Anti-Bushies look for city campsite
Protestors look for anti-convention campsite
By Lincoln Anderson
Thousands of protestors are expected to flood into New York when the Republican National Convention hits town Aug. 30-Sept. 2. The center of dissent will no doubt be around Madison Sq. Garden, but afterwards the protestors will need somewhere to stay. Some local activists think Tompkins Sq. would be the perfect spot to pitch tents and camp out.
East Village activist John Penley and Aaron Kay, a.k.a. the Yippie Pie Man, plan to apply jointly for a camping permit for Tompkins Sq. Park with a fallback location of East River Park if they dont get Tompkins Sq. and also Central Park. Kay has requested the applications and plans to file them under the name Rainbow Affinity Tribe.
However, the whole discussion may well be moot. Margaret Johnson, a Parks Department spokesperson, said they havent received any of the camping permit applications in question yet.
Generally speaking, parks close at 1 a.m., and we do not permit anything for when a park is closed, Johnson said. Im unaware of any recent exceptions to the rule. If and when we receive the permit application, well review it.
Johnson said that if hundreds of protestors want to assemble in Tompkins Sq. Park during the day, theyll need a special events permit, which is required for any event in a park where more than 25 people are involved.
Told of the Parks spokespersons response, Kay said, In the past we have done it and no one was arrested. Do they want a riot? Theyre better off suspending the law, so people are able to use the park to sleep in.
Penley said another East Village figure, Jerry the Peddler, has already applied for a camping permit for Central Park, and Lynne Stewart, who federal prosecutors say illegally aided her terrorist clients, will be the attorney of record on the permits.
Were expecting it to be the largest protest in New York history. People are coming from all over, Penley said. Were applying for camping and cooking, through the whole convention. We expect protestors to stick around for when Bush goes down to the World Trade Center on 9/11. They delayed their convention they usually have it earlier just so Bush can go and use 9/11 to get elected.
Although many political observers have suggested the Republicans chose New York to highlight President Bushs response to the Sept. 11 attack, the late convention date, according to some, is more to give Bush the advantage of being able to maximize the effect of the federal post-convention campaign funds. It is not clear that Bush will be in the city Sept. 11 and aides to Gov. George Pataki, a Bush supporter, have insisted that the September deadline to begin building the Freedom Tower at the W.T.C. site has no connection to the convention or to politics.
As for the permits, Penley admitted Tompkins Sq. at least, is a long shot and that their asking for it is a bit of a symbolic gesture.
We dont expect it to be granted to be honest with you, he said. We expect to get some remote part of Central Park or part of East River Park.
Penley said there is a history of protestors camping out in city parks during political conventions. He said he did it with about 500 others in Central Park in 1980 during the Democratic National Convention.
A woman from Philadelphia is also planning to set up a Bushville, reminiscent of a Hooverville shantytown, Penley added.
Kay, known for having pied such figures as Daniel Moynihan, Phyllis Schlafley and G. Gordon Liddy, said, Im putting in for Central Park and for Tompkins Sq. Park. We did it in 1976 and 1980 and 1992 for the Democratic conventions in Central Park. Theres no reason why the city should deny us now. If were denied a permit, like the protestors in 1968 in Chicago were, it may cause a problem; it may cause a riot. And Im sure the Police Department and the Secret Service dont want this to occur.
In his opinion, East River Park isnt a good option because, its a little too far.
They wouldnt have campfires, but would use hibachis or Coleman stoves, Kay said.
Kay hasnt hit anyone with a pie since 92 and said its unlikely hell be flinging any Boston creams during the convention.
I doubt it, he said. As far as Im concerned these politicians are committing pie-a-cide theyre putting the pie in their face.
Told about the protestors plans to commandeer Tompkins Sq. Park, Harvey Epstein, Community Board 3s chairperson, said there might be a conflict because he believed the second annual HOWL! festival will be using both Tompkins Sq. and East River Park the weekend of the R.N.C. Phil Hartman, director of HOWL!, said the festival dates are up in the air because of the convention.
Asked how he thought board members might nevertheless react to the idea of an anti-Bush Woodstock in Tompkins Sq., Epstein said, Im sure there are some board members who would love it and some who would hate it. Its going to be a little hectic in the city. Itll be an interesting time to be in the city or not to be in the city.