Friday, April 16, 2010

The 2010 NYC Tax Day Tea Party

Here are three pics I took with my BBerry at this years Tax Day Tea party by the Main Post Office, and future home of Moynihan Station.

This first pic is a view looking North to the Main Post Office from the rally site. Fifteen or more years ago the late night party at the Post Office was a regular feature of Tax Day in New York. One year I remember stopping by around 10 PM and getting a free back rub from Playboy Bunnies, free pens and pencils, candy and bottled water, and a bag full of other product promotional stuff. It was where you could find all the vendors and entrepreneurs who normally are only encountered on TV around 3 AM. In recent years the carnival has dissipated for some reason. The Postal Police and I chatted wistfully about that for a couple of minutes. Across the street to the right of this photograph is Madison Square Garden, an ugly building that sits at the site of Pennsylvania Station. Penn Station was like the Post Office designed by McKim Meade and White with the two facades mirroring each other across Eight Avenue. After almost 50 years its loss is still a wound on the city.

This second pic is of the establishment that should be happiest with the Tea party Crowd. All the local vendors should have done well from the crowd. My understanding is that the radio personality Andrew Wilkow and his party ate in here. His fans were waiting outside.

These are the MDs Against Obamacare who were prominently displayed at the front of the rally. The Democrats may have miscalculated by viewing the Health Care industry as simply a source of employment for the semiskilled labor in the SEIU and a regulated piggy bank to shake down Chicago style. Not only are large numbers in otherwise liberal locations employed in the Insurance, Pharmaceuticals, and Medical Services sectors but these include highly skilled and educated professionals who are respected by and who communicate with millions of the voters that the Democrats are counting on.

This year I served as a Marshal, which means that I watched the crowd and not the stage. The people were generally good but the conditions along the Eighth Avenue sidewalks were crowded. The police were nervous about crowds blocking the sidewalk in non-designated areas. As a Marshal we had four tasks;
1. identify intruders attempting to set up an incident for the Press,
2. enforce regulations regarding no wooden or metal rods as sign supports,
3. discourage any inappropriate signs or statements that would discredit us,
4. keep the sidewalks clear for public safety lest the police clear it.

NYPD cooperation was generally excellent. When we identified someone attempting to provoke a confrontation they responded professionally to protect everyone's rights. It helped that the crowd was generally friendly, the cops were in a good mood, and the air was damp and comfortable. Just at the end it began to drizzle encouraging people to depart. The police could not have been happier. The crowd filled the space available but was not enormous, maybe a couple of thousand. Last year at City Hall the crowd was much larger from my perspective.

A handful at most of people walking by by were rude and that was generally just in passing. There was one drunk who sounded belligerent that the cops responded to, probably just to send away. Approximately a dozen young people with signs saying words to the effect of 'blame the bankers' or 'I love taxes, pay more taxes' and something designed to sound racial and challenging that failed to register were persistent in parading behind the crowd on the sidewalk and stopping to try and provoke people. As far as I could see none of them were attempting to infiltrate by impersonating supporters of the Tea Party movement.

The leftists were open about who they were. As to whether they were Anarchists or members of some other group I am not sure. They rather reminded me either of members of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade or the Spartacist Youth League I met in college. Of course that was so long ago that people in Hyde Park then talked of Bernadine Dohrn not as a desperate and doomed felon on the run but rather like she had just stepped out for coffee, as indeed it turned out she had.

Given the crowded sidewalk effecting safety conditions, the proximity of open bars, and their repeated efforts to position themselves where they would slow down foot traffic or attempt to start arguments, the police were sympathetic to my suggestion that after 5 passes they needed to be told to move along and remain someplace separate. One, accompanied by a cameraman, was arguing with an elderly man at a corner within sight of the police and I was concerned that the NYPD might lose patience and simply order the sidewalk cleared. Fortunately before I had to interrupt the old man said "You refuse to listen to me, I am going" and turned to leave. The camera turned away and the leftist attempted to grab the old man by the sleeve and said "No you can't I want to..." At that point I stepped in and asked him in a clear loud voice, "Are you attempting to illegally detain or arrest the man who had expressed a desire to leave?" The penny dropped and he and his friends vanished.

There were a few people using signs with wooden sticks or metal rods that were disappointed when I told them that those were prohibited and only cardboard tubes were allowed. My approach was simply to focus on the public safety issue and ask them not to provoke the police to clear everyone from the area. This worked fine given the generally supportive nature of the crowd. One Ron Paul supporter had a 15 foot metal flagpole. He quickly realized that I was not going to indulge his desire to explore the first amendment in the equivalent of a crowded theater and he moved on, later I saw the police move him again. Generally speaking the Paulists and the Anarchists acted as self righteous and exploitive of the concerns that had drawn the crowd together as the street hustlers who showed up at the fringes to sell souvenirs. In fact as people gripped by a messianic vision the Paul supporters with signs designed to emphasis disagreement and provoke confrontation seemed to differ from the leftists only in details.

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