Nation readers are likely familiar with the way that New York City has been stonewalling the antiwar coalition United for Peace & Justice‘s efforts to obtain a legal permit for what will be the biggest rally of the Republican convention week on August 29.
UFP applied for a permit for a rally in Central Park last April. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused, citing concerns for the grass and offered an arid, treeless stretch of the West Side Highway, far from Madison Square Garden, as the only possible alternative. Yesterday, with the convention only three weeks away, United for Peace and Justice insisted it be allowed to protest in Central Park and said it will sue the city for the right to rally there, if necessary.
This insistence has received widespread support from local elected and civic officials, especially since the same space has held events–like an Elton John concert–with far more people than the rally will draw. And it’s not unusual for things of this sort to be held in grassy areas. As New York Newsday columnist Ellis Henican asked today in his column: “What do the gardeners in Washington know that the gardeners in Central Park never learned?”
Mayor Bloomberg is willing to spend millions to subsidize the RNC, but isn’t willing to consider any expense related to a protest. In any event UFPJ has even offered to put up a bond for restoration of the grass, if necessary, but the city won’t discuss it.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that 75 percent of New Yorkers back the park protest. Even Rupert Murdoch’s strongly pro-war New York Post has joined the chorus along with all of New York City’s other dailies, in calling on Bloomberg to reverse his decision: “A gaggle of lefty agitators wants to convene in Central Park this summer to give President Bush a little grief. But the Parks Department says no, because they might bend the grass. Well, too bad. ‘Keep Off The Grass’ appears nowhere in the First Amendment.”
UFPJ is asking people to call Bloomberg to politely protest the city’s denial of the right to rally in Central Park on August 29. You can email the Mayor by clicking here or call his office at 212-788-3000. It may also help to let the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, know how you feel. His office can be reached at 212-360-1305 or by clicking here.
You can also click here to go to the UFPJ website for updates on this struggle to secure the right to protest, and click here for information about the full range of planned protest, cultural and educational activities while the Republican Party meets in New York City.