Pre-Convention Jitters

Dave has asked me to blog about the Republican Convention. Of course I’m not going to be at the convention, will probably not be allowed anywhere near the convention, so I’ll only be able to give you my impressions of the effect the convention is having on the city. Well, that’s going to be a story in itself. It already is. Manhattan feels like it is under threat, and with good reason. We’re treated to news reports of the police preparing to deal with protesters. They’re holding drills. Like they need to. They handle dozens of major events every year, so why all this special preparation? Intimidation, of course.

There’s just no telling what conditions are going to be like in the city during the convention. They announce something, the public screams, they change it. One choice bit — there’s a huge apartment complex near Pen Station (the Garden is on top of the station — what a nutty place to put the convention considering the security requirements) called Pen South. It’s not a housing project but the city subsidizes it somewhat so a lot of retired people live there — but so does every other kind of middle-class family; it’s not a retirement community. They’re not really that close to the station. I never considered it even the same neighborhood. They were given official notice that they should stock up on food and plan to stay inside during the convention! Naturally, being New Yorkers, they immediately took this to the media and are not planning to comply with the instructions. Especially, it turns out, the elderly. There are going to be plenty of those peace sign, cane waving, little old ladies picketing the convention.

It sounds like the plan is to cut the city in half, so a lot will depend on where the Dead Zone is and whether I can get transportation, since the subways they’re planning to cancel happen to be all the west side lines because they run under the Garden — and the busses on the west side are going to be routed to Hell and back. As though that isn’t enough, I may well be trapped right here, in my apartment or at least on my block, assuming I’ll even be able to walk around the block! I’ve been planning to lay in food, just in case. The demonstrators are being routed — right here, on the West Side Highway, which of course means out front. If so, there should be an army of police out front, hostile and demanding ID. I go through a minor version of this every year with the Gay Pride March, so I have some idea what to expect, and just stay inside all day, cursing. This should be like that, only 10 times worse. Of course, that would be a blog in itself. I’ll have a ring-side seat.

Assuming the police show up instead of carrying out their proposed sick-out, they’re going to be in a terrible mood. They’ve been following Bloomberg around threatening him because they haven’t had a contract for two years. Neither has the fire dept. I expect lots of cracked heads from the demonstrations. I hope not, but that’s the mood. A lot of that will probably be up at Central Park, where they’re sure to go because they’ve been refused a permit. Frankly, I’d rather just get out of here while the damned convention is on. The question of where the protestors will go is in court right now. We’ll probably know on Monday whether they’ll be allowed to use Central Park or end up in front of my place.

I am sure that no groups of demonstrators anyone knows about are planning violence. Everyone is expecting violence. Anyone planning to be here should get a copy of “The People’s Guide to the Republican National Convention.” Republican, Democrat, demonstrator, or innocent bystander. I’ve been in situations like this before. How are you going to prove you’re a good Republican if the cops pick you up? What if they decide your Convention ID is forged? The Guide is in subway map format, includes a map, and is full of good information and advice. It will easily fit into a purse or pocket. Even if you live here, get a copy. I don’t know how to get legal help in a hurry, or where all the free bathrooms are, for example, so I’ll keep my copy with me. If you’re even thinking of coming here, check out their website. It contains all the information that’s in the Guide. Even if you’ve read through the website, you’ll still want to have the Guide with you.

The Guide includes a calendar of events. These started today. An amazing number of events are planned, now through the convention, including live music, films, marches, walks, vigils, ferry rides, rallys, many events in parks, many in churches. Plenty of street theater, too. Major subversive events like the planned Reading of the Constitution and the reading of the names of those killed in Iraq. More about events coming up later.