Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three city blocks threaten to take down America

In response to the City's budget woes, today's Scottish pride parade has been cut from 13 to ten blocks long. The event is the first procession affected by the NYPD's decision to shorten parade routes in order to cut down on officer overtime hours.

I have been to parades in many places - New Orleans, DC, Havana, Saigon, Bangkok (the photo here was taken on March 20th at one of the Red Shirt rallies - note how non-violent and generally chill everyone is) and others - and I have to say there is something about the NYPD that takes all the festivity out of a processional.

Police crackdowns on the monthly Critical Mass parade have produced what is in San Francisco a leisurely, semi-politically inclined bike ride, in Manhattan an unpleasant and sometimes dangerous cat-and-mouse game in which participants must dutifully stop before the crosswalk at all red lights lest the accompanying phalanx of cops on motorbikes issue a summons for jaywalking or other such violations of City security.

Several years ago, while attempting to leave the established parade route during a City-approved rally several years ago, I was physically restrained by an Auxiliary officer who demanded I throw away my foam board poster (which read "Justice Not Violence") before cutting through the police barricades. She said I might use the poster as a weapon, prompting me to wonder if she could read.

Now why do we need so many rules and cops at these events? Exactly what and whom are they protecting? I doubt the security demands are so tight at the Scottish parade as to warrant overtime commitment for officers. If the police were instructed in these circumstances to help rather than hinder, everyone would be safer.

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