“I’ma slice me some Jedi ass,” was the first of many threats I’d hear walking through Washington Square Park on Saturday night, as almost 2,000 people gathered to wave around glowing plastic tubes from China. In reality, there was very little in the way of actual slicing, but Lightsaber Battle NYC 2015 was not short on imaginative enthusiasm. Fandom and cosplay abounded as New Yorkers gathered in the name of the force and issued gems such as “Chew-bacca on this,” “Your force is weak, son,” and, the crowning of insulting incitations, “You suck Jar Jar Bink dick.”
“The idea came from when you were a kid fighting with cardboard tubes after the Christmas presents were wrapped,” said organizer Kevin Bracken, standing inside a U-Haul as he distributed the $10 pre-ordered lightsabers to eager Jedis and Sith. Bracken explained that Saturday’s event was the seventh lightsaber fight he’d put on under Newmindspace, the non-profit he co-founded with the purpose of reclaiming public space in the name of fun. In that spirit, over the past decade Bracken has also helped facilitate mass public pillow fights, bubble battles and capture-the-flags. “Our M.O has always been the same: take a favorite childhood activity, put it in an urban setting and multiply the number of participants by about a hundred.”
In the ensuing melee, I encountered characters of both the light- and dark-side persuasion immortalized in the slideshow above. Among the many that went unnamed was the Stormtrooper Miguel Lopez, a member of the 501st Legion, a “costuming organization” that works with various groups in putting on “fan-based charity events”; a hooded Sith named Dave Williams who was “excited to cut down some Jedi”; and, of course, the horned Klaus Dragunov, a “grey Jedi” come Amazon employee from New Jersey.