Protest today in Harlem

I received word late last night that Bush would be at a charter school in Harlem.   I was privileged to be able to join a group who included Grannies for Peace and a number of young people of many races and cultures to protest Bush’s regime.

Though the NYPD, as usual, had us corralled with barriers and a very large police presence, we were able to get within a half block of the school.  I asked a young policeman if he knew why they were dispatched in such numbers and why we were penned in.  He said he was there to control the crowd.  I asked if he thought we were out of control and he said “No.”  He referred me to an officer of higher rank, but that person was separated from us by barriers.  We chanted “Bush out of Harlem; US out of Iraq” and “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation”.  And such like.  We were entirely peaceful.  We only wanted to register to Bush and the world that we do not agree with his illegitimate regime and his illegal war.

I like lively protest and this was very lively.  I often take a little percussion instrument, a shaker, to mark time to the chants.  This time I had forgotten it, but many of the young people were clapping the time. 

The school is on 144th between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell.  That entire block was closed off by police.  After being for a while at the corner of Frederick Douglass and 144th, we marched up to 145th and over to Adam Clayton Powell and back down to 144th, chanting the whole way.   The citizens we passed nodded and cheered us on; passing cars honked and people inside them waved.

On the corner of Adam Clayton Powell and 144th were a quieter group of members of the Students for a Democratic Society.  Our noisy group seemed to make the police antsy and a larger contingent of them moved in. 

I am feeling a great deal of rage that Bush, who has broken US and international law, perpetrates torture, and squanders lives and money in an illegal occupation is protected by the police while we who are peaceably standing on the sidewalk exercising our right to speak out are treated like criminals.  If I had dared to walk past the barrier placed in what may well be an illegal abridgment of my constitutional right to be on the sidewalk, I would have been immediately arrested. 

I know personally people who are working to restore our democracy and stop this illegal war who have been arrested many times.  Never once have they endangered anyone; mostly they were standing peacefully on the street.

I have come to the very sad conclusion that I no longer live in a democracy.  I live in a police state with a criminal at the helm.   Sadder to me than that is that so few Americans care enough to write one letter, make one phone call, participate in one protest. 

Had there been not a few hundred of us but a few hundred thousand of us today, the police would not have been able to herd us away from Bush’s ears.  He would have seen and heard us as we stood on the street our tax money pays for to tell him the truth.  Instead of that, I could have gone to jail today in a futile attempt to get closer. 

When are you going to join those of us who are willing to be visible?  When will you step up and speak out?


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