there was a living human installation at the place where the current Leadership took three whole days to check in after terrorist attack.  At the site of the former World Trade Center,at Ground Zero,  there was a "Ring Out" and I felt totally transfixed and mesmerized as I sat in one spot and observed the streams of people moving back and forth ringing out their bells in death toll numbers for those who died in 9/11; followed by ten minutes of silence and then ringing out again for those who died in Iraq. Many photos were taken but I wondered if anyone sat and saw the passage and flow and expression of the people who passed, as I did all at once, in streams of living flesh . I brought Tibetan Chimes but free bells were given to all who wished to participate and many improvised with bicycle bells, etc..
 
Shoes of deceased soldiers and civilians were aligned in a park. There was a procession of hundreds of flag draped coffins, Americans lost fighting in Iraq.
 
The Pagan Cluster had a huge and joyful public ritual and dancing at St Mark's in the Bowery. They drummed in competition to Reverend Billy, the Church of Don't Shop and his First Amendment Mob and a great time was had by all.
 
At this point I believe I felt part of an Ongoing Great Event. The Anti Event , if you will, which was in triumph over the Republican event. The spirit on the street was extraordinary.  Ever other person walking seemed to carry a either a Peace message or a dissatisfied with Bush message.
 
Many city residents, Democrat and Republican with lots of money had left for the East End of Long Island until the Republican block was cleared.  The battle for Central Park seemed lost but the people knew to whom the park belonged. The Mayor, meanwhile was quoted saying, "Protest is a privilege that can be taken away at any time" as if we were all in junior high school and being threatened with no TV for misconduct.  Registered "good" protesters were  offered "coupons" just as the Republican delegates, for being "good protesters" ! People, some of whom were sleeping on floors in loft spaces were offered a coupon towards $150 single room rate at a tourist hotel. Oh how I longed to rent a room and invite 300 people to come with me on the Mayor's good grace.  The mayor , meanwhile had just returned from Athens and still had not come up with a union contract for his NYPD. He doesn't choose to live in Gracie Mansion, how come he couldn't open it to out of town "good" protesters?
 

And just before the RNC began, while ducking in and out Penn Station , looking for all purposes like martial law had taken effect, I passed a man standing outside the entrance with a placard and fliers. His sign said something about not having to be as wealthy as Bloomberg, but needing better "health insurance" and on the bottom I saw union symbols , including mine as a public employee. I took one of the fliers and asked, "Are you a cop?"

The answer came sheepishly with a nod and I said, "Well thanks for doing your job anyway. And please remember that the people you see out on the streets also need health insurance and many do not even have jobs."

The day of the Big March came and the drummers were ready. Many of us had extra sticks strapped to our legs to replace those confiscated. All over most of the legal demonstration were large numbers of neon capped legal aides and rights' advisers.  Many gave out wash n' wear tattoos with "legal hotline" numbers. New York was well organized! especially under the splendid direction of UFPJ.
 
We were positioned just ahead of the Pagan Cluster and the Green Dragon whose float of a large Green Dragon later literally exploded and went up in smoke. One of our drummers opted to stay behind with the cluster.  We hugged and kissed and got ready to rock, roll and march to samba! 
 
None of the pictures do justice to the size, surge and united spirit of the crowd .

David, our drum leader did creative last minute instruct to anyone wishing to have one of the extra drums we brought along. And then we began. Rule 1# of any March : Never get behind a bus and always find a sound and stay with it..ours was a march that was half Latin Samba and half Queen, "we will , we will rock you!"  Every corner we stopped and beat out, "Drop Bush! Not Bombs!"

Just before reaching the garden I found a friend and creator of the labyrinth Camino de Paz with three companions sitting and holding a space on the street. I blessed their heads and kissed them and marched on.

We made it all the way just past the moment of glory in front of Madison Square Garden , when all of a sudden the Green Dragon , one of the only large floats in the entire parade self-combusted or was mysteriously fire bombed .  Some of us saw the smoke but did not realize the dragon was going up in the smoke until a mad sramble of kerchief'd zapatistas ran back and forth in the street , cops in pursuit and some protesters rather purposefully knocking over and tearing down the metal penning as they went along. The police hot footed after them and at one point it seemed they make another run back down the street. The woman in our group who had told those of us, who were indecisive or negative about getting arrested, that "now was no greater time!" was last seen running towards the police before they arrested her! Hey-O Jessica!
 
I was closest to the Big Mama Drum and that was probably what saved me from arrest because we were pushed down into the subway and after the police closed off the subway I bartered a trip above ground to try and find the out of towner from New Jersey. I was promptly pushed back down into the subway and so some of us marched on and one of us got arrested and the rest of us returned to our practice spot and waited for word of each other. 
 
After some re organization we all decided to make for Central Park, which was destination for many marchers and in direct disobedience to the Mayor's wishes to allow for a peaceful rally.  We all had respected the hard work and effort of UFPJ in organizing this legal march but many of us were adament about the legitimacy of the right to be in a People's Park and on the Great Lawn.  We arrived at the park with many others who had the same idea but who were coming up from downtown in small clusters. We actually drummed along the way and attracted more marchers. The police we saw made no effort to stop us and so we reached the Great Lawn and decided to make a Great Rest of our weary bones, relax and discuss who would be able to attend the Poor People's March and the Still We Rise March next day.
 
Jessica, our defiant one, was taken to the Pier and held on multiple bogus charges. Bails were being set especially high for out of towners. It was decided that those who had free time and no pressing engagements such as nine to five jobs would meet again for either March the next day. Because of the distance from my home which I needed to touch base for sake of animals and elderly kin who was now wringing hands and saying prayers over my presumed arrested and/or trampled body, and with my reliance upon public transportation I would have to arrive after both smaller morning Marches but I would be in time for the Labyrinth I spoke of earlier. 
 
Guess what? There were no soldiers or police in sight as I daily rode the F train, that subway that goes from Coney Island through Manhatten and ends in Queens and there were still no police riding the buses that have been cut back to a minimum as far as public transportation goes into the burroughs.  I stood on mean hard streets and waited for the late night bus to come with mostly workers and not protesters who were coming and going to their work sifts.
 
For those that did not have jobs there was the longest unemployment line to assemble to on Labor Day.
 
Sunday night the Mouse Bloc took over the theatre district and directly confronted 13,000 GOP Elepnants taking advantage of the over priced Disneyfied theater tickets made available to them by GOP organizers. The action was called , "Chaos on Boadway".
 
Billionaires For Bush kept pace with Republicans and were on the street in their all their best clothes and "don't give a damn about poor folk" attitude.
 
After the March on the Media someone was determined to keep red food coloring flowing in the fountains outside of the corporate media buildings along with one of the best home made signs I saw read: "Next time we get attacked , can we have the party in Texas?"
 
For me, however, a New Yorker whose community was hard hit by 9/11, the Labyrinth is a very very special spot in New York City and I sincerely hope any and all can come and see first hand this bit of true living green just below where stood the World Trade Center.  Every New Moon a few of us, including the creator of the space, come together for good intentions and sometimes good noise in harmony. On this night another project called "Light Up the Sky" would be filming light as a metaphor for peaceful confrontation without violence and without permit. 
This was one of the more lovelier moments of the entire week.
 
In the middle, when usually people will call out one word that exemplifies either what they bring or wish to acquire, a small women called out passionately "Palestine!" Immediately another woman followed equally impassioned "Israel!"
 
I thought ai, yi, yi, here we go again but then when we were all making sounds the woman from Israel said "sha-l-om" and all of us took that sound and sent it out into the night. Afterwards both women came over and greeted me with interest and happiness about the Labyrinth.
 
Meanwhile, on the drum front three drummers had been swept up, not in civil disobedience but in a police net that took in a crowd of people standing in the wrong spot to be in but within their civil rights to be there. These people were locked up over night in conditions that all arrested complained were foul smelling and reeking of chemicals. Fortunately for the creatures in my life who rely upon me for a cup of tea or bit kibble, I know little first hand of such conditions.
 
NYPD was its usual finest and worse. There be the really bad cops who are quite capable of really bad behavior and there be some really good ones and then there be those who are just doing a job but who can get swept into overtime sleep deprived belligerence. There is no excuse and there is no excuse for the Mayor not working out a contract. The really bad night of arrests came after the big parade and before Bush arrived. It was as if there were to be less people in evidence and also legitimate proof of needing the number of uniformed personal out there in the streets.
 
Another aggressive police hit was the Library at 42 nd Street. I arrived slightly behind schedule with my symbols of "true homeland security" books not bombs and was immediately refused entry onto the steps of the Library. A large number had already been removed from the premises. Well. That library was the first place I trysted with my very first boyfriend and I know every way in and about those grand Lions and so while the police stood baracading the front steps I circled around and easily got in via a side entrance. Perhaps I didn't look like a protester. Afterall I was wearing a Dr Seuss Green Eggs and Ham t shirt with denim shorts. I walked straight through and out of the library and then sat on one side of a Lion until the police left the steps and I could walk down them. No one else had a similar idea but I refused to leave until I could walk down the front steps onto Fifth Avenue.
 
While at the March against the Media I saw this man who refused to become part of the penned protest. He was standing off to one side wearing a chef's hat. His banner said: Food Not Bombs. I watched him hold this space despite police shuffling him along. At the end of the protest I went over to him and smiled and thanked him for this better space and image of man. He was my inspiration for the next and last day. 
 
When I left my house on the day of the last protest, I carried my small sign that I took everywhere with me on board busses , subways and along with the book I was reading written by friend Mazin Qumsiyeh, an American scholar and scientist who happens to be a Christian Palestinian by background the book is titled, "Sharing the Land of Cannaan".
 
 
I carried my sign to that last glorious rally sponsered by A.N.S.W.E.R  and I realized this is pretty much my A.N.S.W.E.R. for true homeland security and how I make a better space. And as I stood there I also had revelation about why this last demonstration was allowed to take place on the night of the president's speech: NYPD and Secret Service had all of us stragglers pretty much in one grand pen under close careful scrutiny.  I left shortly before the speech. I passed an ancient man stooped over his cane carrying a shakily scrawled sign upon which read, "I have never seen such a presidency and I am 97 years old"
 

I left for the downtown vigil of candles where I found in the crowd, a man sitting in circle that including the woman I met when she first carried her colorful scarves across the Brooklyn Bridge.  She was sitting in comfort and sympathy with a man who had been sitting 18 hours grieving and mourning the loss of his son in Iraq. We sang songs in Spanish and rocked and swayed.

I took my sign over to him and held his hand for awhile and kissed a tear away from his cheek only to make a tear myself.

My sign for the last rally the night Bush made his acceptance speech and for the man named Jesus who mourns the loss of his son who died in Iraq and for all who passed to and fro:
 
Occupation = a person's effort to earn a living
My occupation = Librarian
Books Not Bombs
 

And on the  subway ride home that night a young man came over and told me he liked my sign and shyly gave me a cd in a plastic bag.  It was his vision for a better place and in it was his card: c.b. Houck, Brooklyn, nyc; musician: friend: spirit

Blessings, New York and on all those who came and joined my city in Greater Spirit

 
Mary La Rosa, Auntie Climax
librarian: artist: friend: spirit


 

 

 

 

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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



 

 

All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw



Index: Current Articles



12 September 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Standing Down
Mick Hall

Life in the Party
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Is There a Peaceful Way to a Peoples Republic?
Liam O Comain

Rising to the Top of the Hate List
Fred A. Wilcox

Books Not Bombs
Mary La Rosa

Fighting for the Right to be a British Drug Dealer
Anthony McIntyre

Document Stamped 'Secret'
submitted by Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

The Final Insult
Starry Plough Editorial Collective

Tensions Escalate as Loyalists March Through the Ardoyne
Paul Mallon


6 September 2004

Not In Our Name
Fred A Wilcox

Child Murderers
Anthony McIntyre

32 CSM Urges Russian Government: Recognize Chechen Independence
Sean Burns

Who is Really to Blame?
George Young

Resistance, by ANY Means.
David A' Gardner

Reality Check
Patrick Lismore

Fairy Cleansing
Seaghán Ó Murchú

The Culture of Lies and Deceit
Liam O Comain

Labour Steps Up Pressure on IRA to Disband
Paul Mallon

 

 

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