-- by Bethany Yarrow
"Of course the people don't want war... That is understood. But... it's
always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a
fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no
voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That
is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and
denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to
danger. It works the same in any country."
--Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, 1946 from "Nuremberg Diary," by G.
I went to the rally on the 15th... or tried to go... First, all subway
service to Manhattan from Brooklyn on the L line had been cut, so we had to
take the car over the bridge and then the 6 train to 42nd St. We tried to
make our way towards the UN, but the police, in full riot regalia, had
cordoned off all entrances to the rally and would not let people east of 3rd
Ave. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in spite of the new homeland security act
we still do have a right of assembly, no...?
...Anyway, with these thoughts I now find myself in the midst of tens of
thousands of people who are trying to get to the rally, but we are all
corralled like sheep and split up into groups of a thousand or so on each
block up to 87th street (!) on 2nd and 3rd Aves., looking at lines of
helmeted troopers with billy clubs in their hands, protecting their
barricades at each corner. So, although the streets and avenues have been
blocked, we, the penned-in protesters, are incredibly calm and non-
confrontational, given the circumstances and the fact our civil liberties
have just been reduced to levels reminiscent of, oh... the Pinochet
dictatorship in Chile in the mid-80s... (you can confirm this with my Chilean
husband, Sebastian, who was flabbergasted and outraged... it brought him back
to memories of the good old days of living in a police state).
So, now there is absolutely nowhere to go, (other than west... I forgot to
say that you were only allowed to move west, AWAY from the rally...) and we
have been standing in the freezing cold for an hour and a half waiting for
who knows what, when the police start coming at us with their horses trying
to get us to clear the streets... but now they are pushing us EAST, into
their own barricades; and of course there is nowhere to move because they
have blocked all the streets. So now they start backing the horses up into
us, (or, I should say, me, as I am in the first row of people).
Sebastian starts screaming and grabbing at me so that I won't get trampled;
my friend Tanya is terrified, but trying to take pictures for her journalism
class of the horses' rear-ends and hoofs and this blond cop up on his
stallion whose face has twisted into a knot of rage and aggression. I'm not
hurt, but Sebastian gets stepped on by the horses and is now screaming in
pain; and I am in shock. The crowd starts chanting "shame, shame"... and I
look into the eyes of officer D'Angelo who is all red, breathing hard and has
tears in his eyes, and I say "Shame, shame on you". And he, trying not to
cry, says, "It's just a job, I'm only doing my job."
So, for those of you who told me that the rally was amazing... I am glad to
hear it... but on 3rd Avenue it was clear that we are no longer living in a
world, or a country, at peace... and for the first time in my life I am
afraid not just of war, but of my own government... and the utter disrespect
of those who have their hands on the reins of power for us, the people they
supposedly represent, and our basic liberties. Call me naive, or someone who
has failed to see the writing on the wall, but this is news to me. I have
always taken my so-called "freedoms" for granted... and least the freedom to
say what I think, go where I want, and disagree as I wish.
I'm sorry. I was born in New York City. Mayor David Dinkins married me. I am
the streets and the sidewalks and the air of this city. September 11th
happened here, in my city... but it is no longer September 11th. And that
tragedy is not, and will never be, an excuse to cordon me off like a sheep
and trample me with horses. I am furious. And I will be damned if I am going
to let some failed oil executive from my alma mater change this world into an
unrecognizable place of hatred and revenge. This is how 100 year wars are
started, like the kind I studied in high school... and I do not want to have
to one day say to my son, or daughter... "Once upon a time there was a time
of peace... before curfews, before retaliatory bombs, before we all lived in
a constant state of fear...."
The war against Iraq will not just be a war over there, it will be a war here
too... And it will destroy the things we hold, or I hold, so dear...
especially this thing called liberty... which is also what I am... and what
New York is... embedded in its streets and the sidewalks, the very smell of
the air. New Yorkers will know what I am talking about.
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