1998-10-13 Your Right to Party- Village Voice

Your Right To Party

Village Voice
October 13th, 1998
By Sarah Ferguson


"Okay folks, I've had a couple of suggestions for how to deal with this. Maybe we could take a vote?" a flustered Captain John Codiglia of the Manhattan South Task Force announced over a bullhorn last Sunday, hoping to cajole the 400 or so boisterous ravers and activists who jammed traffic at Broadway and Astor Place for two hours during the city's first-ever "Reclaim the Streets" party. "Fuck that! Giuliani sucks!" shot back a kid in neon fake-fur and multiple piercings, who was dancing to throbbing Goa trance blaring from a generator-powered sound system.

Patterned after the Reclaim the Streets dance parties in Europe--one of which drew 20,000 to Trafalgar Square last May--Sunday's loosely organized protest against Herr Giuliani's "Quality of Life" crusade began at 2 p.m., when about 150 people assembled at the Astor Place cube. Before the cops could radio for help, protesters blocked off Broadway and set up a 22-foot, Earth First!­style tripod of aluminum poles, which a 25-year-old New School student named Louis Colombo nimbly scaled.

Horns blared as performance artists and fire breathers danced through the bewildered throngs of Sunday-afternoon shoppers, hundreds of whom joined in. The scene was dominated by young, mostly white students and ravers. Many brought boomboxes to pump up the mix, which was broadcast over 88.7 FM via a mobile transmitter set up in a van, far from the prying eyes of police.

Scores of police vans, paddy wagons, motorcycles, tow trucks, a cherry picker, a half-dozen mounted police, and the now obligatory helicopter were called in to quell the crowd. But despite the heavy mobilization, no one could figure out how to clear the streets without toppling the tripod. Eventually, Colombo slid down one of the poles and was arrested for disorderly conduct, along with 12 others. Many in the crowd seemed only vaguely aware of the protest's freeform agenda--which included everything from the privatization of public spaces and the bulldozing of community gardens to the crackdown on sex clubs and barroom dancing. "We want to show them that we own the streets just as much as the real estate people and the cops," said 18-year-old Makis, who was doling out vegan soup. Moments later, his shopping cart was seized by police.-