Volume 17 • Issue 14 | August 27 - September 02, 2004

Protest march won’t go south of 14th Street

By Lincoln Anderson

Following a judge’s rejection on Wednesday of United for Peace and Justice’s 11th-hour lawsuit seeking the right to rally in Central Park, U.F.P.J. on Thursday announced revised final plans that will avoid going south of W. 14th St.

The city had granted the group a permit to march down the West Side Highway to Chambers St., but the group said the route for the Aug. 29 march would be too remote. At least a few residents of Battery Park City and Tribeca also raised concerns about neighborhood disruptions.

At a press conference at the peace coalition’s W. 38th St. headquarters, U.F.P.J. national coordinator Leslie Cagan said that after negotiations with the police on Wednesday and Thursday an agreement had been reached that was acceptable to both sides. Cagan said that the march will still assemble starting at 10 a.m. on Sunday between 15th and 22nd Sts. between Fifth and Ninth Aves. The march will then, also as previously planned, funnel onto Seventh Ave., kick off at noon and head up past the site of the Republican National Convention, Madison Sq. Garden.

Under the new agreement, the march will then turn east and cross 34th St. to Fifth Ave., then proceed down Fifth Ave. to 23rd St., then down Broadway, terminating at Union Sq. There will be no rally at Union Sq. In the latest round of negotiations following the filing of its lawsuit, U.F.P.J. had said if it did not receive a permit for Central Park it would forego having a rally. There will, however, be a sound system set up at Union Sq. for a short time. Cagan said the police agreed not to set up pens to control the crowds at the end of the march. She noted that Union Sq. was a place where New Yorkers came to grieve after 9/11 and to voice opposition to war.

She hailed the agreement as a victory, in that the march will be able to go through “the heart of Manhattan,” as opposed to being shunted to the West Side Highway. Also, the agreement is an exception to the city’s policy of not allowing any new marches on Fifth Ave. other than the existing lineup of regular annual parades.

The most important part of the march will be when demonstrators pass Madison Sq. Garden, she said.

Cagan said that they want people who join U.F.P.J.’s march to continue to the end of the route at Union Sq. and not break away to head for Central Park. After the march ends, however, she said many people may just want to head to Central Park on their own. In fact, she said she intends to take a picnic lunch and go to Central Park’s Great Lawn herself. However, she said there are no organized activities planned for the Lawn and she imagined that it will just be people “strolling, talking, picnicking, etc.”

Asked if police would be blocking entry to the park in any way, Cagan said the police told them that “the park will be open” on Sunday.

“Our understanding is the city is planning to keep the park open — as it should be,” she said. “It’s not a big secret — some people plan to go to Central Park.”

Cagan said that in the last-minute negotiations U.F.P.J. had requested to have 75,000 people rally on the Great Lawn with the overflow crowed on Central Park W., but that the city denied this.

Although they were denied a permit for use of Central Park, Cagan said the battle for use of the park as a place for public assembly for political events is “far from over.” She called the denial of the permit for the park “a terrible assault on everyone’s First Amendment rights.”

“The city of New York and the Central Park Conservancy have made a secret pact to withdraw the park from public use [for protests]. This is an outrage,” Cagan said. “It now seems Central Park is entirely in the hands of a private entity, the Central Park Conservancy.”

U.F.P.J. speakers advised marchers to bring along radios tuned to WBAI, which will be providing live coverage of the march and providing information.

Among those leading the march will be Reverend Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover, playwright Eve Ensler and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.

During the news conference, Jackson was patched in by phone from Libya, where he was working to free prisoners on death row and help children with H.I.V./AIDS. He urged people to attend the march.

“We’ve lost our moral credibility in the world,” Jackson said of the U.S. under the Bush administration. “Sunday’s march can restore our moral credibility.”

Jackson, as well as representative of veterans and military families against the Iraq war who also spoke at U.F.P.J.’s news conference, blasted the war as being based on lies and really about oil.

Cagan stressed they want a safe march where children and seniors can participate without any fear.

“All we are doing is exercising our Constitutional rights,” she said. “There is nothing to be afraid of — except the ongoing policies of the Bush administration.

“Together,” she said, “we will upstage the Republican Convention with a powerful message of peace and justice.”


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