August 28, 2004

The hijacking of protests in NYC

I could begin this post by focusing on the number of marches/rallies that went on in this city yesterday (12) and the subsequent arrests (over 200) but I won't.

Instead I'm going to focus on the frustration us law abiding New Yorkers feel over those that disrupt our lives in the name of free speech. Right now I'm very tired as it took me over 3 hours just to get home, when it normally takes 45 min. What delayed me? Ajoint rally held by two groups called Critical Mass/Times Up, held a rally which turned into an impromptu ride by over 5,000 bicyclists when the permit was originally called for their membership of 2,000.

What the news report , doesn't cover is that many walked their bicycles because there was no room for cars and bikes to be on the road. So instead, they dismounted and took to the sidewalks. Some of its members, tired of not being able to move, except at small ant's pace, then formed ad-hoc groups that splintered off to side streets heading for various local bridges in order to block traffic.

Now let me point out that in no instance was there a leaflet passed or posters shown indicating what they stood for or what their grievance was against the government. I know what they stand for because I was one of those that supported them years ago in their requests to city hall for closure of central park on weekends to traffic. Times Up! pushes for transportation alternatives, that's their agenda/mission but the conversations I overheard yesterday it's turned into something entirely different.

So why block traffic for hours and interfere with pedestrians safety in crossing the streets, especially since its counter to their philosophy? Wanting to get answers I called someone I know in their leadership to ask what the hell was going on.?

Well, according to him when they first planned for this rally, the group was divided over whether to include a political message in their rallying for a better environmental policy. What happened last night, according to him, was a rally that was taken over by clusters of Critical Mass supporters who's focus was to disrupt and aim for a political statement without Times Up! consent.

"Sounds to me like your rally was hijacked?" After a long pause he said, I'd really hate to think it's going to be like that. So, I told him I'd check back with him later on in the week to see if they felt they were successful in making people aware of who they were and their mission.

From watching the news after I got home, it's clear they lost the PR battle. Those interviewed by the media as they were being arrested made anti-Bush statements that had nothing to do with the environment or transportation alternatives. To bad Times Up! and Critical Mass don't have a spin guru to turn this new negative image around.

Posted by Michele at August 28, 2004 01:29 AM