Sunday's Broadway Spectacle: Police and Democracy Make Strange Bedfellows

Mass arrests mark the arrival of Republican delegates in Times Square

| August 2004

NEW YORK -- On Sunday, August 29, Republican delegates descended on Times Square armed with complimentary tickets to a few of Broadway's more inoffensive shows. They did not encounter many protesters on their way to their officially sanctioned glitz and glamor, since those same protesters had just been carted off to jail, along with anyone unlucky enough to be standing near them.

A tearful woman, handcuffed and being lead into a police wagon, expressed her bewilderment and confusion to stunned onlookers: 'We were just walking by when they arrested us. We didn't do anything. This isn't Iraq. This is America.'

As a self-professed World War II veteran repeatedly bellowed 'Lock 'em up!' from across the street, other recently arrested citizens tried to make sense of what was going on. 'I was crying,' said Joan Roney as her mug-shot was taken in front of the Marquis Theater, currently showing Thoroughly Modern Millie. She and her girlfriend, Carrie Pachecko, were walking home from the protests to their Upper East Side apartment. 'We saw people getting arrested, and we went up to see what was going on. Nobody said, 'you come here, you're going to get arrested.' Nobody said that, otherwise we wouldn't have walked there.' As she walked past the theater, she was suddenly corralled by police officers. When she asked them whether she was being arrested, they said, 'Oh, no, that would be crazy.' The next thing she knew, she was handcuffed. 'This is not something that needed to happen. I have no idea why this happened. This is not democracy.'

For over twenty minutes, arrestees did not know what charges were being leveled against them, though they were eventually told it was disorderly conduct. Joan and others denied being disorderly.

Emily Forman, another arrestee, recounts, 'I was walking down the street, and I saw one guy being dragged down the street... I was right there on the corner while he was being pulled away. Then they put up the webbing around us.' Many visitors to the city claim to have been arrested on false charges.

Purple, a homeless activist from Austin, Texas, was arrested a half hour after arriving in the city for illegal weapons possession. The weapon in question? His small, legal pocket knife. 'I was picked out because I was homeless, and I feel like they created the situation knowing that I'd only have a public defender, that I couldn't afford a real lawyer, and that the Lawyer's Guild was not operating yet. At first, the judge recommended that I serve 13 days, which is coincidentally the last day of the convention. It's also completely unheard of for that charge.' Still, while he felt mistreated, Purple also echoed the sentiments of many of the arrestees, who acknowledged the civility of the arresting officers. 'New York cops are a lot nicer than Austin cops,' he observed as he witnessed the day's arrests.

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