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Eye witness from New York

Joel Kenrick


It has been an extremely interesting week here in New York, I have never been at an event that has had such a consistent level of protests, actions, meetings and creative responses spread over more than a week. There have literally been thousands of people on the streets every day since Friday protesting against the Bush agenda.

There have literally been thousands of people on the streets every day since Friday protesting against the Bush agenda - first a 'critical mass' cycle ride on Friday highlighted the environmental agenda when 5000 cyclists took to central New York - and 250 were arrested in a police crackdown. Then on Saturday 15000 marched in a pro-choice women's march, I went to a youth 'books not bombs' conference and tried to understand a bit about the American movement.

On Sunday was the huge anti-Bush march organised by United for Peace and Justice - between 250 000 and 400 000 people marched passed Madison square garden in a massive show of unity. It was very interesting seeing the diversity of the crowd, and how Kerry has certainly not got the support of these people - even if most of them will end up voting for him. America is so polarised by the two party system, and yet there is little between Kerry and Bush on the War and social issues. It is difficult to know what these people can do, as the Democrats are the only really alternative. Some are supporting Nader, while others think that he will just hand the white house back to Bush.

Also what struck me was the number of homemade signs - these were ordinary people who are just fed up with Bush not organised groups like you might see in the UK. There was lots of street theatre, bands, as well as former Republicans who are fed up with Bush, Vets against Bush and many, many others. It seems to me as a European that America has so much catching up to do. The fight that the progressive movement in the USA tackles were in the main won in Europe many years ago - things like universal Healthcare, the abolition of the Death Penalty, welfare provisions and a woman's right to choose.

Yesterday over 5000 people marched under the 'Still We Rise' coalition of New York Housing groups, AIDS campaigners and immigrant groups. Later up to 4000 took part in an unofficial 'Poor People's March from the UN to the convention site. Me and a group of four friends decided to use a bit of creativity when we took part in the Still We Rise march by acting out some street theatre. We made a costumes the night before - one of us was on stilts with a huge monster head and a sign saying 'just trust me'. The rest of us were carrying huge sacks and dragging things symbolising the burdens of the world's poor - what we where trying to show is how the elites tower above us and tell us to trust them, when really they tie us down and make us carry the burdens of ill-health, bad housing, poverty and hopelessness. It's only when we recognise the injustice of the system that Bush and co. represent.

Today is the day of direct action, and dozens of events are planned around the city. I'll let you know what happens over the next few days. Tomorrow is highlighting unemployment in the morning with a 5000 strong single-file 'Unemployment Line' planned all the way down Broadway.

It has not just been about protests though, a group of New York artists have planned an 'Imagine' festival with over 50 different art events, theatre shows, parties and movie premieres. Last night I went to a packed meeting of hundreds of people asking 'can we do better than Anyone But Bush?' There have also readings of the names of all those killed in the 'War on Terror'.

That is just a taste of what has been going on, the weather has been very hot and humid (at least for me!) which has made it all the more impressive that so many people have braved the midday sun to come out on the streets.

 

September 2004

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