Cindy Sheehan censored at New York’s Union Square

New York City’s Union Square Park, which had been a symbol of free speech in the aftermath of 9-11, has now become a symbol of censorship. This AP account appears in today’s Newsday:

NEW YORK (AP) Police cut short a speech by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Monday, arresting a rally organizer whom they said hadn’t obtained audio permits for the event, according to published reports.

Sheehan, the grieving mother whose 26-day vigil near President Bush’s Texas ranch sparked anti-war protests around the country, had nearly finished her speech when police intervened, The New York Times reported.

She was ushered away from the Union Square rally by supporters as onlookers yelled at police and chanted “Let her speak!”

The organizer, Paul Zulkowitz, was released after being given a court summons for charges of unauthorized use of a sound device and disorderly conduct, Detective Kevin Czartoryski told the Times, calling the arrest an “appropriate action.”

But many onlookers were upset by the incident, with some saying it recalled the arrests of more than 1,800 protesters last year at the Republican National Convention.

“This is what’s been happening for the last couple of years,” said the co-chairman of the Green Party’s Manhattan chapter, Daniel Starling, who attended the rally. “Every time we try to hold a demonstration, they arrest us.”

Sheehan, who lost her son in the Iraq war, is calling for the immediate return of troops from the region in a 25-state tour that is set to culminate in an anti-war march in the nation’s capitol on Sept. 24.

See our last posts on Cindy Sheehan and the politics of the anti-war movement.

  1. Falluja on the Hudson?
    Sarah Ferguson’s coverage of the Union Square incident in the Village Voice prompted the following letter from one of our fellow travellers:

    As a free-speech absolutist, I’m deeply dismayed by Sarah Ferguson’s report on the NYPD’s pulling the mic away from Cindy Sheehan at a recent anti-war demonstration in Union Square. But a passing detail in Ferguson’s closing paragraph cries out for further comment. Ferguson writes that Dustin Langley of the Troops Out Now Coalition urged the crowd to “open a new front of resistance right here. Bring Falluja to New York and shut it down!” Ferguson had the good sense to call this “radical posturing,” but she might have noted that justifying the brutality of the so-called Iraqi resistance is the official position of Troops Out Now, one of several fronts for the Workers World Party.

    In the run-up to its March 19 demo in Central Park, Troops Out Now declared: “It is time for the anti-war movement to acknowledge the absolute and unconditional right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation of their country without passing judgment on their methods of resistance.”

    Since Troops Out Now does indeed “pass judgment” by supporting this “resistance,” it is fair to wonder just what Dustin Langley and his friends are advocating when they say “Bring Falluja to New York.” Do such statements justify NYPD repression? I don’t believe so. But they do tell us a great deal about the moral principles of the Troops Out Now Coalition.

    David Adler
    Upper West Side