On the way out of Keene, I headed straight for Manhattan to join Andrew Voluntaryist Valish and others in a solidarity protest we’d organized and merged with several other egyptian-american protests. It was a rainy day, but approximately fifty protesters showed up. The local egyptian-american community was quite supportive of their native egyptians, though it was very nationalist. Besides the nationalist egyptian community, supporters were ideologically diverse, from one guy talking about the Illuminati, to anti-war activists, from Socialist Action, to us voluntaryists.
Frequently, anti-Mubarak/pro-revolution chants occurred. An unfortunate aspect of the chants was that it was very leader-driven with one person starting chant and everyone repeating, instead of spontaneous people chanting, and we tried to start it. Various stories were shared of egyptian relatives being tortured by Mubarak’s thugs. One fellow protester had a sign saying Mubarak had stolen his girlfriend. You could sense the personal tragedy felt by many, but after decades of repression, you could also feel the hope because of the revolutionary change finally occurring. While this hope existed, they remained guarded against US interventionism or only partial change. Repeatedly, it was insisted that no one from the current egyptian administration be in the new government.
Yes, a new government was advocated, but Valish brought a sign that said, “Free Humanity”, which was photographed by numerous news organizations, including BBC getting his name. We chanted Free Humanity or Free Humans instead of Free Egypt, yet such chanting didn’t catch on.
However, we also dealt with the notorious NYPD on the way into the protest. As we approached the protest, we realized it was surrounded by the NYPD and cordoned off with gates so that there was only one entrance and one exit. Entering the bottleneck entrance, I hurried ahead to the front to meet some fellow organizers. I soon realized Valish wasn’t with me though, and turned around.
As I returned to the bottleneck, I realized he was talking to a cop. Apparently, the cop disapproved of his plastic mop handle as a sign handle. In fact, he felt threatened by the plastic mop handle. When we explained we weren’t protesting against the NYPD and he shouldn’t feel threatened, he replied that we weren’t protesting him yet, which caused me to wonder what he, or they, would do to cause such action on our part. He then explained that they had pre-made signs with cardboard handles (I’m holding one in the picture) approved for protests and unthreatening to officers. Eventually, after some back and forth, Valish removed the handle from the sign and held the sign by itself, without a handle. When I picked up one of the pre-made signs, having held Valish’s sign earlier, I realized the cardboard was a harder substance than the plastic mop handle. If I had to choose a sign to be assaulted by, I would have much preferred the thin plastic mop handle to the thick cardboard handle.
Later on, I tried calling the NYPD, at the local precinct, as well as the main switchboard. Multiple times my calls were ignored, I was never called back, or hung up on after the call was transferred. As such, I never found out what they normally carry in the field. But police, in general, are known to have firearms, night sticks, tazers, pepper spray etc. Even assuming the mop handle was a dangerous weapon, all these cop weapons are far more dangerous. Yet the cop feels threatened? And with an entire organization standing behind him? And back to the non-responsiveness of the NYPD, what of the service to the community that they allege? If someone has a legitimate concern on their policy, how do they contact the NYPD when they’re flat-out ignored? Multiple times?
This is exactly why an organization such as CopBlock exists, to pursue police accountability. When an organization alleging service to a community won’t even respond to that community with an explanation of their policies, that service can no longer be truly claimed. And police fearing lesser-armed individuals? Does this seem to make sense from an organization headed by a police commissioner whose short bio says, “A combat veteran of the Vietnam War, Commissioner Kelly retired as a Colonel from the Marine Corps Reserves after 30 years of service”? Shouldn’t this militarist police commissioner be ashamed of his fearful employee?
And you know what bothered me the most? How docile american protests are. While protesting tyranny abroad, one is subjected to utmost control over how one protests? Down to sign handles? Its now a counter-economic act to have a plastic mop handle for a protest sign? While I certainly advocate no violence, what happened to the old civilly disobedient spirit of the american revolution and protests leading up to it? Just something to think about next time a cop asks you to remove your own sign handle, stand in a free speech zone, or seek permission to march down the street. Especially when you consider the brave middle easterners refusing to obey under threat of violence.