Assembling For The March 

[Rag-tag marching band]  
While waiting to step off into the stream of marchers, I watched this rag-tag band tootle and rat-tat-tat their way up 7th Avenue. This picture reminds me of the "Spirit of '76", a painting of Revolutionary War marchers.  

[Crowd waiting to march]  
Here we are massed on 16th Street, waiting to march up 7th Avenue (the sunlit area in the background). It was a long wait—there were a few hundred thousand people ahead of us!  

[Crowd waiting to march]  
This is looking the other way on 16th Street, at the mass of people waiting in the assembly area behind me. This is only one block's worth of marchers; the entire assembly area consisted of 28 city blocks.  

Amtrak drops you off in New York's Penn Station, which is underneath Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention. Although the protest march would pass Madison Square Garden, it would start further south, and I planned to start from the vicinity of 14th Street and 7th Avenue. To get there, I decided to take the subway.

The subway was very much like I remember it from years ago, except now they use a farecard system like D.C. instead of the old subway tokens. Nowadays, it costs $2 a trip, but you get a discount if you buy a $10 farecard—six trips for the price of five. I thought the subway would be jammed, but instead it was busy though not crowded. The system has such a huge capacity and arrivals were distributed over a two-hour period, so congestion wasn't a problem. I rode the A-train two stops, and noticed another difference from years ago. Back then, I remember the warning signs inside the subway car being in English and Spanish—that's how I learned the Spanish word for "danger"—peligroso. These days, the warning signs are only in English.

I got off at 14th Street and 8th Avenue and walked over to the assembly area on 16th Street, between 7th and 6th Avenues. Although the entire assembly area was many city blocks, the web site map indicated that this particular block was for people from the southeast and mid-Atlantic states. The assembly block wasn't particularly crowded, but closer to 7th Avenue (the route of the march), the crowd thickened. Seventh Avenue itself was jammed with people, so dense you could hardly move.

It was a lively crowd with people of all ages, from infants in strollers to old folks tottering along or in wheelchairs. Most of the crowd appeared to be on the young side, let's say, under-30'ish. There were lots of high school to college age people treating it like a fun outing but with some pretty serious anti-Bush messages. I saw all races, too, but there were surprisingly few African-Americans. Perhaps they don't feel well served by the political process, so they don't bother with protest marches, either. I saw other nationalities, including Germans and Canadians.

I saw people of all genders, too (bet you thought there were only two!): male, female, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. The gay/lesbian contingent was very large and very active, noisy, and involved. There were plenty of people with various other associations, like veterans, the disabled, animal rights activists, Communists, teachers against Bush, etc. There were upper middle class yuppie women wearing jewelry and chic clothes, and there were tattooed and pierced punks with orange hair. It was a cross-section of New York, from soup to nuts.

Many people were carrying signs of every imaginable type. There were lots of pre-printed signs mounted on cardboard tubes (wooden sticks were banned and would be confiscated by the police). There were lots of home-made signs, too, many with clever or witty slogans—some bitingly funny or sarcastic, others downright rude and profane. But all the slogans were heartfelt and genuine, and it was gratifying to see so many people who hadn't been fooled by Bush and who were committed to evict him from the Oval Office. There were plenty of anti-war signs and peace signs, many pointed slogans like "Babies Not Bombs!" and "Bush Lies, Who Dies?", messages deploring greed and international economic conspiracies, protests against lost jobs and the faltering economy, and numerous rainbow flags opposing the Bush agenda. One sign said "Clinton Lied About Sex And Was Impeached, Bush Lied About Iraq And Was Re-Elected", another sign said "Power To The Peaceable" (a play on "power to the people"). There were signs hanging from apartment balconies (one urging us "Re-Defeat Bush"), and a huge billboard on an office building imploring us to "Save America, Defeat Bush". I saw a paper-mache effigy of Bush bobbing above the crowd, and nearby, several people hoisted a giant, inflatable plastic pig that symbolized corporate greed. There seemed to be a real hatred of Dick Cheney expressed by many crude and rude signs. Most of the anti-Cheney signs were hand-made with very few pre-printed signs. There were plenty of pro-Kerry signs, stickers, and buttons, but the overwhelming majority of the sentiment was specifically anti-Bush.

Of course, by long tradition, New York City is staunchly Democratic, so anti-Republican sentiment should be expected. Furthermore, on a day that encouraged outspokenness, even radical left-wing messages could be expected—people were handing out tracts from socialist, communist, and anarchist organizations. The city is such a liberal bastion that it caused at least some of the outrage felt by locals—that this arch-conservative politician should choose New York City to carry out his party's political machinations.

There was further resentment because Bush was trying to tap into the 9/11 emotions here in New York, even though his behavior back then was hardly stellar. He had been visiting a school in Florida when the attacks occurred, and Bush kept reading that damn "Pet Goat" book with the children while New York City was being attacked. Then he hopped on his jet and disappeared into the safety of the Midwest, while Rudy Giuliani, the mayor, braved the unknown to appear publicly at Ground Zero and reassure New Yorkers. It wasn't Bush's finest hour.

Even overlooking those sore points, there was still plenty of other outrage and resentment. Bush has made so many enemies through right-wing neo-con politics and outright blunders that there were a myriad reasons to come out and protest today.

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