Reclaim The Streets, which started in England, is a way of drawing attention to the fact that the urban design of cities was not only meant for cars, but for the community. This was done through direct action, art, and dance. This Reclaim The Streets campaign was very successful in Europe but was more difficult in America because the police had no patience for community-style events and street closings. However, in NYC from about 1998 till 2002, there were several Reclaim The Streets events; the first at Astor Place Cube, which took over Broadway and created a street rave for over 4 hours.
Another Reclaim The Streets event took place on Ave A/7th St, not only focused on reclaiming the street but also on taking over abandoned lots and turning them into vibrant community gardens. And of course, Reclaim The Streets took over Times Square and helped make it into a pedestrian plaza. There was even a Reclaim The Streets dance party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Bedford Ave.
New York City Reclaim The Streets was loosely organized by anybody who wanted to dance and help reclaim the streets but also had help from the lower East Side Collective and Time’s Up! Environmental Organization. Check Time’s Up Reclaim the Street Video and Reclaim the Street in Amsterdam.
Reclaim the Streets in Amsterdam
Reclaim the Streets Carnival March — Tango and Samba to Protest the World Economic Forum
Saturday, February 2, 2002, at 11:30 a.m., Columbus Circle (59th Street & Central Park West)
Come one, come all! And come in your most festive costume!
Don’t believe the hype. The violence and destruction is usually decided at closed meetings like the WEF, not on the streets. The WEF is a private member organization comprising representatives from 1,000 of the world’s largest corporations including Microsoft, Monsanto, Nike, General Motors, and, until recently, Enron. Originally formed in 1971 as the European Management Forum, the Swiss-based group has grown into a major global agenda-setter and a leading proponent of corporate globalization. The WEF usually holds its annual meeting in the Swiss mountain resort town of Davos, until this year. Huge demonstrations made them uncomfortable in Davos, and they figured there would be less protest in post-September 11 New York.
So get outraged, put on your best tango-dancing shoes, and let’s hit the streets! Reclaim the Streets is organizing a Carnival Bloc-style protest march and party to meet and greet the World Economic Forum as they come to New York City. There will be a lot of things going on during the WEF conference, but we think TIME’S UP people (that’s you!) will have the best time at the RTS event (you know the deal).
We’re planning on dancing during the march, but if you want to bring your bike, that’s also fine. We’re doing the tango in solidarity with Argentina, and the samba because it’s fun. A few people will be dressed as classy millionaire party-goers, and the rest of us as reps of “another world is possible” — come as you like!
Spread the word!
On the last Friday of September, 2000, there was an RTS street party right after Critical Mass. (See the two photos above.)
There was much dancing in the streets … once we solved the problem of parking all our bikes!
- Check out our Reclaim The Streets, September 2000 online video clip!
November 26, 1999
Reclaim the Streets presents an alternative to global capitalism and local commercialism. In solidarity with Seattle Citizen Committee and international November 30th actions.
A call to action for all: Revolutionaries, fire breathers, students, dancers, workers, square pegs, activists, oppressed, radicals, liberated, madmen, contented, alternative lifestyles and mal-contents!
TIME’S UP! offers a Reclaim the Streets T-Shirt with the RTS traffic sign on the front and a silhouetted tripod on the back. Some shirts feature hand-sewn patches with hand-colored variations, in the venerable D.I.Y. tradition. Some shirts even have collars, to ease the adjustment from corporate life. Shirts are any color you like, as long as it’s orange. Camouflage yourself against traffic signs or orange construction nets.
Reclaim the Streets NYC (Website Archives)
New York City’s first Reclaim the Streets took place on Sunday, October 4, 1998, on Broadway in Manhattan. Billed as a “free form dance performance protest street party,” it featured street performance, live pirate radio, a tripod sitting, a sound system on bicycle trailers, and a thousand people using the streets of New York City as they were meant to be used: as a gathering place, a meeting place, a dancing place, a place for themselves to enjoy without the ever-present danger of the automobile.
The second Reclaim the Streets was in April 1999 and was part of the successful movement to prevent the city from auctioning off more than one hundred community gardens.
The third Reclaim the Streets took place during an international day of protest against the G8 conference in Cologne, Germany. Friday, June 18, 1999, at 3 p.m. at Liberty Plaza.
Reclaim the Streets is happening all over the world, in Amsterdam, London, Toronto, Prague, Melbourne, and Madrid. From Ankara to Zurich, and now in New York.
Mayor Giuliani’s homogenizing (and boring!) “Quality of Life” campaign is fast privatizing scarce public space, squeezing our diverse communities and stealing our freedom to express ourselves. The campaign is targeted at working poor, community gardeners, immigrants, people of color, gays, young people, bicyclists, skaters, booksellers, artists, sex workers, students, homeless people, and political activists of all kinds. If Giuliani is successful, his vision of a whitewashed, Disneyfied New York of the future will replace the diverse, exuberant, exciting city of the present.
We can fight back by making ourselves visible, by refusing to be swept under the carpet, by coming out together and declaring that a diverse group of New Yorkers exist, that we have a right to exist, and have a right to public space.
Take to the streets! After all, if we can’t dance, it’s not a revolution.
From the London Reclaim the Streets site:
The street is an extremely important symbol because your whole enculturation experience is geared around keeping you off the street. Inevitably you will find yourself on the curbstone of indifference, wondering “should I play it safe and stay on the sidewalks, or should I go into the street?” And it is the ones who are taking the most risks that will ultimately effect the change in society.