By David Freedlander, amNewYork Staff Writer
April 4, 2008
A group of graybearded squatters, anarchists, and activists who
battled police 20 years ago in Tompkins Square Park are once again
fighting for the right to gather there.
And once again, they say, the authorities won't let them.
The Parks Department has designated Aug. 2-3, the weekend closest to
the 20th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park Riots, as a
"no-amplified sound weekend," a monthly quality-of-life measure for
parks in Manhattan. The group was told that its lineup of 1980s punk
bands and political speakers is unwelcome.
"Cops come out, gentrifiers come and go, but we're still here, we're
still active, we've never been chased out," said Chris Flash, editor
of the underground newspaper The Shadow, and a 30-year resident of
the area. "The city has displaced many of us, but it's important to
remind people of a time when the neighborhood rose up."
The Tompkins Square Park Riots began after the city tried to remove
squatters from the park and institute a 1 a.m. curfew. Heavy-handed
efforts by the police to remove the protesters lead to widespread
violence, much of it caught on tape, and the event has widely been
considered a low-point in the police-community relations in the city.
And though the landscape has changed, with many of the old squats
that ringed the park now converted in multi-million dollar condos,
veterans of the old battle say they still have the old fight in them.
"It's like we said back then, 'Whose park? Our park!'" said Karl
Rosenstein, 56, adding a common expletive between the words. "If they
won't give us a permit, I say we just take the park back over."
Park and city officials said they remained hopeful of working
something out, but said the group had been less than flexible of
working to come up with a solution.
"We have approved many permit requests for this group and were
willing to work with them to find alternate dates in this case, but
the group rejected this compromise," said Parks Department
spokeswoman Christina Deluca.