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Allow Me to Demonstrate

Where will you be at noon on Sunday Aug. 29?

I will be in New York City, joining what is expected to be a massive march and rally to protest George W.’s war in Iraq and other arrogant administration policies. As the Republican Party’s convention prepares to open in Madison Square Garden, a crowd will gather on Seventh Avenue. I hope you will be there too!

I have decided to join this protest because I am getting increasingly concerned about the effects of George W’s international and domestic policies. I am also concerned about the weight of my vote come Nov. 2. That’s why I’m planning to vote with my feet as well as a ballot.

With casualties mounting in Iraq, economic disaster engulfing more households at home, the national debt freefalling into the abyss, and George W. sacrificing more civil rights and protections for the environment, I feel a growing sense of duty to join this demonstration. The fundamental precepts of democracy seem to be under assault. I hope that the size and diversity of the protest gathering on Aug. 29 will be a reflection of the broad domestic opposition to the misguided policies of George W.’s regime.

So, I plan to gather with hundreds of thousands of others who will amass between 14th Street and 23rd Street from Sixth to Eighth Avenues in Manhattan starting at 10 AM on Aug. 29. The march will begin its slow trek up Seventh Avenue at noon. It will pass by Madison Square Garden, where George W.’s Republican posse will be busy blowing up balloons and making preparations for their four-day stay. The path of the march will then turn west on 34th Street and head over to the West Side Highway where it will turn south and move toward the rally site which will stretch north from Chambers Street.

Attempts to hold the rally in Central Park were denied by New York City Mayor Bloomberg, despite a history of huge gatherings there in the past. While my initial sense was that this was unfair, I realized that perhaps Bloomberg and his officials expect a massive turnout far greater than the 250,000 in the permit requests. They may be expecting a crowd larger than the million-plus who showed up for the nuclear disarmament rally held in the park back in 1982. I hope they are right.

To get to the march and rally you have a number of transportation options from the Capital Region. The best deal is being offered by a local coalition of groups with seats on their buses going for $25 round trip. Check at the Honest Weight Food Co-op (484 Central Ave.) or Shades of Green restaurant (187 Lark St.) for tickets, or call the local coalition’s bus line at 449-8631. Financial assistance is available upon inquiry. Buses will be leaving from the intersection of Madison and Eagle Streets (just east of the Empire State Plaza) in Albany. Free parking will be available in the state parking lot also at this intersection. Bus riders should arrive at the pickup point at 6:30 AM. The buses will return at around 9:30 PM. According to bus organizer Cheryl Bellus, ordering tickets by Aug. 23 will help ensure enough buses are reserved.

If you decide to drive, be sure to fill as many seats as you can in your vehicle. If you have seats available, you can drop by the bus pick-up location where last minute car pooling will be organized for any overflow that cannot be accommodated by the buses. Be sure to check on traffic restrictions that may be in effect in the city. You may want to consider picking up a Metro North train out of Poughkeepsie or further south to avoid driving in the big city.

If you go by train from the Capital District, Amtrak brings you into Penn Station beneath Madison Square Garden. There are no special rates or “Peace Trains” running. When you get out of the station, just head south on Seventh Avenue to reach the march assembly area.

The name of the march/rally is “The World Says No to the Bush Agenda.” As of this writing, speakers and performers at the rally site have not been announced. To find out the latest information about Aug. 29 you can check out the United for Peace and Justice Web site (www.united forpeace.org). This is the coalition organizing the event. You can find a lot of useful information at their Web site including a map of the route, an activist tool kit (if you wish to become more involved in getting people there), downloadable leaflets, housing information, news articles related to the demonstration, a link to their Iraq Occupation Watch and links to other groups and events involved in demonstrations during the rest of the week.

To prepare for the day in NYC, be sure to keep an eye on weather forecasts so you can dress accordingly. Good shoes for hiking on miles of pavement are a must. You should also consider bringing food and water to cover your needs for the day. I plan to bring along a small backpack to carry such necessities and store clothing. Cell phones may be useful for connecting with others during the event. A piece of paper and a pen will also be useful for writing down important information that emerges during the day. A small battery-operated radio may allow you to tune in to the rally from a distance. Be sure to pack a peaceful attitude.

I hope a lot of Capital Region residents head for the city on Aug. 29 to make this protest a gathering that reflects the broad community of concern that opposes the reckless acts of George W. and his regime. The simple act of marching together in peaceful protests has been shown to be an important means to bring about social change. Don’t miss this historic opportunity to help turn things around.

See you on Seventh Avenue!

—Tom Nattell


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