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Viacom Freelancers Continue to Protest Despite Love From Above

Exactly seven minutes before their scheduled 3 p.m. protest today, Viacom freelancers received a memo from HR's JoAnne Griffith saying that the company had decided to let them keep their old health-care plans (although the controversial Aetna plan "has certain advantages that may make it the preferred option for many of our freelance and temporary employees," the memo said — as if!). When the e-mail arrived, "there was a palpable sense of relief," said one freelancer, "however, we are still missing several key items that we had before," including the company's contributions to their 401(k) and paid holidays. So it was back out to Times Square and chanting, and someone even started a blog for True Life stories of Viacom freelancers, such such as this one, titled "Engaged and Underpaid":
"My girlfriend and I recently got engaged and set a date for the fall '08 for our wedding, but [getting on her health-care plan] will cost us a huge chunk of what we had been saving for our wedding. So much for getting married in ’08. THANKS VIACOM!"
Another protest is planned for tomorrow, where the Viacom freelancers will be joined by members of the Writers Guild East, who are on full-time, as opposed to teatime, strike. In Major Reversal, Viacom Returns Healthcare to Freelancers [Gawker]

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Protest

The annual shark tournament at Star Island Yacht Club in Montauk started today, and the Humane Society was prepared. In a campaign dubbed an "anti-sportfishing jihad" by one angler, the group, not content to protect innocent puppies and kittens, is now defending the fierce predators. "It's not the killing," said their rep, John Grandy. "It's the spectacle, the orgy of death that is represented by hauling these magnificent animals up. The message is that sharks don't matter. Their suffering doesn't count." The society hired a plane with a banner reading End the cruel shark tournament now! and has plans for a protest, but the fishermen aren't biting.

She'd Rather Go Naked

Is it wrong that we often find PETA protests — like this one yesterday against the Burberry store on 57th Street, where it seems they're selling things made of fur — to be entertaining and amusing? Because we do.

The Crossroads of Something

This afternoon in Times Square: Top, U.S. Navy sailors in town for Fleet Week cavort with the Knicks City Dancers; below, 32 women dressed in black and the Virginia Tech colors lie down on the sidewalk to commemorate the shooting rampage and protest "easy guns."

Hands Across the East Village

Proving that everything eighties is hot again, an estimated 7,000 New York City tenants and tenant activists formed a human chain around the massive, recently sold, increasingly rent-destabilized Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village apartment complex last night — it's Hands Across the East Village! — to protest rising rents and demand state laws to protect affordable housing. But did they really really ring that big old thing, which stretches from 14th to 23rd Streets and First Avenue to Avenue C?

Illustrate — Don't Destroy

Seems it’s not all lawsuits and protests in Brooklyn activists’ war on Atlantic Yards; there are cartoons, too. Disturbing, disturbing cartoons. A tipster calls our attention to MissBrooklyn.net, a new and subtly deranged wiki site for posting your own apocalyptic fantasies of what the Frank Gehry centerpiece of Ratner's project will look like. So far, the pickings are slim. The most prominent picture depicts Bruce Ratner as a sort of Evil Jew, flashing a devilish grin as he exposes a strangely buff bicep with a “Miss Brooklyn” tattoo. Instead of horns, however, this Ratner has a rat’s tail. In another bit of symbolism, a wad of dollar bills is hanging out of his zipper. We strongly prefer another cartoon, which features an MS Paint girl’s-head doodle over the Gehry model: It makes the design, an inarguable folly, into something endearing. Is it too late to work it into the actual blueprints? MissBrooklyn.net

The Very Models of a Modern Iraq Protester

It wasn't just little kids and aging hippies at the Iraq protest in Union Square last night. We even saw our favorite male models, Video Look Book veterans and childhood pals John Jones (left) and Khale Unger. Entering further into the realm of life imitating Zoolander, Jones and Unger wore coordinated outfits to the event. Who knew political demonstrations could be so fashionable? John Jones and Khale Unger [Video Look Book] Earlier: All They Are Saying…

All They Are Saying…

Moveon.org's "Emergency Veto Rally" converged on Union Square at rush hour last night to protest President Bush's veto of the Democrat's war-funding bill, which set a date for troop withdrawal. The youngest protester looked to be about 3; the oldest no doubt saw plenty of anti-Vietnam rallies as well. There were some college kids, too, but not many. Whither the young radicals? (On the other hand, the college kids probably came up with our all-time favorite rally chant, replacing words in a Ludacris lyric: "Move Bush, get out the way, get out the way Bush, get out the way.") —Everett Bogue

Yay, Immigrants!

It's now a May Day tradition: nationwide rallies for immigrants' rights. In New York, fewer marchers were expected today than last year, but Washington Square Park this afternoon still drew a significant crowd. Gothamist says the action was focused on the park, with a prayer service at Judson Memorial Church kicking things off, a rally, and then a march to Union Square. Flickr photographer Boss Tweed caught the scene in the park, where protesters were focusing on the impact strict immigration laws have on families. Boss Tweed's Photos [Flickr] Related: Immigration Rally and March Today [Gothamist]

Say What You Will About Liberals, But They Can Spell

Tucked among several family reunions on Saturday on Central Park's Great Hill was a protest calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. About 200 gathered for this "A28" event (similar protests were held nationwide and, in the city, at Tompkins Square Park and Coney Island) organized by the antiwar group World Can't Wait. The event drew the usual panoply of protesters: Code Pink ("women for peace"), Democrats.com ("the aggressive progressives"), and someone in an Uncle Sam costume. There were chants, there were signs, and even a human representation of the word "IMPEACH." World Can't Wait's national director Debra Sweet chastised the "smug cynicism" of today's young people but expected a near-certain presidential veto of a timetable for Iraq withdrawal this week would inspire some action. "If that doesn't serve as a catalyst for impeachment … " she said, trailing off. Sweet is helping to plan a post-veto protest in Times Square. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus came up from D.C., fresh from an arrest for marching onto the Senate floor. "We're in solidarity," he said, but he thought protests could only do so much. "The revolution will not be televised. It will be uploaded." —Marc Tracy

Bruce Ratner vs. the Homeless, Too

• 350 residents were ordered out of a homeless shelter after a parapet fell off a Ratner-condemned building next door. Even the dourest pessimists at Develop Don't Destroy didn't think mass displacement at Atlantic Yards would already be an issue. [NYT] • So that's why the City Council wants to ban metal bats: An assistant baseball coach at East Side's Norman Thomas H.S. allegedly went medieval with one, clubbing two kids over the head for cheering on a rival team. [NYDN] • Not a week after a court confirmed activists' right to film cops at protests, the NYPD is asking a judge to give officers back the right to film protesters. Everyone's a damn auteur in this city. [amNY] • Asian American groups are steadily mounting an Imus Redux; CBS Radio is under pressure to can shock jocks "JV and Elvis" for prank-calling a Chinese restaurant with "shlimp flied lice" jokes. Shouldn't we be addressing the larger issue of why prank-calling restaurants is a marketable career option? [MediaChannel] • And Jon Corzine says "I'm the most blessed person who ever lived." Point taken, J.C.: The man is walking and talking two weeks after meeting a guardrail at 91mph. [WNBC]

And So the Demolition Begins

The battle of Atlantic Yards has moved from the rarefied arena of the literary think piece through various political fights and ongoing court battles to, now, the simplest setup possible: In one corner, protesters; in the other, bulldozers. Yesterday, Forest City Ratner began knocking down four of the fifteen buildings around Flatbush Avenue it has slated for demolition. About a hundred Develop Don't Destroy stalwarts — that's the group's turnout estimate — met the machines with some chants and signage, although no one tried to actually halt the demolition. The DDDB word is that Ratner is being hasty on purpose — to create a sense that Atlantic Yards is a fait accompli, even with an eminent-domain lawsuit hanging over it and a more thorough environmental review being demanded as we speak. It's hard to shake a guilty feeling that, crude as the tactic is, Ratner may be succeeding. There's something pre-deflated about a protest sign reading, as one did yesterday, "These Demolitions Are Premature." Premature?! How about "illegal"? "Criminal"? We know they're not, technically. But you're a protest sign; you can say these things! Develop Don't Destroy Release [DDDB.net]

Kicking Cop, Caught on Video, Was Always Known to Play Rough

The city's Law Department yesterday agreed to pay $150,000 to an activist who was kneed in the head by a senior police officer, assistant chief Bruce Smolka, during an antiwar rally in 2003. One reason for the eager settlement appears to be the video of the beating, available on the IWitness site; the victim planned to introduce it as evidence. As it happens, Smolka was also the subject of a 2004 profile by New York's own Janelle Nanos, then an NYU j-school student.

Save the Whale, and the Musicians

• After Jon Corzine recovers — speedily, we hope — we see a lot of PSAs in his future. Not only was the New Jersey governor not wearing a belt at the time of his crash last Thursday, but the car was doing 91 mph. [NYDN] • Cynthia Greenberg, an activist who claims to have been kicked in the head by an NYPD officer at an antiwar rally, will get $150,000. The city is making the case go away after Greenberg threatened to produce videotape. [NYT] • The German Army has fired the instructor who told his soldiers to imagine scary black dudes in the Bronx before squeezing the trigger. Chalk the victory up to the unlikely alliance of YouTube and Bronx beep Adolfo Carrion. [amNY] • As live-music venue closings reach a critical mass, musicians descended on City Hall yesterday to protest. Turns out guitarist Marc Ribot speaks fluent municipal-ese ("that industry brings hundreds of thousands of tourists," etc.). [Metro NY] • And a baby minke whale has made its way into the Gowanus Canal. As of this moment, it's still navigating the filthy waters, and rescue plans are being drawn up; on a related note, is "Fin City" really the best the Post could do? [NYP]

Après le Deluge

• Nor'easter weekend scorecard: 400 flights canceled, 1,500 homes left without power on Long Island, and 3,200 National Guard troops dispatched to the flooded areas. [amNY] • New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, injured in a car crash Thursday, remains under sedation at Cooper University Hospital. Corzine broke his left femur, collarbone, sternum, many ribs, and a vertebra. His prospects are good, however, after additional surgery yesterday. [NYT] • Terrible rain and wind didn't stop 200 anti-Ratner activists from making it to a rally protesting planned demolitions at the Atlantic Yards site. The developer is taking out several buildings to create a seven-acre, 1,600-car "temporary" parking lot. [MetroNY] • It's creepy enough that the New York socialite Toni Grossi-Abrams was murdered in Panama and her charred body found in a suitcase. Now the prime suspect in the case is a thrill-seeking Pennsylvania mother whose ex-husband "wouldn't put nothing past her." [NYDN] • And in more Americans-abroad mischief, a Beacon School teacher is in trouble after taking his history class to Cuba for a spring-break trip. Cuba is still illegal for Americans to travel to, of course, and students face a $65,000 fine each. The principal claims, unconvincingly, that she hasn't heard about the trip. [NYP]

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

• Kurt Vonnegut died in Manhattan last night. He was 84 and battling a brain injury after a bad fall, and we won't insult you, or him, with a half-sentence recap of his career. [NYT] • City Comptroller William Thompson is asking the U.S. Attorney General to investigate allegations of Wal-Mart's "chilling and truly outrageous" surveillance of shareholders. Now we're definitely not getting a Wal-Mart. [Reuters] • As expected, MSNBC has killed its simulcast of Don Imus's radio show. The canning, framed in the "we're doing what's right" terms, was an easy call after a whopping nineteen advertisers pulled out. [NYDN] • NYU's wunderkind con artist Hakan Yalincak has been sentenced to 42 months in prison, with a possible deportation to Turkey to look forward to when he's done. Yalincak scammed investors out of $8.8 million through a phony hedge fund. [NYP] • And worried that environmental protests tend to come out "shrill," a group is planning to flood Battery Park this Saturday with a so-called Sea of People — including a fake Blue Men Group and a church congregation dressed as Noah's Ark. Sounds, well, not shrill. [MetroNY]

Still Acting Up, Twenty Years Later

Twenty years ago this week, ACT UP, the AIDS-activist movement, held its first protest, shocking lower Manhattan's buttoned-down lunchtime crowd when hundreds of gay protesters stormed the streets demanding lifesaving AIDS drugs; seventeen were arrested when they lay down "dead" in the street at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, stopping traffic. ("Homosexuals arrested at AIDS drug protest," read the Times photo caption.) Today, ACT UP was back, this time rallying for the group's bigger-than-AIDS demand for universal health care, and about two dozen protesters were arrested when they stopped traffic on Broadway, alongside the famous statue of a bull.