Tompkins Square Park 25th Police-Riot Reunion

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park police riot.

Memories from New York

I’m not going to recount the details of the riot. The wikipedia article linked to above is not the best, but it will suffice.

I didn’t live in this neighborhood when the riot occurred. I lived in Washington Heights then, but I used to hang out down here with a friend of mine. Anything that was going on, we tried to make it to. Being in the park was an act of solidarity with the homeless encampment there, and with the larger goal of supporting housing as a human right.

All these years later, it probably doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there, unless I was fated to have been beaten up that night, in which case it’s a good thing I wasn’t there! Besides, I was already souring on the so-called anarchists. After the park was closed in 1991, they disappeared and haven’t been seen since. I’m sure the ones from that night have all gone on to work for their local Ron Paul campaigns, but the ones who adopt anarchism today still think they’re the first to discover that the police respond to provocations with violence, and that once people see this they’ll be shaken out of their stupor and overthrow the state. Hence, the preponderance of Guy Fawkes masks, smug and condescending. “East Village” anarchists were proponents of what Murray Bookchin called lifestyle anarchism, with its concern for autonomy and individualism. I’m not going to go into his arguments, or what he proposes as the alternative – it’s still a raincoat full of holes!

Anyway…

Reunion was probably not the right word to use to describe this event. I don’t think many people who were there that night came to this. For that matter, not that many people at all came to it!

Saturday
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The Bambi Killers had just finished.

Sunday
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During Iconicide’s performance.

I’m not sure three days of obstreperous noise was the best use of time and resources. Twenty five years later, is this what they still listen to? I know that many of the bands that played were around back in the late 80s, but three days of it? Even if three days was necessary, tables should have been set up around the perimeter with information, not only about that time, but current programs in the neighborhood. The Shadow1 had a table, but then they were the sponsor of the concerts, so it was more for self-promotion.

I don’t know. I wasn’t there for the planning, but then this is not the first time concerts have been held to commemorate this event, and I’ve never seen any kind of outreach at those either.

***

There was also a film festival, sponsored by the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, that took place at different locations in the neighborhood, from August 3 to 10.

I think the film festival was a great idea. They billed it as “1st Annual MoRUS Film Fest,” so hopefully they’ll be able to continue this annually. I’m not sure if it was meant to commemorate the anniversary of the police riot – its timing may have been – but something like this goes a long way in engaging people, something that was sorely missing from the concerts. The garden that I am a member of was to host two of them. The first one was moved to the MoRUS space due to rain, but the second one was held in the garden. We had a great turnout, and look forward to participating again next year.

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1The Shadow is going to start publishing again.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The ragged, rebellious history of Tompkins Square Park - The Bowery Boys

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