Sunday, August 29, 2004

"Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like"

Response: "This is what democracy looks like!"

I must have chanted that at least 1000 times today.

Does it do me any good to tell you what the media has already shown you and reported? Probably not. Plus, I'm dead tired, so I'll keep this short. I don't know how many people marched today - my daughter and I ended up doing the circuit nearly 1-1/2 times this afternoon, and it's kind of hard to judge when you're in the middle of a large crowd. But consider this:

We originally stepped off at 11AM. As we ended the march and circled back up 14th St. to walk back to MSG / Penn Station to catch a train, we got caught back up in the march on 7th Ave. again. At 4PM. That's how long the march was, and how many people were walking today. News reports were placing the number of people anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000. It was a huge sea of humanity.

The good news is, it was a well behaved sea of humanity. Even though there were some counter-protests (very, very small in number), no one got out of hand. United for Peace and Justice did a wonderful job of marshalling the protest, communicating with the crowd, and providing logistics. I can't say enough about the New York City police department. In a potentially volatile situation, they were restrained and helpful. A few were in riot gear, but for the most part, it was just their regular street clothes. No one was looking to pick a fight.

Perhaps the biggest unknown for me is: was it worth the trouble? I hope so. I don't know how anyone could view this march on TV and not wonder why so many people are pissed off. One gentleman remarked to me, "There's a lot of angst in this crowd. It'll be a catharsis for many of us when we get to the Garden." And he was right.

That's where the march really caught fire and cranked up the decibel level. As we marched passed Madison Square Garden, past the suits and ties behind the barricades, you had to wonder if it made a difference to them. They were laughing, smiling, talking amongst themselves, and generally didn't seem to get it. Now honestly, I don't have any idea how many were delegates or GOP functionaries, but it seemed clear that the march had zero impact on them. Regardless, there was a continuous, collective primal scream between 32nd and 34th Streets up 7th Ave. for at least 5 hours today.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to edit the photos that I took - and I took a whole lot. Maybe I can post them up over the next day or two. The couple that you see to the left are just rough resizes and very lossy quality-wise, but I wanted to get a few done tonight.

More reflections tomorrow.

Update, 8/30/04: UFPJ crowd estimates, verified with NYPD, are in excess of 500,000 marchers.