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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Bloomberg lies about park for protest

The Great Lawn, big enough for Disney, and HBO, too small for free speech

Photo by Tim Gustafson

This is a letter from the anti-war coalition about their planned protest against the RNC and the War

An Open Letter to Our Supporters

Dear friend of UFPJ:

United for Peace and Justice has been fighting for months to have our Constitutional rights respected. We have been in a contentious process with the Mayor and Police Department of New York City regarding the location of our march and rally against the Bush agenda on August 29th, the eve of the Republican National Convention. We are writing to update you on these negotiations and to make sure you know about a number of important developments.

Almost three weeks ago, United for Peace and Justice made the difficult decision to accept the West Side Highway rally site for our August 29 protest, which was imposed on us by Republican NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Police Department. We had already reached an agreement with the City regarding our protest march, which will assemble at 14th Street and Seventh Avenue and march up the avenue in front of Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention.

We were compelled to go along with the West Side Highway, a rally site we did not like, in order to move forward with our organizing work and build the largest and broadest possible protest against the Bush agenda. But we also made it clear ^ to the City, the media, and our supporters ^ that there were numerous issues regarding the West Side Highway location that needed to be resolved to make this site workable for a rally. These include the use of police barricades to pen in protesters, which we emphatically oppose, and access to free drinking water and shuttle buses, which are essential given the highway,s lack of shade and remote location.

Our plan to hold a safe and legal march past Madison Square Garden remains firmly in place. But we are increasingly concerned about the viability of a rally on the West Side Highway, because of the following developments:

1. We have had two recent meetings with the Police Department, in which they did not make any concessions or commitments on any of the unresolved issues we have put on the table. Neither they nor anyone from the Mayor,s office has given us any indication that they are willing to work with us to meet our needs.

2. We have heard from a number of medical professionals that there are serious potential public health risks associated with holding our rally on the West Side Highway, away from shade, stores, and public transit.

3. After consulting with a number of sound and stage companies, we have learned that it will be extremely difficult and potentially impossible to provide a quality sound system for the entire rally area, which would stretch for several miles, and that the cost of sound and jumbotrons will be in the range of $300,000, which is more than double what it would cost us to hold a rally in Central Park.

4. We have gotten feedback from a number of groups and individuals ^ particularly seniors, people with disabilities, and people with young children ^ that they cannot attend the rally if it is held on the West Side Highway, because of health and safety concerns. Many of our other supporters have said they will not attend a rally there, because the inhospitable location amounts to an attack on our right to free assembly.

In addition, since we announced our decision, some important new information has appeared in the mainstream media. Quinnipiac University released a public opinion poll showing that 75% of New Yorkers support our right to rally in Central Park. Meanwhile, a horticulturalist who worked on the renovation of the Great Lawn revealed to The New York Times that it was engineered specifically to withstand large crowds, undercutting the City,s claim that our rally would irreparably damage the grass.

The question is, where do we go from here?

We will be holding a press conference tomorrow, August 10, to announce our next steps. Our goal for August 29 remains what it has always been: to bring the largest and most representative number of people possible out into the streets in opposition to the Bush agenda. We are committed to having a safe, legal, and peaceful protest, accessible to all..

We appreciate the broad support we have received throughout this challenging process. We have been up against an administration and a police department that are openly hostile to our First Amendment rights. On August 29, as massive numbers of people march in front of the site of the Republican Convention, we will send a strong, clear message: We reject the Bush administration,s agenda of war, greed, hate and lies, and we are standing up to the ominous suppression of dissent in this country.

We know you stand with us in this effort, and we are counting on you to continue building to make August 29 a huge success, overcoming the barriers that have been put in our way by Bush, Bloomberg, and the NYPD.

In solidarity,
United for Peace and Justice

posted by Steve @ 12:50:00 PM

12:50:00 PM

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