Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reflections on March/ April 1995 "Bridges and Tunnels" Budget Protests. "This City is Ours"

"Rush Hour Protest Causes Gridlock," reported the New York Times on April 26, 1995, detailing the ways hundreds blocked two bridges and two tunnels into Manhattan, in a coordinated protest over the Pataki and Guiliani state and city budgets.  March and April of 1995 were galvanizing times in New York City activist circles.  Suzy Subways and Ester Kaplan, Ron Hayduk and Jed Brandt reflect on struggles against New York's turn toward austerity and the ways regular people used their bodies to help blunt the rough edges of this trend.  Veterans from the Young Lords to ACT UP joined the actions.  Charles King, of Housing Works, helped coordinate people with disabilities using their bodies, out of wheels chairs, to block the bridges.  It was an extraordinary time. 

"March 23, 2015 marks 20 years since the CUNY Coalition Against the Cuts’ legendary “Shut the City Down” protest in 1995, which saw an estimated 25,000 young people pack City Hall Park and get attacked by Giuliani’s police force while attempting to march on Wall Street. Sixty people were arrested. In these interviews conducted by Amaka Okechukwu and myself, organizers talk about that day, how they made it happen, what they were up against, what they might have done differently, and what it meant to them. As a participant as well as an interviewer, I’ve decided to step back and share the perspectives of other participants, using their first names, because—well, we go back a long time," writes Subways. For more see her long essay.  

Yet, the March 23, 1995 action that Spring.  My friend Jed Brand, featured in the article above, recalled the period. 
  • Jed Brandt Yes, the bridge-and-tunnel actions were related but distinct. The CUNY Coalition was around weekly vote-based meetings and had open admissions. The bridge-and-tunnel blockade on April 25 was organized by existing collectives and cadre-ish groupings. 

    It was a hot spring.

The story of that moment — it's not been told, not in it's full glory. It was an "event" and transformed all of us. Many of us had been in various alphabet soup groups (or the anarchist equivalents) and came out the other side liberated from that. The next few years, the anti-globalization movement, Indymedia — all these things were breaks. Also related to the affirmative action stuff at Cal, and the proposition outbreaks in Cali. The two far left leadership development projects that came out of the 1990s were STORM and SLAM — and these were the formative experiences.

The week before the March 23 occupation of City Hall Park (before we had a name for it!) a rally at Hunter got rowdy when a theater group blocked Lexington while while hundreds were on the sidewalks — Giuliani's MNTF was there, and looking for a violent confrontation. I went out in the street, got the crowd to disperse (to avoid any violence/mass arrests that would dampen turnout for the strike). The commander pointed at me as the blockade broke up, and said "get that one" and they got me good. Pretty rough about it, and injured my shoulder. They took me out of the neighborhood, up to Washington Heights and locked me to the bed, with two NYPD guards on the door. A personal friend who was at NYU had, unbeknownst to me showed up to shoot the rally — and used family connections with city gov't to find out where I was. Nobody knew my name. I was "Jed" and that's not my name. So I was kind of lost in the system, facing felony charges for "assault" — which were 100% fabricated.
Anyway, this friend rode up alone to the hospital after finding out where I was, and played "cute" to get through the cops — which worked, strangely. She had a 35mm under her jacket, and took that shot covertly, and also stuck two packs of Camels and a lighter into my underwear. Having cigarettes in jail is like, magic. She's a dear friend to this day. You can't beat it. The police attack at Hunter had the opposite effect that was intended. People were not daunted, but thousands of students (and administrators) who had been standing on the fence mobilized. It was one of those rare moments were the only way the "movement" could catch up with the students was by embracing direct action. There was fatigue, or more accurately dismissal, of "activism" by the mass of the community — and upping the ante was pretty much the only way to unlock the door.
And unlock the door, the activists did. Ron Hayduk, a long time organizer, recalled:

"Fall of 1994, and especially Winter and Spring of 1995 were filled with mass meetings, mobilizations and actions. Days of rage, days of hope.  Many were formed, some existing organizations came together, many found new friends and comrades.

I was a student at the CUNY Graduate Center but working full time for the City of New York as the Coordinator of the Voter Assistance Commission. I was part of the organizing group that helped shut down 4 bridges and tunnels on 4/25 in 1994, which Ester Kaplan so powerfully documented in From Act Up to the WTO (see below).  In 1994, Richie Perez articulated a vision of a multiracial series of actions during a gathering of nearly over 800 activists who came to hear bell hooks and Cornell West talk about “Breaking Bread,” the title of their co-authored book.  Richie’s radical imagination was realized on that glorious day in April 1995, which came after other magnificent actions in March, February and before.

What led to these days of rage and mobilizations for hope?  Previous years of organizing coupled with immediate threats in the form of menacing budget cuts wielded by newly elected right-wing Republicans, who displaced “progressive” (or at least “liberal” Democrats—Mario Cuomo in state house and David Dinkins in Gracie Mansion).

In early 1994, just after his inauguration as Governor, George Pataki, introduced a slash and burn budget, aimed at undermining the public sector in general and NYC in particular.  Pataki claimed this had to be done to fill hidden budget deficits from the Cuomo administration.  Pataki imposed a mass cut in state funding, which especially targeted students a SUNY and CUNY.  In 1995, Pataki proposed a massive increase in student tuition—and New York State enacted—a reduction to the maximum award financial aid (TAP) for public university students to 90 percent of tuition.
At the same time, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had also proposed a cut in city funding to CUNY community colleges. 

CUNY Chancellor Ann Reynolds declared a financial emergency. CUNY's budget crisis would be resolved twice by retrenchment and raising tuition.

Double whammy.  A huge hit. In a public university system where a large percentage of the student body was official poor (something link 40% came from households making less than $20,000 per year), this meant denial of this public good and relegation to lower social orders.  The escalator to opportunity, the path to the Promised Land that CUNY offered was to be closed to tens of thousands, and they and their friends and families knew it.  So did kids in the NYC public high schools who were headed to CUNY, and their family, friends, and teachers. 

Over the next months, CUNY students (and High school students and faculty) protested, occupying campuses and demonstrating in Albany and at City Hall, closing the Brooklyn Bridge.  They were joined by a number of civil rights organizations and activists, ACT UP, progressive unions, and others engaged in social justice work. 

Many meetings at CUNY campuses, offices of CSS, 1199, CAAV…. other orgs……people’s homes, so many places.  Eating, some drinking, much poster making, strategizing, and especially action planning.   So many new friends were made, experiences shared, creation, bonding.   Glorious, smart, and effective actions.  Multiracial politics were in the mix and in the air, in some quarters.  We got some good media; some progressive elected officials joined us to help give us voice.  Some got arrested with us.   

In the end, the proposed tuition increases were scaled back; some of the cuts were restored. 
But NY State aid to CUNY declined from $732.8 million for the 1994-95 academic year to $608.1 million for 1996-97.  That’s a huge hit.  We have not recovered fully, yet.

Then CUNY Chancellor Ann Reynolds was quoted in the NY Times, saying: “When the City University raised tuition by $750 in 1995 and New York State cut financial aid, the university saw a sudden drop in undergraduates: 138,000 students enrolled at its four-year colleges, 4,500 fewer than the previous year and about 6,500 fewer than projected.  I am convinced that the reason was simply financial... Students needed to have much more cash on the barrel. I am convinced that we are denying opportunity for poor students to go to college.''
A 1995 lawsuit by the PSC and the UFS won partial restoration of the Pataki cuts, but the Board of Trustees declared a financial emergency for the senior colleges and proceeded with retrenchment. The BOT passed 37 policy resolutions to reorganize CUNY for fiscal purposes. The PSC and UFS went to court to challenge some of the proposals, which attempted to change admissions and curriculum.   

La lucha continua……

Many of the throngs involved in these actions—and touched by them—have gone on to engage in the myriad other campaigns and actions that have made NYC activism famous and fun over the years, or have gone on to other places to do similar agitating.  And the stories live.

Someone should tell the stories about students and faculty taking over 11 CUNY campuses in protest of Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts/tuition increases in 1990.   We all walked out without being arrested, charged with anything, and in some cases, we got an office and phone to continue to organize.    Which of course, contributed to the days of rage in 1995. " 

Today, Haduk, now a professor Queens College, is still involved in the fight for equitable education for all, as a member of the CUNY Professional Staff Congress.  On World AIDS Day, December of 1999, Hayduk and this writer starting drafting a call for a collection of papers about the galvanized rounds of protests taking place during the era.  One of the first papers Hayduk called for was by Ester Kaplan, recalling the legendary "Bridges and Tunnels" action of April 1995. The following is her report as published in From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest And Community-Building in the Era of Globalization Edited by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk.

This City Is Ours
By Esther Kaplan

At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25, 1995, in New York City, a little over a year into Rudy Giuliani's tenure as mayor and just five months into the Gingrich Revolution, hundreds of homeless activists marched across the Brooklyn Bridge for a rally at City Hall. As they neared the Manhattan-side ramp, twenty-five activists peeled off to block the bridge just as rush hour commuters headed their way. One of the activists, Lisa Daugaard, gleefully recalls that when police moved in to cuff them, a message came in over one officer's scanner. "Battery Tunnel??" she heard him say.

At that very moment, right across town, sixty City University of New York (CUNY) students had departed from another rally to block cars as they headed for that exit from Manhattan. A little farther uptown, twenty-five police-brutality activists dashed from a Chinatown movie house to seal off the Manhattan Bridge, the final artery to Brooklyn. And in Midtown, when a traffic light turned, seventy-five AIDS and disability activists, myself among them, briskly walked and wheeled our way deep into the entranceway of the Queens Midtown Tunnel for a traffic-stopping die-in. What The Village Voice dubbed the Rush Hour Revolt ultimately involved more than 2,000 demonstrators, four rallies and 185 planned arrests.[1] In fourteen years of activism, I've never been part of anything quite like it.
The action may be a faded chapter of '90s activist history by now, but what might today be referred to as "A25" is an early echo of the structure and style of the new direct action movement--interesting both for its strong parallels and for its distinct approach to some of the problems that plague the current movement. A25 was a large, multi-site, multi-issue action almost five years before the Battle in Seattle. It was a mass civil disobedience action at a time when no one but ACT UP had used that tactic in years. And it was a brash display of political unity--with majority participation by people of color--at a time when city progressives had never felt more divided.

A divided city
We all sensed that a storm was coming when Giuliani made cracking down on the city's "squeegee men" a centerpiece of his campaign for mayor. But we didn't realize how quickly. In his first week in office in January 1994, the former prosecutor, saying that windshield-wiping entrepreneurs "filled New Yorkers with dread," sent police officers out to round up and arrest them all. Two weeks later, the city posted signs in subway cars, urging riders not to give out pocket change to panhandlers, and arrests of the poor multiplied underground. Brutal sweeps of out-of-the-way homeless encampments followed, where the unhoused had their shelter and belongings bulldozed before being treated to three nights in jail. By March, the crackdown had extended to public urinators and marijuana tokers, and by April to the city's mostly immigrant squad of food vendors.
The deluge began in mid-February, when the mayor announced that he would sell off several of the city's public hospitals to private bidders and that he planned to eliminate the city's Division of AIDS Services as well. And it simply didn't let up. In early May, he proposed a city budget splattered with massive cutbacks to the public schools, public universities, and youth services; in October he pushed a package of midterm cuts that threatened to eliminate soup kitchens across the city. By year's end, police brutality complaints had risen by 38 percent.

            For activists, it was chaos. Looking back through my datebook from that year, I notice that in the space of a few months I appeared in court on disorderly conduct charges for an evening of staged squeegeeing; offered childcare for a day-long teach-in on the Division of AIDS Services; pulled a midnight shift as an observer at Penn Station, where reports of police beatings of the homeless were most severe; joined a demonstration protesting proposed tuition hikes at CUNY, and, like every other activist in the city, it seemed, went to meeting after meeting after meeting. Countless community coalitions sprang up--Youth Agenda to oppose the youth services cutbacks, the Harlem Coalition to Save Our Health Care to fight hospital privatization--each one a piecemeal attempt to limit the destruction.

            During the course of that year, there were a few victories. Faced down by ACT UP and other AIDS activists, the mayor backed down on his threat to eliminate the city's AIDS division. The Board of Education and the United Federation of Teachers staved off a portion of the public school cuts. The health care union, 1199, along with local community activists, saved Harlem and Bronx public hospitals from the auction block. But it was a zero-sum game: If you won, someone else lost, and privately, AIDS activists agonized that their victory came at the price of youth centers across the city shutting their doors.

            Many advocates were struggling to find a way out of the bind, and some came together to form broad, citywide umbrella organizations, most notably the Same Boat Coalition, composed heavily of social service providers under the budget knife, and Breaking Bread, composed mostly of left-wing academics and community activists, including myself. But with unions and nonprofits locked in struggles that could mean the death of institutions, Same Boat could rarely turn out more than one hundred demonstrators for the rallies they planned--and ended up functioning best as a pre-email information exchange. And while Breaking Bread did pull out about eight hundred people for a forum on social change with Bell Hooks and Cornel West in June 1994, only one hundred showed up four weeks later for a follow-up strategy session, and that coalition soon closed shop.

            The most significant things to come out of Breaking Bread were a few relationships among members of its racially and politically diverse steering committee, and a comment made by one of them, National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights chair Richard Perez, as he moderated that Hooks-West dialogue. He said, "I can imagine a time when we'd have a level of unity where we could close down bridges and highways around the city and stop business as usual! And we could do this without having to form a single organization." It was an image of intense political coordination that went way past the dominant, but ineffective, coalition model of the time.

            A week, two weeks, three months later, and the image was still rattling around in our heads. Really, when you think about it, why not?

            In early November, Daugaard and I (she a founder of the homeless advocacy group StreetWatch; me a longtime ACT UPer), nervously called up Perez and asked to meet about something we'd rather not discuss on the phone. The former Young Lord didn't ask any questions, but invited us over to his office the next afternoon. "Do you remember what you said back in July about all those bridges?" we asked. "What do you think about giving it a try?"

            Our first A25 planning meeting took place two weeks later in a noisy restaurant with about eight others. The meeting was contentious, even jittery, but almost everyone left ready to try what was then almost unthinkable.

Total coordination and total autonomy
William Broberg, a coordinator of the student arm of A25, now works as an attorney in Seattle--he was the one who finally got the WTO protesters there out of jail. Our post-Seattle conversations were my first exposure to the political structure behind these multifocal protests--the use of "spokescouncil" meetings to link independent acts of civil disobedience. Though our approach to organizing A25 was quite different from this Seattle model, the basic premise--balancing unity and autonomy--felt extremely familiar.

            Our goals for A25 were ambitious--to directly confront the disunity among New York City's activist communities and escalate the seriousness of the resistance--but our proposal was elegant in its simplicity: plan a militant, coordinated action that allowed maximum autonomy for each organization involved.

            In the late '80s and early '90s, with labor in a deep slumber, most active organizations were community-based (Harlem, Bed-Stuy), identity-based (Haitians, African Americans, lesbians), or issue-based (abortion, AIDS), and it was common to hear complaints about the "balkanization" of the left--in fact, by a few of the same people who are so taken by the current antiglobalization movement. Those of us who were building A25 were not among the bashers. We respected, and participated, in organizations like these--they'd been extremely effective at bringing our communities' issues into the public consciousness, whether AIDS discrimination or Puerto Rican independence--even as we wanted to push our own comrades to consider the potential for collective power on a grand scale. We also knew that part of what limited the effectiveness of coalitions like Breaking Bread was that none of us could really imagine a single organization that everyone could trust.

            Our coordinating committee was not composed, as in the standard coalition model, of organizational representatives who changed from week to week. It was made up of specific individuals. To pull off our concept, we needed to bring in seasoned activists who had strong credibility within their community--enough credibility to bring in their organization without giving out all the information. "Key to our success was everyone in the room had a constituency," says Perez. "We weren't six people who could mobilize twelve people." And they each had to be people who could work comfortably in an egalitarian, collective body. "The careful and intentional pace at which we expanded was very important to me," says Thoai Nguyen, then an organizer with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV). "The importance placed on tactics and political principles over numbers was key."

            Over time, we made a handful of agreements, each with a specific goal in mind. Each civil disobedience (CD) site would have an above-board rally to accompany it, to allow us to create buzz about the day of action without exposing our real plans. To minimize the risk of an injunction, no one but coordinating committee members would know any information about the other actions. We'd create a single common mission statement--subject to review by the planners of each action--that would be distributed on the flip side of each site's issue-based statement or fact sheet. We'd design a common press strategy, to guard against one "hot" action drawing all the attention--a strategy we implemented by offering the story to reporters on the condition that they cover every site. (That's why the New York Times had four photographers and four reporters on the story.) And that was it.

Beyond that, each team planning an action was on its own: Did they want to define the action by community, such as the South Bronx, or by issue, such as police brutality? Did they want the Brooklyn Bridge or Battery Tunnel? Did they want to keep logistics secret from their recruits, or trust each CDer to keep it on the down low? Their call.

            We were searching for a form of unity that could lay the groundwork for taking control of the city back from Giuliani and the forces of reaction he represented, but which would ask communities to sacrifice as little autonomy as possible.

            On the coordinating committee, we asked much more of each other. No faxes, no e-mails, almost nothing in writing at all: every bit of outreach was one-on-one, face-to-face, and our meetings were long, intense, and frequent. At each successive meeting, if there was even one new person, we talked through and refined the politics and strategy of the action again--and again. "I thought its simplicity was its best feature," says Nguyen. "We worked closely and held each other accountable for successes and failures, and we didn't rely on clumsy structures like the spokescouncil or affinity groups."

The color question
From the first thrilling news footage that came out of Seattle, it was evident that, as Elizabeth Martinez wrote in ColorLines, the great battle was "overwhelmingly white."[2] After Martinez opened up the debate within the movement, a handful of activists began to respond, in small and large ways: the Mobilization for Global Justice paid for buses for some mostly black ACT UPers from Philadelphia for April 16, 2000, in Washington; CAAAV joined with other activists to form Third Force, a people of color contingent for A16 and the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia; Nguyen and others organized trainings and teach-ins for people of color from Philly and New York City interested in participating in the protest at Republican National Convention (R2K). But many activists remain fairly cynical about the rate of change.

            In contrast, race politics was fundamental to building April 25. It was, in part, our shared frustration with the creeping whiteness of coalitions like Same Boat that prompted us to explore this new model in the first place. In addition, "We came out of AIDS, CUNY, police brutality, homelessness, hospitals, all areas in which people of color were a tremendous component," recalls Perez, who spoke on a post-R2K panel about people of color and CD. "No one came out of an all-white milieu. Some of the antiglobalization activists are coming out of an all-white world."

            From the outset, we talked openly about which communities were being hardest hit by the Gingrich/Giuliani one-two punch, and which communities were engaged in active resistance. We needed the Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn; we needed the unions, the food vendors, the cabbies, and the homeless; we needed African Americans, Haitians, Asians, and Latinos; we needed students, gay men, and lesbians. And we strategized carefully about who we could reach out to in each world.

            Our vetting process consumed the first two and half months. Whenever the coordinating committee met, we'd each suggest a name or two and then have a lengthy debate about each person's ability to bring out a constituency, their political style, and who was best suited to make the approach. Sectarians were out; narrow nationalists, out; white activists without experience in multiracial organizing, out. If anyone felt that a candidate wasn't trustworthy, she was out. No one could come in unless everyone felt comfortable about them. I remember one meeting where the name of a certain respected '60s generation lawyer came up (we were toying with the idea of having an attorney present at each meeting to thwart potential conspiracy charges) and I mentioned, almost as an aside, that I'd noticed he couldn't listen to women. And that was it--his name was tossed. I was a little stunned.

            We had a few notable failures. Though we successfully recruited several black leaders--Shakoor Aljuwani of the Harlem Hospital Community Board, Brooklyn activist James Steele, Harlem priest Father Luis Barrios, Sabine Albert of the Haitian Women's Program--we never got full buy-in on the CD component from a black organization (Sharpton's operation was a near miss). Ultimately, says Perez, "we didn't find any militant organizations in the black community who bought into the multiracial paradigm." We were equally conscious of trying to bring labor in, and we approached nearly every prominent labor progressive in the city. "When you look at where labor was then, it was extremely underdeveloped," says Perez. "It still is." Still, labor did join the legal rallies, and there was a strong African American presence at the homeless and CUNY CD's.

            In the end, at planning meetings, there was a level of ease in the room. No one spoke out of turn, in a sense: each of us was juggling a longstanding relationship with our own organization, in my case, ACT UP, with our personal and political commitment to making this unified action work. Losing credibility on either end was a bit terrifying. I remember collapsing in tears one afternoon near the end, when I thought my ACT UP comrades, experiencing a crisis of faith about whether the other actions would come through, seemed on the verge of pulling out. Or the painful moment when Aljuwani said he didn't think he could deliver an action in Harlem—in great part because, late in the process, Harlem Hospital was saved from privatization. In this kind of intense environment, there was no room for posturing.

            "I felt a real and visible sense of racial, class, and gender unity with the other members of the coordinating committee," Nguyen recalls, "whereas the current movements think of those issues—especially race and class—as secondary, if they think of them at all."

Discipline and trust
In early March, I was in Philadelphia covering the trial of an old ACT UP comrade, Kate Sorensen, for POZ, the AIDS magazine where I now work. She'd been slapped with a $1 million bail after her arrest at R2K, plus ten felony conspiracy charges. (She ultimately stood trial for four.) Ten other felony trials came out of that week of action, and Sorensen is convinced that this is part of a national crackdown on activism. I suspect she's right, since the evidence of interagency coordination is so strong. But still, I kept wondering during the trial whether the loose structure of the direct action movement--undoubtedly a huge part of its size and appeal--had contributed to Sorensen standing trial for vandalism she'd had nothing to do with.

I asked Nguyen whether he'd had any fears with A25 that participants would do something to put others at risk, such as damaging property or physically confronting police. He said no, that he'd handpicked almost everyone in the police brutality CD, and "held each of them personally accountable to me, and vice versa. I also felt that the other coordinating committee members had the same m.o., and I trusted their confidence in the other participants."

April 25's direct action style came from two main sources: the tightly controlled, highly planned CDs of ACT UP/New York, whose members used to brag that the group, through hundreds of arrest scenarios, had never lost a single person in the system, and the security-conscious militancy of '70s-era radicals, like Perez, who'd experienced Cointelpro firsthand in the Young Lords.  Our legal team was tight and effective; we already knew, from our experience with ACT UP, which precincts people would be taken to, how many lawyers we'd need for this number of arrests, and what kind of time commitment they'd have to make; how to run a 24/7 legal center until arrestees were all released; and how to use pressure from local elected officials--who we'd already lined up--to expedite arraignment.

Many of our recruits--the CUNY students, young CAAAV members, homeless people--were fairly new to activism, and had never done CD before, so we committed to training them well and guaranteeing their safety. We created special segments of our CD trainings for minors, undocumented immigrants, and people with previous convictions, outlining clearly what the consequences might be and laying out important alternative roles they could play in the actions.

One of my favorite entries in our timeline for the action, adopted in early January was, "Week of action: Injunctions and restraining orders arrive."  As tight as our security was, we had carefully built infiltration, and the possibility of conspiracy charges, into the plan. Nguyen had been a student organizer in Indonesia, where breaches in security could mean jail time or death; Perez's years in the Young Lords weren't so far off; and Broberg and I had ourselves received an injunction a few years before, while planning a CD to protest Rust v. Sullivan, a Supreme Court decision restricting abortion funds (discussed in essay by Tracy Morgan in Section Two). These experiences set the tone.

We set very narrow restrictions on what any of us could reveal as we recruited for the coordinating committee. No unconfirmed CD participant knew where any action would take place; for two of the CDs, even the participants didn't know the locations until moments before. "If you handle secrecy right, people don't have to feel disempowered," says Broberg. "We had a very democratic process about which pieces of the tactical decisionmaking and information people were willing to relinquish knowing."

One of our final agreements was to use jail solidarity--that we would work together inside to assure everyone's prompt release. But our approach was different than that of, say, at R2K, where protesters all used noms de guerre and later fought every charge in court for nearly a year. We all gave the basic required information--legal name and permanent address only--and we agreed in court to accept ACDs (a kind of conditional dismissal that implies guilt), choosing as a group not to stand on ceremony so that we could be done with court and get back to our activist work. At a time when police response to activism was at least a bit more predictable, we made no major miscalculations of risk.

Speaking directly to activists
With our action on April 25, says Daugaard, "We targeted powerbrokers as a threat," but even more importantly, "we targeted activists with a call to action."

            This emphasis is clear as I read back over our deeply moral joint statement, "This City is Ours": "Every New Yorker is faced today with a historical choice, because our city is facing a degree of devastation that few of us have witnessed or expected in our lifetime," it read in part. "Our political leaders want us to turn on each other: to blame teen mothers for the budget crisis, to blame Asian, Latino or Caribbean immigrants for unemployment, to blame homeless people and drug addicts for crime; to blame people with AIDS and other illnesses and disabilities for the collapse of our health care system; to blame youth of color for the failure of our educational system. We are committed to resisting this pressure.... This year, as we take to the streets together before Mayor Giuliani releases his proposed budget, we refuse to fight each other for the same scraps from the budget table. Today we refuse to give divisiveness and cruelty our blessing.... This city is ours, and we do not want it left in ruins."

            As an effective challenge to the powers that be, our success was equivocal. Seven years later, Newt Gingrich may be a distant memory, but Giuliani’s legacy, Still, his legacy has been damaged. His repeated efforts to introduce privatization into the public schools, whether through vouchers or for-profit school management, have failed. We now know that he only managed to implement his workfare program because of an election rigged by a now-disgraced municipal election leader. And his crown jewel, the drop in crime, has been permanently tarnished by horrendous incidents of police brutality on his watch, from Anthony Baez to Abner Louima to Amadou Diallo.

            As a challenge to activists, it is possible to see the ripples of the action still. A25 cemented the relationship between CAAAV and the National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights, who had never before closely collaborated. The two groups not only went on to found the Coalition Against Police Brutality (CAPB), a people of color organization that now includes the black nationalist Malcolm X Grassroots Collective and the gay and lesbian Audre Lorde Project, but they formed the basis of Third Force, the people of color contingent that participated in A16 and R2K. The pressure exerted by the multiracial CAPB on Al Sharpton's narrow nationalism has slowly had its effect, too.  When police shot Amadou Diallo in early 1999, the Reverend issued a call for two weeks of multiracial CD. A25 was a sort of coming out party for SLAM!, the Hunter College-based Student Liberation Action Movement, which filled out the ranks of the CUNY protest that day According to Nguyen, SLAM! has become one of the few people of color-led organizations to do more than critique the race politics of the direct action movement; "it has taken on the responsibility to try to change it--despite a lot of resistance and denial."

During the thirty or forty hours we all spent together at Central Booking that spring in 1995, we experienced the kind of bonds that are by now familiar to veterans of the antiglobalization protests. "For a minute," Broberg recalls, "people gave themselves over to the vision of 'we'--a 'we' that was a whole lot bigger than we'd ever felt before." As Perez said to me recently, "It's important to create a tradition that speaks to these politics--that it's impossible to fight for your community without fighting homelessness and drug addiction; that it's impossible to fight for liberation and not fight homophobia. We were looking for a teaching experience, to show people what their power was." It wasn't a bad start.

This article was shaped by conversations and email exchanges with Richard Perez, chairman of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights; Thoai Nguyen, who is organizing Roma youth in the Balkans; Lisa Daugaard, who is now directing a project challenging racial bias by Seattle police; and William Broberg, a Seattle attorney. Thanks to Andrew Hsiao, who covered A25 for The Village Voice, for sharing his tapes from 1995 interviews.

[1] For coverage of the protest, see for example Andrew Hsiao with Karen Houppert, "Birth of a Movement?" The Village Voice, 9 May, 1995; Jessie Mangaliman and Rob Polner, "Budget Protest Traps Thousands," New York Newsday, 26 April, 1995; N. R. Kleinfield, "Rush Hour Protest Causes Gridlock," New York Times, 26 April, 1995; Elinor Tatum, "New York Police Break up Protest," Amsterdam News, 27 April, 1995.
[2] Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez, "Where Was the Color in Seattle," ColorLines, Spring 2000. For another influential article on race in the direct action movement, see Andrew Hsiao, "Color Blind," The Village Voice, 25 July, 2000.

The March and April street actions of 1995 would change New York activism forever. New modes of engagment were born as were new social relations and friendships. Suzy Subways and Jennifer Flynn Walker explain:

  • Suzy Subways I remember that one too! I got arrested with my best friend, Liz Paddock, who worked with ACT UP and the Coalition for the Homeless. She organized homeless people to do civil disobedience at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge by City Hall.

  • Jennifer Flynn Walker This was my first civil disobedience. I fainted in the police van and I asked Liz paddock out at some organizing meeting after we got out of jail.

1 comment:

  1. Produk Herbal de Nature

    Cara Cepat Menghilangkan Benjolan Ambeien

    Dalam perkembanganya banyak orang yang beranggapan bahwa jenis penyakit ini sulit untuk diatasi. Mereka beranggapan bahwa operasi menjadi salah satu jalan terbaik dalam penyembuhan ini. Akan tetapi, sebenarnya bila kita mau belajar tentang alam kita dapat memanfaatkan obat wasir tradisonal. Memang kelihatanya kuno dan ketinggalan zaman akan tetapi dibalik itu semua terdapat khasiat luar biasa yang ada di dalamnya. Selain itu keunggulan lain dari obat tradisional tidak akan ada efek samping yang dirasakan.

    Obat wasir tradisonal tersebut meliputi daun ungu, mahkota dewa dan kunyit putih serta kandungan propolis murni, minyak zaitun, binahong, sirih merah. Untuk obat tradisional yang pertama adalah daun ungu. Mungkin dalam kehidupan keseharian kita jarang mendengar jenis daun seperti ini. Akan tetapi, daun ini memiliki khasiat yang cukup besar untuk sakit wasir. Kandungan daun ungu ini berfungsi  sebagai antifalamasi,anti flakgigi dan mencegah sakit ketika menupaouse. Selain itu, dalam daun ungu terdapat kandungan alkaloid yang juga berfungsi sebagai analgesic atau penghilang rasa sakit. Sedangkan mahkota dewa sendiri memiliki berbagai kandungan untuk menyembuhkan luka serta menghilangkan rasa sakit yang berkepanjangan khususya dalam penyakit wasir.

    Selanjutnya, untuk obat wasira alami yang berupa kunyit putih mempunyai manfaat untuk mengeringkan luka yang bengkak sehingga pembengkakan yang ada pada anus akan segera berkurang dan sembuh. Untuk yang terakhir yaitu kandungan propolis murni, minyak zaitun, binahong, sirih merah yang berfungsi menyembuhkan wasir dari luar.