A phalanx of a hundred cops on bikes — full helmets, breast plates, knee pads — scowling, as the adversary pitched water bottles and insults.
New York’s Finest had just turned right from Delancey onto Essex St., preventing the mob from blocking that main thoroughfare across the Lower East Side of Manhattan to the Williamsburg Bridge.
The radicals call it “kettling,” like keeping the lid on exploding popcorn, but it was as much to save them as to maintain law and order — otherwise, motorists angry at the chaotic traffic jam could have, and would have, mowed them down.
This is New York City Bedlam on a Saturday night, after all.
The cop presence between them and that street was forcing the fifty-odd BLM cyclists and maybe 250 on foot to head south down Essex St.
You had the dozen scout bikes up front and then going back and forth and a scrawny white kid pedaling a rickshaw strapped with four, giant speakers blaring the rap music soundtrack to the event. Then on foot, their own EMTs, decked head-to-toe in survival gear, green-hatted “legal observers” and the sign-carrying masses. Aloft was the poster of George Floyd’s head, already as ubiquitous and emblematic as Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant.
— Ethan Kelley (@DjKellex) July 26, 2020
The prototype protester-cum-rioter were women and skinny hipster men. To describe the females, they were clad in black cut off shorts, blaring thigh tattoos, black tank tops, hair up behind a mask. The recommendation is to protest with a buddy, so their pairs of them looked like cat burglars.
The best dressed of this whole debacle was still probably the upstate white girl, Samantha Shader, arrested when it all started two months ago, photographed in her mug shot with tattooed tears — what better way to sum the whole ensemble here.
The BLM aesthetic was also reminiscent of Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, when rich white uptown swells attended a fundraiser for the black Panthers at Leonard Bernstein’s apartment (now owned by Zero Dark Thirty actress Jessica Chastain who bought it for $5 mil.) See the book cover: “Black Rage And White Guilt…”
Only here what was remarkable about the lot of them were the absence of black faces, this reporter couldn’t actually see even one.
The closest was this swarthy, puckish fellow, who was acting as their animator — or handler, even. What was most striking, as well as being tiny like a coxswain, he was shirtless, which is just not done in New York. The occasional jogger in the park, sure, but outside on a street, no. This guy had Portland written all over him. That, and circus freak.
A lone reporter filming and posting from the melee captured this Puck a few blocks earlier, getting cussed out by an al fresco diner in Little Italy. (We’d give the reporter credit, but since we’re officially banned from Twitter for too much truth telling, he’s on his own, plus, it’s obvious he’s rooting for the wrong side.)
— Ethan Kelley (@DjKellex) July 26, 2020
Verdict is that ole’ Puck was probably the outside agitator brought in to lead this motley crew to refashion Gotham as BLM-town, what with the Mayor painting the slogan across the President’s front yard on Fifth Avenue.
Indeed, it’s said that it was President Trump’s insistence via Governor Cuomo to “clean up that shit” in Foley Square, the front yard of the City Hall, where a hundred BLM supporters had created another Occupy Wall Street for the past month, or else he was calling in the federal government to clean it up, that ended the debqacle. They dubbed it “Abolition Park.”
— Derick Waller (@wallerABC7) July 22, 2020
Finally, De Blasio faced their wrath, with the cops in riot gear and helicopters flying low, dislodging them in a pre-dawn raid at 4AM on Wednesday morning.
#NYCProtests I think the people from #abolitionpark might be a little upset about their camp getting raided by cowardly cops at 4am. Just a reminder, the camp was one of the few safer havens for NYC’s homeless. pic.twitter.com/Od5ztkXxki
— Ethan Kelley (@DjKellex) July 25, 2020
The BLM-ers spent the next two days licking their wounds and returning to scene of the crime, bemoaning their lot and vowing vengeance.
By Saturday, they had posted two dozen protest activations to bedevil the city some more. As designed, the “peaceful protesters” singing Kumbaya for the TV news cameras gave way to the disorganized mayhem with nightfall.
Thousand of Protestors marching to Anti-Trump chants have shutdown traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge in Solidarity with Portland protesters! #BlackLivesMatter #nycprotests #PortlandProtest #politics pic.twitter.com/fx4yAaWsza
— Lanier ”Issa” Lewis (@IssaKhari) July 25, 2020
Having converged on the narrow streets of the Lower East Side, the cops responded with the first move, by the rule book. While everyone has the right to demonstrate, you still need a permit, and this ugly crew was sorely lacking theirs.
“If you leave voluntarily, no charges will be placed against you,” blared the cop megaphone recording. “If you refuse to leave, you will be arrested for unlawful assembly.”
Whether to quell the riot or to respond to a real emergency, a fire truck from Chinatown’s Dragon Fighters blared its siren and laid on the horn.
The group moving down Essex Street also cut an odd profile, screaming that Black Lives Matter while real black people sat at outside dining tables, bemused, gobsmacked or shocked, that their fine time was being interrupted by someone else’s calls for their social advancement.
Truly, al fresco dining of canapes and cocktails among the haught millennials on Division Street was already the sign of having arrived, judged by the face of one black gentleman and his lady friend, smiling yet crying inside at the uproar — on whose behalf were these riots, anyway?
Black lives don’t matter, unless it’s an election year, is the real message here.
Really, the movement should be renamed Black Votes Matter. (Or, what one QMN writer had to retract on Twitter under threat of lifetime expulsion, when the Black Chefs of America get together, they like to add the extra “o” — Black Olives Matter.)
On Saturday night, the rowdy dogoodniks turned right into Chinatown, where they tried to slow the cops at their behind by blocking their passage.
In what has always been an incongruous fact of life in America’s biggest city, rather than trash barrels or giant trash containers, the city code still is for black trash bags on the sidewalk the night before.
So the good citizens of BLM grabbed those trash bags and tossed them into the middle of the street. Then they ripped off the city’s metal waste bins, placed on every corner, and threw those into the street, too. Where they were too weak to dislodge them, they set fires inside the containers.
“This is disgrace,” said Frank, a cashier at the Yemenite-owned bodega on Market Street who saw the vandals do it. As he stood there in disbelief, along with the short order chef, surveying the damage after hurricane BLM passed through. “They are destroying all the work that Giuliani did here. What they want is for the people to leave the city.”
“So that the good people leave,” clarified Jose, a neighbor walking by, looking up the street to the encampment — where first it was one person, now a dozen living under the Manhattan Bridge. “So we’re just left with the mierda.”
Along the brick wall facing the biggest skateboard park on the East Coast, built under the Manhattan Bridge, in.a stretch that was empty three months ago, a mini village were living on exposed mattresses, one couple behind a fort of suitcases and an umbrella, everyone else just sleeping rough.
A block down, under the FDR overpass that Mayor de Blasio painted purple, along the East River work-in-progress esplanade, another camp was set up, complete with lawn chairs and barricades for walls, and goes undisturbed. Meanwhile, the Chinese fisherman mind their own business; they continue to fish in the dirty river.
A block inland, in the middle of the 21-acre Governor Alfred E. Smith 1950s housing project, with 5,000-souls, is Public School 114 that had been repurposed as the Catherine Street Family Respite Shelter, but closed and rebaptized a few times for recovering addicts, according to neighbors, til finally opened for the mentally unstable. Then they closed it, presumably because of the pandemic. And everyone just moved to the street.
Add the crazies to the thousands of criminals released from Rikers at the start of the pandemic, minus all the upstanding residents who could afford to flee to beach houses or the mountains, and, indeed, we’ve been left with the mierda.
Quite literally, with the curtailing of the twice weekly alternate-side street sweeping, in other words, 20 times a month, New Yorkers are left with those filthy streets once every 30 days.
The rioters converged on Confucius Plaza. En route, they came upon a dozen police vans parked on East Broadway, vandalizing the lot of them, according to the New York Post.
(If you don’t see the video, use the bottom-right control to go backwards a few clips)
“Video of the night’s unrest shows vandals defacing a trio of marked NYPD vans, tagging them with graffiti, slashing their tires and attempting to smash in their windows with a signpost and the wheel of a bicycle.”
“Another segment of the video shows four demonstrators jumping atop a marked department SUV, one of them holding an inverted American flag with the message ‘Fuck NYPD’ scrawled across it in black.”
In the Plaza, the police megaphone repeated the “illegal convocation speech” and the crew made its way back to the Old Police Headquarters (now luxury apartments) and, ultimately, to City Hall. The trash container fires were everywhere.
Just another Saturday night in that former great metropolis now known as New York City Bedlam.