Security for the Convention

There’s nothing to compare with watching paranoia do its thing. Anyone in NYC who farts during the next couple of weeks is going to be in danger of being arrested as a bioterrorist. Think I’m joking? I’m not. I’m suggesting a Group Fart as a demonstration.

Here’s what I know now about the Big Plan. I watched Ridge, Pataki, and Bloomberg make their announcement from the floor of Madison Square Garden. Security is going to be provided by federal, state and local agencies. On the federal level, he Secret Service, of course; that makes sense because they always protect the president. The FBI wasn’t mentioned, but they’re certainly around. Homeland Security — the coast guard, (well, this is a port) and various “classified” agencies — apparently around 8 of them. On the state level — the national guard and the state police. Locally, the poor old NYPD, with many of its members in plain clothes, especially on the subways. Plus something very vague about “help” from New Jersey and Connecticut. Who pays for all this? The taxpayers, of course, although Bloomberg made a pitch saying “private contributions” will cover much of the cost of the convention. Everybody made a big pitch about New York being “the safest city in America.” Not with all these paranoid nuts around, it isn’t.

The fun has already begun. Without announcing in advance that this was going to happen, the streets closest to the Madison Square Garden were suddenly closed off yesterday afternoon, creating an amazing traffic mess. Geez! Nobody’s even there yet! I was planning to go to Macy’s today, but I don’t think I’ll be able to get there from here. I was also hoping to sneak some photos of the security in the area. They wouldn’t arrest a little old lady with a cane for taking pictures, would they? Yeah, they probably would, or at least take my camera away — especially since it’s a tiny digital camera, and I’d be sneaking around. I might try a bus ride to see how and where the busses are being rerouted, and whether they just stop dead at around 23rd St. There was a wonderful photo in the paper today of — I guess it’s the National Guard with machine guns — standing at attention at the entrance to Victoria’s Secret. Good grief! Who’s likely to attack Victoria’s Secret?

Yesterday The Union for Peace and Justice, the group planning to bring at least 250,000 people here to protest, lost its court battle to rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park. The judge said that they waited too long to appeal this to the court system; that they’ve had since May and waited until a few days before their planned rally, after agreeing to the city’s offer to let them march past Madison Square Garden and then down West St. and that it would be too much of a hardship for the city to have to change its plans now. This is at least partly correct; there are many activities planned in the park, including a big race, that would have to be canceled. The entire stupid fight is over whether protecting the grass on the Great Lawn violates their freedom of speech! This is logical? What absolutely nobody is mentioning at all, ever, is that if you go down West Street, over to your right a block or two away, there’s a large, beautiful new park with plenty of room — the Hudson River Park, with plenty of open grass space for a rally. splendid views across the Hudson River, including the Statue of Liberty, the NY Harbor, and Staten Island. It also has new, accessible rest rooms, and if I remember right, the Great Lawn doesn’t. The Union for Peace and Justice (why is it that the groups most likely to incite violence seem to always have the word “peace” in their name) says, in a fit of pique about losing the case, that OK, they’ll gather at 14th St., march past Madison Sq. Garden, and then the members can go where they want — presumably up to Central Park — and the mayor sez anybody’s welcome in Central Park, but the city and the group are going to continue negotiating. So — I either will or will not be able to get out of my apartment (on West St.). Either way, security is already picking up down here in the Village. Walking past the PATH station (subway from New Jersey) on Christopher St., there were so many police yesterday I thought maybe something had happened, but no, it’s just “security.” No machine guns yet, anyway.

The word is that if you want to get out of the city, the time to do it is today. Tomorrow is expected to be a gridlock day because so many people are planning to leave before the convention. The airports are supposed to be just as bad. A lot of businesses have, at their own expense, wired their employees homes so they’ll be able to work at home on computers. NY1, the local news channel, has been featuring advice for those who work at home, so there must be a lot of them. They’ve also been reporting rumors, like “80 leading anarchists are planning to be here.” So what? What’s 80 anarchists in a city of 8 million furious New Yorkers? The mood in this neighborhood, Greenwich Village, seems to be “A pox on both your houses!” The Village is a traditional bastion of liberal politics, Lincoln spoke at the Cooper Union, Union Square Park has always been a center for radical speeches and demonstrations, since well before WW I. Neighbors gather outside to discuss things, and even when you’re not part of a particular discussion, just walking by you can’t miss what they’re saying, because they want you to hear them. They are furious. Mad as hornets that the convention is here at all because of the simpering hypocrisy about 9/11 and the government’s refusal to honor its financial commitments to the city. The Speaker of the House just remarked on the “unseemly scramble for money” after 9/11 by city officials. The hospitals have collectively announced that they are in no way prepared for a major disaster. Having averaged about 9 million each at their own expense to retrofit their emergency rooms to handle bioterrorism or a “dirty bomb” because they knew they had to do it, they’ve been given 75,000 each by the Feds and need much more. Then there’s the amazing overkill of the security preparations, the bloodlust for violence during the convention so the Republicans can blame the Democrats for it, and the juvenile attitude of the idiots planning to come here to incite violence.