September was a busy month for CSI's NY project. Fresh out of the water from our Second Annual Great Hudson River Swim To Save Dolphins, ny4whales organized the New York City "leg" of the international Japan Dolphin Day at the Japanese Consulate just a few blocks from the UN headquarters. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, September 25, our event was postponed because that was the morning G. W. Bush would be in NYC to address the UN delegation and heavy protests were expected. It was "UN WEEK" when dignitaries from around the world gathered to discuss and address global concerns. The streets are predictably blockaded, and much of midtown Manhattan is virtually "shut down," with security especially high, even more so when Bush is in town. Accordingly, the event was put off until Friday, September 28, from 4-6 PM. Despite the postponement, the event brought cetacean advocates and protesters to 49th and Park, the UBS Building which houses the headquarters of the Japanese Consulate on the 18th floor.
We anticipated an uneventful demonstration, holding signs, passing out flyers and talking to the usually widely-supportive passers-by about the plight of dolphins in the Western Pacific. The US Secret Service, greeted us when we arrived, guided us to our usual location. Soon, however, building security, both American and Japanese, were on the scene telling us we were not allowed to lean our numerous 4' signs on the UBS building wall. We were told it was private property, and we were also not permitted to stand behind the concrete line with our signs, where we usually stand. Fine. We inched forward, holding our signs in the middle of the sidewalk, outside of the building's concrete line. Then the building security personnel and the NYPD came over and told us we were blocking sidewalk traffic. I argued that people were passing us both behind and in front of us, and we were in no way being an obstacle. We asked, since our peaceful gathering had not been a problem in the past, why was it now? Despite our protests and reminders of our right to assemble and exercise our constitutional freedom of speech, we were given a NYPD escort to a designated location across the street.
For our past events, UBS building security has been tolerant and even seemed supportive of our events, but this was still UN Week, and our designated location, adjacent to the Waldorf Astoria, had been the scene of several protests against dignitaries from various NGO's and nations during the past few days. The location we were taken to had been set up across the street for the many protesters who had gathered throughout the week, for other issues targeting other officials. After a short time in our barricaded location, we decided to return to our favored corner to challenge the right of UBS building security and the NYPD to relocate us. We were told flatly that the corner was off limits. It was a losing battle, and we were again told we would have to move. We knew if we didn't move we could be arrested, even without cause or justification: Activists know that NYPD tactics are to arrest protesters just to get them off the site. It is also understood that protesters will win arguments and be released, and that courts will uphold the right to freedom of speech and assembly. In the meantime, the NYPD will have done their job in clearing the location of protesters during their event. Rarely will protesters bring action against the police for arresting them; they just want to get out of jail. We felt we couldn't win so we retreated back across the street behind the barricades, accompanied by a smiling police officer.
In all the years we have stood at the UBS building, this is the first time we had any "trouble" or were told to move from our location. This disheartening episode gives us cause to get a permit for a sound device for every event at this location, to affirm our position on the street.
About an hour into our event another group of people, 3 activists from Greece who were protesting the Turkish government and various murders, were escorted to our location, just as we had been, by the NYPD. When we learned what each other's causes were, they joined us, and we joined them, and together we were 8. One of our whale people brought out a small, rather discrete sound device and made a little noise, too! Security in the building behind our police barricade gave us the thumbs up, and one employee came over and did a video of us to put on YouTube (which hasn't been posted yet). "I don't usually get involved in protests," he said, "but this is really wrong - what they're doing to the dolphins!" Check www.ny4whales.org for the link to the video, which will be up soon.
People took our literature; about 200 flyers were distributed over 2 hours, and soon we saw why the Secret Service was on our corner. Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived at the Waldorf Astoria for some event that included the target of our friends' protests, the prime minister of Turkey.
After 6 pm our crew disbanded, just in time to beat the rain that soaked the city and cleaned the air. Maybe we didn't have television or radio coverage for the dolphins in New York, but we were enough of a "fly on the nose" of the Japanese Consulate officials that they had us removed from our corner and taken by police away from the building. And we know the Consulates must report all the annoying little protests to Tokyo, all of which makes us proud, and maybe even a step closer to SHUTTING DOWN THE DOLPHIN SLAUGHTER HOUSE DRIVE FISHERIES.
For more on the 2007 Japan Dolphin Day Protests visit:
Taffy Lee Williams
New York Whale and Dolphin Action League
PO Box 273
Yonkers, NY 10707 USA
914-793-9186 / 407-404-2046 cell
Because when we save whales, we save ourselves.
The New York Whale and Dolphin Action League
PO Box 273, Tuckahoe, NY 10707 USA
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A Project of Cetacean Society International
URL for this page: http://ny4whales.org/dolphin_day_japan_2007.html