Tuesday, May 2, 2017

#maydaynyc on free speech, open space, and the need to march

I started getting messages the night before. Actions would take place all over the city.
An anti-capitalist march at Bryant Park, Radical Faeries in a community garden in the Lower East Side, Unions at Foley Square, Anarchists at Union Square, New York Shut it Down at Grand Central.

They posted the following call:

Donald Trump is pushing through a white supremacist agenda marginalizing, oppressing and killing Muslims, immigrants, workers, and black, brown and queer people. On May 1st, we will remind New York that#TrumpIsNotMyPresident and will stand up against his fascist regime, the racist cops, and the capitalist system that enables the continued gentrification, colonization and displacement of our communities. We're calling for New Yorkers to turn out on the International Labor Day to shut it down!

The Hoods4Justice posted the following statement.

SHARE: Which bloc will you be marching with on #mayday? Note: these are just the CURRENT active affinity groups participating this action. #maydaynyc
- queer bloc for trans lives
- indigenous bloc
- black lives matter bloc
- student bloc
- no borders, no walls, no bans bloc
"We are prioritizing the physical, emotional and mental safety of our people above all else. There are a plethora of reasons you may not be comfortable taking the streets, including but not limited to past trauma, disability, being a high-risk demographic for police brutality, or financial benefits that may be revoked if arrested. These various intersectionalities that exist to oppress us also make revolution more dangerous for some. We understand that some members of our community have more to lose than others, those who face intersections of race, gender, class, disability, neurodivergence, as well as sexuality. We encourage full autonomy in the decisions you make as a part of this movement, and if you are not safe or comfortable in any situation we urge you not to put yourself in danger. Those who are willing to take the risk of arrest and shut it down will respected for their choices. Anyone attempting to coerce people against their will won't be tolerated, and anyone who engages in tone policing, as in scolding people for using radical rhetoric or criticizing police for example, will not be tolerated. Radical love is respecting diversity of tactics and personal choice, which must come first in every revolution. Successful actions always hinge on respect for other people's autonomy and choice.”

I rode out to join the celebration at Le Petit Versailles community garden on Houston Street.
There, my friend Jomo and I talked about Gilbert Baker and his swift demise, the Trump era fueling a depression that seemed to consume him. Many have felt that way of late. 

Finishing at the garden on Houston Street, I made my way to Union Square where conflicting forces were bubbling. The police were out blaring their sound system warning people not to step into the street or they'd face arrest, policing the space. They were watching the walk signs and cross walks like their lives depended upon it.  A group of anarchists, many in black masks, started jeering at a blond journalist.  "She's a fascist. Get out of here!!!" they screamed, policing the space like anything but forces of liberation. Donald Trump has called on restrictions on the First Amendment and activists have said certain people should not have platforms to speak. But do we want to find ourselves echoing calls for restrictions on speech we find offensive, just as the administration has done.  We're in odd terrain here. Any restrictions on free speech - from the right or left - are backward leaning.  The answer to offensive speech is more speech, not less, more debate, not less. 

As Sarah Schulman puts it on her list of things she hopes will happen: "Confused American leftists realize that stopping people from talking is not as effective a tactic as saying what kind of world we DO want to live in."

 Immigrant groups were speaking out.  "In this life, we're all immigrants, as we make our way from here to the next life."  "Sanctuary for all!" "I love my undocumented queer students," another sign declared.

The Cargo Bike Collective was out giving away food and water, sharing supplies with everyone.  They'd been out all day, and planned to join the People's Monday event at city hall later that night. In their small way, they were prefiguring something better for all of us. 

The crowd at Union Square was about to make its way to Foley Square and I rode down to join our union, the Professional Staff Congress and other workers, celebrating international workers day. 

When i got to Foley Square, music was playing, and speakers were speaking.  And apparently, there was not going to be no march. 

So I said hello to comrades in the Professional Staff Congress. 

And ran into my friend Joanna who was just in court in a hearing over the case of Jim Bloomberg, who was being investigated for “communist activities taking place at the school."  The Post reported: "The city’s Department of Education has opened a “sham” investigation into a Brooklyn high school principal in retaliation for her criticisms of their allegedly racist funding practices, a new lawsuit claims."  The investigation is having a chilling effect on those speaking out on campus.  Make no mistake, this is McCarthyism.  We need to fight it from the beginning.

The attacks on workers are very real, with the Fredericks decision to take away agency shop rolling down the pike. We think it will be on the court's docket by next spring. This will no doubt weaken us, taking away our capacity to collect dues. And with attacks everywhere, we need all the strength we can get.

Barbara Bowen, the President of the Professional Staff Congress, wrote a note earlier in the day reminding everyone of what is in play. "How can we make sure we don't lose our union? Fight back! Make sure that our union survives whatever the Supreme Court throws at us."

It was good to see so many workers out all over the city. 

In past years workers marched and organized labor supported them, but this year it felt like we were waiting and holding ground, before the anarchists and socialists marched from Union Square to Foley.  To be sure, the democrats turned their back on Occupy and movements on the ground turned their back on the democrats.  We're in this boat because of that.

But for labor to feel strong , we have to march.  We have to reach out to the world, to address problems, be in the community, and bridge the divide between anarchism and labor, not expand it. We have to expand the conversation and be part of that ever evolving dialogue. 

We have to move.  

No comments:

Post a Comment