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September 21, 2005

NYPD Unplugs Cindy Sheehan, but Not the Antiwar Movement


by Joshua Frank

They can't stop the antiwar movement, but that doesn't mean they aren't trying. On Monday Sept. 19, Cindy Sheehan spoke in New York City's Union Square to a group of supporters and onlookers when police rushed in to break up her speech as it was winding down.

"I was speaking and someone grabbed my backpack and pulled me back pretty roughly," Sheehan told the Associated Press. "I was shoved around."

Police arrested organizer Paul Zulkowitz, who was charged with disorderly conduct as well as for using an unauthorized sound device. For anybody who has been through Union Square in the past few weeks, you've probably seen Zulkowitz (AKA Zool), who heads up "Camp Casey NYC," a small group of local activists who set up an encampment over a month ago to show their solidarity with Sheehan's quest to end the Iraq war. Zool's arrest was most likely a coordinated effort meant to disrupt the ongoing antiwar vigil.

"Since when can't you talk out here in Union Square?" an Upper West Side social worker told the Village Voice following the incident. "I've seen everyone and their mother come out and speak nonsense out here in this park, and for them to shut down Cindy Sheehan is just not right."

There is no question that the New York Police Department overreacted. I can't tell you how many times I've personally shuffled through Union Square where musicians and others were plugged into (unauthorized, I am sure) amplifiers singing their tunes or spewing their political propaganda. And never once I have I seen a police officer run in and pull the Bob Dylan or Abbie Hoffman wannabe from his microphone. No, there's a reason why they targeted Cindy Sheehan and not these fellows.

Quashing Cindy is a different issue altogether, and it carries a lot more weight. For starters, Sheehan is actually being heard and getting her fair share of media coverage. She is proof that the antiwar movement is gaining speed. And that's a dangerous predicament for those who support Bush's dubious war, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is clearly plotting his own trajectory within the Republican establishment. Unplugging Sheehan undoubtedly scored Bloomberg a few brownie points with the Bush cartel as if jailing 1,800 protesters during the Republican National Convention wasn't enough.

Silencing Cindy Sheehan in Union Square should show us all what we are really up against. Over 1,900 U.S. troops have died thus far in Iraq, not to mention countless civilians. And for what? The NYPD and government officials don't want us to ask that important question, which means we have to be even more vigilant in our efforts to expose Bush's war for the fraud that it is.

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  • Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted through Josh's blog at www.brickburner.org. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

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