Bush Bash

Live from NYC: Hundreds of thousands of protesters, 20,000 cops, and one coronation

Police officials claimed that the process was slow because the system was taxed by so many arrests, yet before the convention the police predicted 1,000 arrests per day, over twice as many as there turned out to be. And why, given that cops spent over a year preparing for the convention and its protests, did they not bother to cover the cement floor of Pier 57? Because, it seems, they wanted to make the prison experience as miserable as possible and to keep defendants in as long as they could, preferably until after President Number 43 had hot-footed it out of Dodge.

Tim Corrigan was among those I met outside the Criminal Courts Building. He said that he and the 10 or so people with him, who were walking around with signs and were not blocking pedestrian traffic, were given no dispersal warning. Unlike many others, he did see a judge. "I understand that it was complex to deal with all of us," he told me. "But if you value the Constitution, then go out of your way to protect those rights. Some people say, 'You spoiled little shit, in other countries you'd get killed for protesting.' But I take their rhetoric seriously: If this is the best country in the world, then let's act like it."

 

Where Are the Democrats?

Together the actions throughout the week suggested a movement bigger than the anti-Bush animus that has galvanized it--a movement that will surely balloon with a W. victory, but that might even survive what the latest polls suggest would be a Kerry upset. "Bring back the hegemonists," read one sign at Sunday's march, "so we can have someone rational to protest against."

GOP chairman Ed Gillespie repeatedly tried to link the anti-Republican protests to the Democrats and John Kerry, and made it clear that the Republicans would use any disorder in the streets to paint Kerry supporters as lawless and outside the American mainstream. Obviously, the protesters chanting "No Bush, No Kerry, revolution is necessary" aren't likely to vote for Massachusetts's tallest senator come November. Though some of the people on hand seemed discomfited by such they're-all-the-same sloganeering, it was also true that during the entire course of my week there, I heard no vocal Kerry support beyond that from the few DNC volunteers spread around town. There were Kerry/Edwards signs, buttons, and T-shirts to be seen, but they were incidental to the thrust of what was occurring.

To paraphrase a friend of mine, the Kerry pitch had been something like this: Why settle for bombs, not books, when you can have bombs and books? Kerry, by dint of his "reporting for duty" shtick, his largely similar approach to Iraq, and his failure to attack the Bush administration's well-documented deceptions, hasn't just missed a great opportunity to exploit widespread anti-Bush/antiwar sentiment. In the minds of many, he is barely a part of the anti-Bush equation at all.

On the streets around the Garden, it was an ugly week. On Thursday evening, during Bush's speech and afterward, the cops allowed a non-permitted march/block party that filled Eighth Avenue and served to purge some of the bad feelings. A ragtag marching jazz band played "When the Saints Go Marching In" and other tunes for a jubilant and mixed crowd--in which self-proclaimed revolutionaries stood next to a guy carrying a "Moderates Against Bush" sign--and it felt like a victory. Still, the next day, reading Bush's speech, I wondered: Why can't the Democrats offer a candidate who will forcefully and effectively meet this Machiavelli on his own terms? Why can't the Democrats embrace liberalism the way the Republicans embrace their conservatism? Why, with so much fear and distrust of the Bush regime across the land, does it feel so nearly inevitable that we're looking at four more years of the same?

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