Hell to the Chief

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In case you hadn’t heard, PrezBush made a surprise visit to a charter school in Harlem today, and Bwog biked up to 144th and Adam Clayton to see what kind of welcome residents and activists had in store for him. Despite the massive security, which included snipers on every building, streets completely blocked off within a three-block radius, cadres of NYPD on every corner, dozens of motorcycles, secret service hiding in dump trucks, and metal fences lining every street, a sizable number of dissidents managed to show up and locals congregated to express their opinions and see why their neighborhood was shut down for the day.

The most striking part about the event was the effectiveness of the metal fences, copious police presence, and constantly changing rules for where one could walk. Any chance of picketing for more than a couple of minutes was precluded by the sheer overwhelming power of the NYPD and their vehicles. Nevertheless, residents shouted “GO HOME! WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE!” to Bush’s motorcade, while a band of about 30 picketers, largely Columbia students, led chants of “Bush out of Harlem, US out of Iraq!” and other anti-war slogans, as they were followed by a few dozen police on the sidewalk and a rolling van of at least eleven officers. Said one Columbia protester, “This is a traveling ‘free speech zone,'” mocking the fact that they couldn’t remain stationary. Others were more confrontational, yelling at the NYPD, “These are our rights being violated!” The NYPD circled the group but they stayed silent.


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  1. see  

    the you have to keep moving and can't protest on a sidewalk is dubious and likely unconstitutional claim.

  2. Pfft  

    The right to assembly has been dead for years

  3. ugh  

    the police do what they want, knowing the courts will only rule against them months down the road, with little consequence.

    has modern society outgrown tocqueville's "aristocracy of lawyers" who were supposed to look after our rights?

  4. Anonymous  

    some people on this campus will protest for the dumbest things. if people spent as much time protesting as they did working towards realistic solutions, things would be a lot different right now. No, instead we prefer to protest in hopes that the president will capitulate. Has that ever happened? No. Will it ever happen? No. So let's relax, leave Bush alone, and focus on the future. He's a lame duck anyway.

  5. yeah  

    freedom of assembly means you can get together with likeminded people and voice your opinions - political groups, Elks Club, etc.

    It does NOT mean that you can assemble where ever you choose (the middle of the street, infront of the President's limo).

    Important difference

    • okay  

      in that case, let's find an excuse to render every bit and piece of the US legally unsuitable for assembly (how hard could it be if sidewalks for blocks and blocks can be cordoned off like this?). justifiable way to decimate freedom of association?

      the point is that at some stage there has to be a boundary between the legitimate concern that freedom of association isn't applicable anywhere and that it has to be applicable somewhere- and that somewhere ought to be somewhat relevant.

  6. wait  

    secret service hiding in dump trucks? huh?

  7. pragmatist  

    Second srsly's point. But, for all of you constitutional scholars who are posting on this blog, "the right to peaceably assemble" is an enumerated right within the first amendment of the Constitution. The freedom to associate (to gather with likeminded people [clubs]) is an implied right which has very little to do with this debate. Let's check our pocket Constitutions before we post.

  8. first, this protest  

    had nothing to do with changing Bush's mind. It was about connection issues - war, occupation, poverty, racism - and building a movement. Realistic solutions? Lame duck? The only way to make politicians do shit is to force them, and unfortunately most Americans are short on the most persuasive form of influence: cold hard cash.

    Second. People talk a free speech at Columbia, I think what we saw in Harlem today was the systematic repression of a neighborhoods right to protest. Would three blocks have been cordoned off if this was in some ritzy conservative neighborhood? Not a chance. It was the type of speech, and the content of our message that was being repressed by the barricades and absolutely insane numbers of NYPD, and it was a recognition that in Harlem the general sentiment was, "fuck off Bush," a sentiment which the police did their best to hide, deny, and restrain.

    • disagree  

      When Bush came to speak at my undergraduate university in Louisiana - a state that went overwhelmingly for Bush, there was a ton of security and protest disruption. This was not in a poor black town.

      Also, let's not all talk as if the police is a strong arm of the Republican party. Do you know any officers? I know several, and they are all vehemently anti-Bush. They do what they do not out of a fondness of the man, but because there is a general risk that anti-Bush protests may turn violent.

    • how  

      stupid can people be:

      "Would three blocks have been cordoned off if this was in some ritzy conservative neighborhood? Not a chance."

      Midtown Manhattan + 2004 + RNC

      3 blocks in Manhattan for the President - oh yeah, huge deal

  9. grrrrr  

    Prezbush's appearance today prevented me from going on my favorite running route through Central. dammit Bush!

  10. hmmmm  

    "Bush out of Harlem, US out of Iraq!"

    one of those two is easier than the other

  11. a-pow  

    what a beautiful day for a bike ride!

  12. Bubba

    I'm just surprised that Bush dared to enter Bubba's hood. 125th St. is 100% Slick Willy territory, never mind the activistos.

  13. whenever  

    there are a lot of NYPD cops around i like to put on my black suit and run around waving a wallet.

  14. StrawHat  

    Wow, man just can't catch a break. One doesn't necessarily have to be for the war to see how petty this is. He was here about a school...

  15. he was

    here to hype up No Child Left Behind.

    It's petty to protest the President?

  16. StrawHat  

    No, it's not petty to protest the president but I mean, "Bush out of Harlem, US out of Iraq"? Do I need to say any more? Taking Bush taking a trip to Harlem that has to do with education, and saying he should get out because of disagreement over the Iraq war does seem a tad petty, yes.

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