Wednesday, June 3, 2020. A pleasant, sometime sunny Tuesday in New York with temps hovering around 70, again with some rain forecast that passed us by.
The city was quiet, following the breaking and entering and looting madness after dark, in the past 48 hours. The Mayor changed the curfew times yesterday from 11 p.m. to 8 p.m. – through till 5 a.m. The curfew, we were told, will run through the week. Monday night’s looting activities were shown on videos all over the web. From the looks of it, it seemed there was nothing stopping the criminals who broke into businesses, stole and then wrecked them.
Aside from the fear and rage these robberies and break-ins provoked, they left the impression of being a part of the protest that came after the death of one George Floyd in Minneapolis. Crowd protests have been a part of the American Way of life since its founding. They are a message from the people to the government of matters that need to be righted. Looting, however, should not be a part of that message. A lot of New Yorkers were left with those thoughts at the beginning of the day yesterday. More businesses were engaged on more bordering. Although not all of them made it on time.
I went out about 3 p.m. for my groceries. When I returned 45 minutes later I was distracted by the noise of helicopters hovering over the Upper East Side, which to me meant trouble ahead. I watched them in the sky for about fifteen minutes, but there was no movement up there or down here on the ground.
About 5 p.m. I was on the phone with JH who told me that his brother Jason had just reported a huge demonstration on Park Avenue South – which Jason recorded below.
At that moment, coincidentally, through the open door to the terrace I heard a lot of voices (several people) on the street below. I ran outside to look. It was a group of bicyclists who’d gathered at the corner of 83rd, as if waiting for someone. Then suddenly there was the sound of a crowd in the distance farther down the avenue toward 79th Street. Within seconds its volume grew, and I could see them. I was astounded. I’d never seen anything like it. The entire roadway two blocks south jammed with a crowd marching this way. I told JH that I had to get my camera and watch (what, I didn’t know).
More men and women on bicycles joined those waiting and they rode and marched right by my building, soon followed by people on foot, all marching north. It was a march, a totally peaceful, classic American protesting march. There was chanting, occasionally shouts that reverberated through the crowd, as well as marching phrases that matched the footsteps.
It was not only peaceful and unthreatening, but impressive to this boy who witnessed and marched in such public demonstrations during the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s and early ‘70s. And it was encouraging, a bright moment. That is the American Way, and it is not dangerous to the citizens including the merchants and businesses.
Soon masses of people, young and old, all ethnicities were marching by. Watching and occasionally counting and timing, there were thousands of marchers, all intent and compatible. This was real patriotism. There was no sign of violence either physically or mentally. In fact, it was encouraging. The massive parade of citizens took the better part of an hour gathering on the avenue in the three blocks across from Gracie Mansion. By then the crowd was quiet to these ears three blocks away.
I knew nothing more about it. Most of the crowd did not immediately disperse but seemed to remain outside the Mayor’s mansion. It was a positive day in this part of New York. I heard later that other like protesters had taken their task to other sections of Manhattan as well. I read later last night that the protestors “ignored” the mayor’s changing curfew time of 8 p.m. Up in my neighborhood this was not true; that crowd visiting the mayor had begun to disperse by 7:15 so that by 8 there was no one in sight north or south.