Monday, July 14, 2008

Slacktivists Eat Cake

On Friday, the Lower East Side Slacktivists lived up to their moniker with an irreverently slackadaisical demonstration that began in front of embattled 47 East 3rd St. and ended up scattered to the winds across the summer night, still hungry for pizza.

Unlike the last demonstration, this time the police were prepared. They were on the scene before anything got started, complete with a paddy wagon, plenty of backup, and a narrow pen into which they herded the protesters--cupcakes, donuts, guillotine, and all. John Penley handed out snacks and sodas. People munched on pastries, muffling their cries of "Die Yuppie Scum."

let 'em eat cake!

"Who's in charge here?" called out one protester. "Nobody! We're anarchists," came the response. When it was time to march down Bowery, the head cop shouted into his bullhorn, "Time to get marching folks," and led the people along the sidewalk, accompanied by a moped motorcade, and more cops bringing up the rear.

The marchers stopped in front of the NYU dorm at 2nd and Bowery, chanted "N-Y-Fuck-U!" for a few minutes, then shouted at the Varvatos store, before ending up in another narrow police pen at the Bowery Wine Company.

The wine bar's owner, Chris Sileo, came out to greet the protesters as they jokingly chanted, "We want our pizza! Where's our pizza!"

chris promises pizzas to john

As he promised in the Observer, Chris told John that five pizza pies would soon appear. The crowd cheered. Satisfied, John headed down to Mars Bar for a beer. Other members of the mob stood around grumbling, "I don't want no stinkin' pizza," and "Don't eat it--who knows what they'll do to it." Someone else muttered, "At least in the old days we threw beer bottles."

not bruce willis

It must have been all the carbohydrates consumed, because this demonstration sugar-crashed fast. While more stops were planned, the crowd dispersed here. Some people went to Mars Bar. Some went on to shout at the Christadora. Some stayed at the wine bar to wait for their pizza and chat with Chris. Others, like myself, went home to watch TV.

The pizza never did arrive. According to NMNL's report, the police suggested that it not be ordered, because some protesters would likely just throw it at the Avalon, the wine bar, and its customers.


Anonymous said...

The second to last picture on your FLICKR slideshow really struck a nerve with me.

Once again I really do feel sorry for the police.

On the other hand though, did the police feel with this being the summer of 2008 that some of the protestors might start feeling a little too nostalgic?

Anonymous said...

The police were following the orders of their lord and master Bloomie, who undoubtedly told them to keep visible control of the protest so that the surrounding yunnies wouldn’t feel as threatened as they did last time (I told you that one made an impression on them). It’s unfortunate that the cops did this job so well, thereby siding against their own economic self-interest, but I suppose they feared for their jobs. After all, if things really got interesting and the yunnies’ parents sued the city for failing to protect them, you can bet there would be political and legal consequences for the officers on the scene, civil-service protections or not. It’s an unfortunate bind for them to be in.
Still, some of the blame for the lukewarm character of the protest has to rest with the protestors themselves. To be lulled by food and then flake out in the middle of the protest is sad and embarrassing, especially for people supposedly there to fight for their homes and businesses! I think this protest set a very bad precedent.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, while I side and sympathize with the protestors, lukewarm protests like this really accomplish nothing. Unless the protestors get rowdy and are willing to be arrested, media coverage will die out, and hence pressure on the community board, individual landlords who want to avoid bad pr, and ultimately the state legislature will cease. If people want real change rather than some sort of participatory pleasure in voicing your opposition to gentrification, then they need to invest substantial amounts of time and money in lobbying the people who actually have the power to change things. This means lobbying albany, perhaps forming a legal fund to press whatever claims there are, and much more image control. Honestly, no politician is going to care about a protest if it the flyers advertising it are crude, contain questionable racial rhetoric (i.e. "malaka"), and just amount to yelling slurs at random businesses and residents. Effective protest, seen somewhat in the U.S. during the 60s and 70s, and typified by the 68' may day revolt in France, necessarily involves more than chants and marchings: those protested must feel threatened. This doesn't mean violence, but politicians don't care much about the disenfranchised until what they perceive as their constituents feel threatened by the disenfranchised.

L'Emmerdeur said...

Um, "malaka" is Greek for "wanker", used as we use the words "idiot" or "asshole". No racial connotations whatsoever.

What these protesters need to understand is that the reversal of all the gentrification is coming, whether the powers that be like ti or not. Gentrification requires pools of money and credit. Mony has not been created in many, many years in the US, and credit is being destroyed at breakneck speed.

Poor, unemployed yuppies don't gentrify. They move away.

Be patient. Time is on your side. But I hope you realize that with the good will come the bad - lots and lots of crime.

Anonymous said...

wekcome back, L'Emmerdeur.