New York, NY – July 27, 2007. The second Cindy Sheehan event in as many days drew a lot of attention from the mainsteam press – and Reverend Billy’s “The Fear Stops Here” First Amendment rally drew quite a bit of attention as well including from the NYPD. Overall the police kept a discreet distance until the very end of the event when an officer attempted to arrest a cyclist. The arresting officer was surrounded by a group of protesters who recited the First Amendment until the cop backed off. After nearly inciting a riot, the NYPD announced that the charges would be voided. The twin events, held at either end of NYC’s beloved Union Square were well attended, well received and very inspiring.
The World Can’t Wait rally, held on the southern end of the Square, featured good music and interesting speeches (mercifully brief and on target) including inspiring efforts delivered by Cindy Sheehan and Chilean activist (and former political prisoner) Victor Toro – who was yanked off of a train in Rochester by Office of Homeland Security on Friday, July 6th, 2007. Sheehan spoke about how Representative John Conyers “broke my heart” by stating that he is more concerned about getting a Democrat in the White House in 08 than seeing war criminals Cheney and Bush impeached. Toro spoke about solidarity with political prisoners everywhere – including those held at the concentration camp/penal colony in Guantanamo. Reverend Billy (actor Bill Talen) spoke at the WCW event before walking to the north end of the park for his First Amendment rally. Rev Billy defended the First Amendment and advised people to vote for “Saint Cindy”.
The “Fear Stops Here” rally held at Union Square North opened with the always entertaining Rude Mechanical Orchestra doing a couple of numbers off of their recently released CD. Beka Economopoulos from pictureny.org urged those attending the event to sign the petition at http://www.pictureny.org/petition/index.php in defense of the right to film on NYC streets. Speakers from Times Up challenged the recent attacks on Free Expression and led a recitation of the First Amendment. MC Savitri D (Director of the Church of Stop Shopping) kept things moving along, occasionally speaking through a paper First Amendment megaphone (not particularly effective as an amplification device but a good prop). Norm Siegel spoke on the need to defend Free Speech which he stated was being eroded a step at a time. He ended his remarks with his famous quip: “Reverend Billy has the First Amendment right to recite the First Amendment.” Rev Billy himself followed Siegel and was as dynamic as ever, although he needed a quick prompt from Savitri when he forgot part of the 44 word First Amendment – a lapse he made fun of from his impromptu podium. Rev Billy was flanked by red robed members of the Stop Shopping Choir and they brightened things with a spirited musical version of the First Amendment – led by superlative soprano Laura Newman whose singing is simply divine. The event ended with Savitri wishing the assembled cyclists “a good ride” – which was apparently the case except for one incidence of the NYPD doing what Rev Billy might well call “something embarrassing”. An abortive arrest of a cyclist – who was freed when the crowd unarrested him by reciting the First Amendment – failed to marr a very inspiring evening, one that ended without Rev Billy spending the night in The Tombs.