The political equation is changing very rapidly in New York City since Friday, August 20. The legal and political challenge has created a political crisis for the Bloomberg Administration. The lawsuit filed by the attorneys for the National Council of Arab Americans and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition led to a dramatic emergency hearing on Friday, August 20. This legal challenge put front and center the unconstitutional nature of the government's ban on demonstration in the Great Lawn of Central Park. This received widespread media attention. In the packed courtroom and before the media, the City's arguments were shown to be demonstrably false and contradictory.
The administration badly miscalculated in the handling of this whole affair. They thought people would capitulate when the government attempted to ban mass protests from the Great Lawn in Central Park. Instead people are resisting. With each new attack from the city or the courts since Friday, the response is "we have a right to be in Central Park." Some in the administration, and in the NYPD, probably wish they could do it all over again. And perhaps they still will do it all over again.
The spontaneous reaction to the Judge's decision and the widely publicized response to the Judge ruling from the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition spokesperson - that "Thousands of people are coming, and many of them intend to be in Central Park, and we believe that it is their right to be in Central Park" (from August 24 NY Times front page story) - has made it as clear as day to the authorities that the denial of permits for the August 28 and 29 demonstrations was a huge miscalculation. Even unnamed police officials are now being quoted in the media that the Mayor and the city made a mistake by denying the permits because the people are likely to assert their free speech rights and descend on Central Park. This is a sign that the powers that be are getting nervous.
The power of a determined people is always greater than the politicians. If earlier generations had allowed the powers-that-be to impose their desire to restrict free speech, and they always use some sanctimonious rationale to justify their restrictions, the now-threatened First Amendment would have vanished long ago.
The message of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is simple: Progressive organizations and the communities that they represent must take a stand. The government has embarked on a war of aggression abroad and an assault on civil rights and civil liberties at home.
We have an absolute right and, indeed, an obligation to gather together in the largest possible numbers in New York City during the coming week.
Bring your friends, family and co-workers to the upcoming demonstrations.
We need your help today to help us organize and make the opposition to the Bush administration as powerful and visible as possible, even in the face of the government's efforts to stifle dissent. If you cannot come to the demonstrations but would like to help by making a much needed financial contribution you can do so by making an online donation using the secure server by clicking here. If you wish to make a tax-deductible contribution of $50 or more, mail a check payable to A.N.S.W.E.R./AGJ to: A.N.S.W.E.R., 1247 E St. SE Washington DC 20003. You can also make a tax-deductible credit card donation of $50 or more by calling 202-544-3389.
To get involved in the local activities, contact the A.N.S.W.E.R. office in New York City at 212-533-0417 (please take note of this number for all inquiries).