Saturday, December 20, 2014

"It Won't Work" Ch. 9 Excerpt 1: Critical Mass

“What a fucking dickhead!” Emerson knew Jack Covert had emotional issues but he always pinned him for being a real activist; maybe he had reasons to be clandestine, Emerson always covered for him. But this was serious; Jack Covert abandoned his colleague Emerson Davinsky on the battlefield!
      As soon as he heard the frantic running chaos in the street, Jack Covert turned his bicycle around, and walked with it the other way. He would have ridden it the other way but there were too many human obstacles in the street for him to make a clean getaway.
 “I’m going,” Emerson heard him say; just like that. There was no need for a cell phone or the text messages a newfangled Blackberry could provide. Even the communications system in the immense AT&T relay station behind them wasn’t necessary; Emerson heard it with his two good ears; “I’m leaving,” said Jack with a slight look of fear in his squinty eyes.
They had met there on that corner near Bryant Park not even a half hour earlier, Emerson there by subway, Jack on his bicycle he’d taken over the Brooklyn Bridge to arrive. To Jack, it was a joy ride; it stopped when the danger started. Sure, Jack Covert was there as he said he would be, even on time as a Pavlov dog is to a school bell, but he was not there with Emerson as Emerson had thought, not really there with him. In what became clear to Emerson over the years of their knowing each other, working in the same school, membership in the same organization, interest in the same topics, in typical Jack Covert style, Covert was there but he wasn’t together with anyone, anyone. Jack himself wouldn’t call it “being alone” because he knew that it was the way of many post-anarchist dickheads to existentially be alone even when acting together with others, never for the good of mankind, always alone. Nope. Jack was out of there, through the path of least resistance, to the least possible trouble he could encounter, and he walked away with the bicycle, just walked away, from Emerson, his colleague, friend and comrade; just walked away when the battle on the streets was getting heated. Emerson was disappointed to find that out about him; Jack was the closest thing Emerson had to a friend in the progressive movement. Emerson watched him weave his bike casually down Avenue of the Americas and by 40th Street, he was out of sight.
Emerson had a decision to make. He could stand there in disbelief. He could shouted out, “Wait, I’m coming with you!” if his friendship to Jack was more important than the demonstration they’d gone there to participate in. That was not what Emerson Davinsky decided to do; he chose to continue on, to soldier on and do the legal marshaling he had agreed to do at that meeting the week before near Thompson Square Park. He felt so on his own, he felt so all alone, a character flaw Jack might call it, a childish emotion not befitting a warrior.
Emerson took a deep breath, turned the corner of Avenue of the Americas across from Bryant Park, across from that newspaper stand with the socialist periodicals, the one he learned about the Radical Guardian, Workers World, The Daily World, The Socialist Worker; the one with no socialist periodicals for sale anymore. He walked down 42nd Street to Times Square to the appointed time and place of the happening he was to attend and marshal; his job, to write the name of the cop that arrested any of his compatriots and find out which holding pen in which precinct they were being taken to, to write down the hat number of any cop that abused a demonstrator for legal action against him later on in court, but to keep at least one foot on the sidewalk so he wouldn't get arrested himself; those were the rules of the game “oly-oly oxen free.”
He found a way to get there around the swelling crowd of protesters and onlookers and Times Square gawkers. There, to where at 12:00 noon, before the days of ‘flash mobs,’ they were all to meet and create diversion so the volunteers could assemble the twenty foot tall wooden tripod, a tripod with a seat at the top, a seat where a brave protester would dare police to remove him from and risk him bodily harm. In the crowd, he saw The Carpenter, he saw Brad Will with his camera, he saw a few people he remembered from ABC No Rio, and he saw Adonis. All were there; Emerson was not alone.
The guerrilla theater protest went on as scheduled. The police were surprised and not ready to stop it before it happened. The plan worked. These brave souls were going to get the media attention they craved, better than acting out dramas with expressive signs for the microphone-less closed circuit TV’s on the subway platforms and streets that they’d been acting out and sharing in the early days of social media.
There the daredevil was; twenty feet above the pavement, a protest, a dare to get him down in the days when the police still had to worry about following the law and being accountable. The police were advised by their white shirt captain not to let it get any media attention; to keep it down. Then the chanting began as the police jostled toward the erection guarded by activists sworn to protect the safety of their perched comrade.
“Whose streets?”
“Our Street!”
“Whose street?!?”
“”Our Streets” Critical mass was going to guard their right to ride their bikes in the streets of Manhattan.
“Whose streets?”
“Our streets!” On went the chanting, louder and louder, a hundred protesters strong among the thousands that kept police busy all overt midtown, the confusion of police jostling to get their vehicle close enough to arrest all the demonstrators creating a disturbance, and the tourists gawking and pushing to see what in blazes was going on, to abuse the one’s they could get away with abusing out of the glare of the camera in the days when smart phone cameras would have made a world of difference; now it doesn’t matter anymore.
The crowd cheered as the surreptitious tripod was guarded below, and Adonis was arrested, damn it; the police caught him off the sidewalk helping his comrade not fall down and he was arrested. Emerson kept his foot on the sidewalk. He took out his pen and wrote the cops service number onto his forearm in blue ink. He heard from another marshal that they were being taken to the Chinatown precinct, for some reason.

Other events went as planned. There was a sit-in in front of the military recruitment center where Broadway and Seventh Avenues crossed on 43rd Street; dozens of young protesters were dragged away and put into police vans but not before the crowd felt the liberty of fighting off the guilty party of oppression, in the days when one could still fight off the guilty party of oppression without being labeled terrorists. Taking over the streets was a distinct possibility in the days before brutal force was constitutionally guaranteed and painful tactics were illegal and frowned upon by society, in the days before the society was completely under surveillance. Back before the back-door destruction of two World Trade Center Buildings by almost friendly fire, there were still possibilities of liberty. Emerson didn’t know then what he found out soon enough. The mementos  and flyers he had burned in disgust after the police of America were militarized, he would have had more details but then, in hindsight, there was no reason to remember how liberty was lost, taken away, stolen by the government in complicity. No one would believe it. The mementos would have been the cruelest reminder. 

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