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

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.

Neil Lear, an activist currently selling ‘Stop Bush’ stickers
throughout midtown Manhattan, relates, ‘We had a couple cops try
and buy stickers from us. The cops are really cool. All this stuff
about the paranoia of the cops is unfounded, at least in my
experience. A lot of them are on our side.’ Still, some paranoia is
clearly evident in the NYPD’s activity over the last several days.
Though the police officers may be just doing their job, someone
clearly wants Republican delegates to have a smooth walk down 42nd
Street, even at the expense of other pedestrians.

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