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Protests

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Say What You Will About Liberals, But They Can Spell

Impeach
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

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• 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

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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

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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

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• 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

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• 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

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• 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

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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.

UWS Asian-Food Crisis Spreads as Labor Problems Hit Ollie's, Too

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The great Asian-Food Apocalypse of 2007 continues, with the protests that have been plaguing Saigon Grill spreading today to the Ollie's Noodle Shop chain on the Upper West Side, where staffers — deliverymen, waiters, others — filed suit for a string of labor violations. While print reporters took notes and TV cameras rolled, a group of Chinese immigrants — most from Fujian province and claiming they were paid only $1.40 an hour — gathered at the Lincoln Center location to announce the legal action. David Colodny, a lawyer with the Urban Justice Center, filed the federal suit on behalf of 44 workers at three of the five Ollie's locations — Lincoln Center, Times Square, and West 84th Street — for violating minimum-wage and other employment laws.

Pols Come Out to Support Saigon Grill Workers; Delivery Service Still Suspended

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The battle of Saigon Grill rages on. Two weeks after the Vietnamese mini-chain locked out its delivery workers, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 36 of those workers — and today a gaggle of New York politicians joined the Chinese Staff and Workers Association's daily protests at the Upper West Side location. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called conditions for delivery workers "a dirty secret that needs to get exposed." "Being paid $1.60 an hour, sometimes getting robbed and told to reimburse the employer … is unacceptable in today's society," he said. State Senator Eric Schneiderman, who spoke in both English and Mandarin, said he believed there was "strong evidence" that Saigon Grill's Chinese-Cambodian owner, Simon Nget, was trying to get the workers to sign "an illegal contract" before he locked them out. A state assemblywoman and a city councilwoman were there, too, and Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Charlie Rangel sent representatives. And while all of this is going on, there's also this bad news: There's still no delivery service. —Mary Reinholz Earlier: Labor Troubles at Saigon Grill Mean No Delivery for You

War, at Ground Zero

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The initial plan for the Glassbead Collective's multimedia antiwar protest at ground zero last night was to project images of war on the still-not-dismantled Deutsche Bank building just south of ground zero. But the building is black, there's a reason projection screens are usually white, and even with the amazingly bright, 100,000-lumen projector, it seemed another canvas was in order. So the van holding the projector moved from its initial spot Washington and Vesey Streets to someplace on the West Side Highway, projecting north, then U-turned to project the images downtown, onto a building at the southwest corner of the Trade Center site. After about 45 minutes, police finally determined exactly which laws the group was breaking by its overtly public display of protest art: The van was now parked against traffic. The projector was shut down; tickets were written. Then it turned out the van's driver had a suspended license. He went to the precinct; the others went to a bar. —Everett Bogue

Cops Plead, Naomi Cleans

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• The three cops indicted in the 50-shot shooting of Sean Bell pleaded not guilty yesterday. They have quite a bit to deny, too: The charges could get two of them 25 years in prison. [NYT] • Yesterday's antiwar rally in the financial district brought a whopping 44 arrests for disorderly conduct. Considering the event involved a total of 70 people — in organizers' estimation! — that's quite a percentage. [amNY] • Naomi Campbell started her community-service sentence yesterday, in a ritual that, once we've seen Boy George wield a broom, has become a kind of routine (if bizarre) photo op. The News lists the details of her work attire for the curious. [NYDN] • Coming soon to NYU: the treasure trove of the Communist Party of America. Marvel at Joe Hill's rhyming will, Lenin buttons, and "smuggled directives from Moscow"! [NYT] • And the Health Department is still on its rat-fueled, restaurant-shuttering rampage; the latest victim of the new zeal is Brasserie LCB on 55th Street, where the French owner says the inspectors "acted like the Gestapo." So he didn't mind closing, then? [NYP]

Another Year, Another March

War Protest
Tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war and protesters across the country marked the occasion yesterday with marches from San Francisco to Washington. Here in New York, demonstrators moved through midtown, crossing 42nd Street (above) to walk north along Third Avenue. We imagine there was less drinking at this parade than at Saturday's Saint Patrick's Day event, but just as many cops.

Thousands Fill Midtown Streets to Protest Spitzer Health Cuts

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"Eliot, don't get sick," read one of the many placards held by healthcare workers rallying in midtown this afternoon. Others compared Governor Spitzer to President Bush. Spitzer has proposed significant cuts to the state's cumbersome and expensive medical system, and both the healthcare-workers' union and the hospitals association — "guardians of the status quo," Spitzer has charged — are working to fight his plan. Thousands gathered at 26th Street and Third Avenue today for a protest march to the governor's Manhattan office, near Third and 41st Street.

Jim McGreevey: Here, Queer, Used to It, and Protesting

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Is Gay American Jim McGreevey ready to become a gay activist, too? It seems possible after his appearance at a gathering last night at the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in the West Village. Irascible author-activist Larry Kramer, 71, was speaking on the twentieth anniversary of his speech launching ACT UP, the way-gay, street-theatery activist group that goaded major improvements in AIDS policies before lapsing into its current, barely-there incarnation. With predictable dudgeon, Kramer assailed Hillary Clinton, saying that, when it came to payback for her gay supporters, she "is cockteasing us, just like her husband did." He then called for "a new gay army with gay leaders, fighting under a gay flag."

No Justice, No Peace, as They Say

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• Several hundreds of people took over Wall Street to protest the police's killing of Sean Bell and what they see as the NYPD's failure to punish the guilty. They were met with almost as many police officers, some undercover; for a march that called for a "war on the NYPD," the protest went without an incident. [amNY] • The State Liquor Authority is cracking down on all-night New Year's Eve parties, nixing dozens of bars' requests to stay open late on December 31. (The permit is usually easily granted.) [NYP] • In a similar crypto-Prohibitionist vein, the proposed alcohol ban on Metro-North and LIRR is about to deny suburban commuters one of their few remaining joys in life. Or is it? Meet Commuters Aligned for Responsible Enjoyment, or CARE, a quickly assembled opposition group. Vive la Resistance! [NYDN] • It's a bit unexpected after all those mayoral pronouncements about the coming population boom, but NYC's birth rate is way down, at a 25-year low, in fact. Officials call it a quality-of-life achievement, however, since the most rapidly declining subset is teenage births. [NYS] • And the Times tut-tuts the "phantasmagoric, Disney-esque experience" sweeping the suburbs: giant inflatable lawn figures causing an "intramural disagreement among the Christmas crazed." [NYT]

Breaking: Jailing People for Speaking Out May Be Illegal

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A Manhattan federal jury has confirmed something you probably knew all along: It seems throwing political protesters in the slammer, instead of writing them a ticket, kinda sorta interferes with the First Amendment. The NYPD's lock-'em-up policy, born amid the paranoia of 2001, was short-lived (it's already off the books) and resulted in about 30 arrests, which now may mean 30 settlements for NYPD to cough up. The biggest mistake the boys in blue apparently made was committing the policy to the books in the first place: Nothing leaves a paper trail like, well, paper. The demonstrators' side alleged that the practice had existed for years as an unwritten rule — ever since the 1999 Amadou Diallo shooting and the spate of rallies it occasioned. Lacking concrete proof, the jury didn't buy it; if it had, the city would be looking at about 350 more settlements. Darned First Amendment. Jury Rules Against NYPD's Rally Lockups [NYDN]

Anna TV!

Anna Wintour has agreed to let filmmakers shoot a documentary about life at Vogue as they put out their huge "Fashion Bible" September issue. (And Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley marched with the Reverend Al Sharpton at the Sean Bell demonstration.) A dead deer was found on the lawn of Dick Cheney's residence, the U.S. Naval Observatory, though the veep probably didn't shoot it. A woman who had an affair (and a kid) with Knicks legend Willis Reed in 1990 claims he is a deadbeat dad. (And New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has an adultery scandal of his own.) The girls at Scores East Side say Lindsay Lohan was awkward working the pole when she came in with Kate Moss one night, express surprise that she got a movie role as a stripper. A 29-year-old woman is claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of Mel Gibson. "Page Six" prints a nasty item about Keith Olbermann, mentions his one-night stand with a fan, notes that his audience is smaller than Bill O'Reilly's. Shocking. Former Secretary of State James Baker, Democrat Warren Beatty, and Republican Merv Griffin all got along in Iraq for one night, though it was probably the booze. Tennis great Chris Evert is dating golf great Greg Norman. Bruce Springsteen got some lovin' from Nick Lachey so he could go home and brag to his daughter. Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant tried to get flowers sent to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, but the receptionist he talked to didn't know who Ertegun was. "Page Six" asks, "Which 'socialite' has high-society circles buzzing that she originally joined their inner circle as a high-class hooker?" (Really, who is it?) A woman popped Valium on a transatlantic flight to London with Courtney Love.

Grannies Don't Like Bush, Either, and Sing About It

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Ah, the sight of little old ladies doing things you don't expect little old ladies to do. It's jarring, sure, and can maybe even have a political impact, which is why the so-called Granny Peace Brigade gathered for a rally — and chorus line, of course — in a West Village church yesterday afternoon. Retired 75-year-old jingle writer Joan Wile belted out an antiwar song she'd written, calling on grannies of the world to "get off your duffs, we gotta get Bush!" Carol Husten, also 75 and dressed in a white wig with fake pearls bigger than golf balls, impersonated Barbara Bush, whom she dubbed "the power behind the Bush dynasty." And a chorus line of the so-called Granny Jailbirds, about half a dozen from the eighteen arrested October 2005 for sitting in at a Times Square military recruitment center and acquitted this year, joined voices in a satiric anthem, lustily singing, "There's no business like war business," and pointing their canes like semi-automatic weapons at an enthusiastic crowd of about 100 mostly elderly peaceniks.