They filled the cattle pens on First Avenue beyond the Fifty-Ninth Street bridge, then they spilled onto Second Avenue, and then they clogged Third Avenue. Convoys of buses on 57th Street waited out the throngs, and an exasperated woman in a fur coat wasn’t quite aware of what she’d walked into. A young boy cried on a side street, afraid of the crowds and the noise, his mother clutching him and petting his head, saying, “It’s for you, honey. It’s for you.” The mood was cheery and friendly. It was New York at its best, briskly feeling that which hasn’t been present since the days following September 11, 2001, when our sense of dismay and pending doom were tempered by friendship and support. The languages were diverse: the whole city was there, and the careerist protesters were outnumbered but not marginalized by out-of-towners and high school students and everday New Yorkers whose eyes gleamed and whose voices grew hoarse with the shouting and singing. The police were unprepared, overwhelmed and incapable of handling the massive crowds pushing forward to be near the heart of the action. Hundreds of thousands of people moved en masse, with drums booming and bands playing, and chants of “Whose street? My street!” would falter as a roaring waves of cheers and noise would wash down the avenues, around corners, and up to the next intersection. Others chanted variatons on “What do we want?” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at mounted police who herded unruly protesters to arresting officers. It felt like a beginning. A small photo gallery.
Posted February 15, 2003