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Aftermath of ‘Protect the Vote’ March in Manhattan Turns Violent

Protesters gathered at New York Public Library before marching down Fifth Avenue. (Photo: Ben Weiss)

For almost three hours, Sherry Gorelick rolled down Fifth Avenue on her mobility scooter. Police cars and helicopters followed the 81-year-old resident of the Upper West Side while she scooted from the New York Public Library to Washington Square Park.

Joined by hundreds of protesters, Gorelick began the evening urging officials across the country to count all votes cast in the general election. However, after she and many others went home at the end of the evening, a separate set of demonstrations became violent as police officers arrested scores of protesters.

The series of protests followed a months-long onslaught from President Donald Trump on the validity of the election that ended Tuesday night. It also came on the heels of a summer of police violence and unrest in the streets after a slew of police killings across the country.

Wednesday evening began without aggression from either the police or protesters. Hundreds converged on the front steps of the New York Public Library as part of a “Protect The Vote” coalition to exhort election officials to count every ballot in a contested presidential election.

“People voted. Their votes have to count,” said Livvie Mann, a 72-year-old resident of Greenwich Village and member of Rise and Resist, an organization formed in response to Trump’s 2016 election. 

With the sun setting between skyscrapers, the march soon got underway. Passersby looked on as young and old marched down Fifth Avenue chanting “Count every vote.”

“I think this is freakin’ awesome,” said 28-year-old Kristain Gilcher, an employee at MedMen who stepped out from work to watch the parade walk by.

While the protesters marched, the police lined up alongside buildings whose windows had, in many cases, been boarded up in anticipation of potential violence, a prelude to events later in the night. 

After 30 blocks, the large crowd reached Washington Square Park. Members of the media welcomed them with lighting rigs and cameras. Many protesters dispersed.

An hour later, a new, more rowdy demonstration set off from Washington Square Park, according to reports. Some protesters started a handful of trash fires on the streets surrounding the park, and the police department stated that they had confiscated weapons from some of the demonstrators.

Police officers, many clad in riot armor, responded with force. Videos show officers aggressively arresting protesters and “kettling”—a technique used to corral a disorderly group—them from the streets onto the sidewalks.

In a post on Twitter, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called videos of Wednesday night’s arrests “incredibly disturbing.” 
In one instance filmed by reporters at Gothamist and WNYC, police swarmed someone near Union Square as onlookers shouted “he didn’t do anything.”

At least 58 protesters were arrested, according to The New York Times

“We appreciate and value the importance of freedom of speech. Our top priority is and always will be safety,” the police department said in a statement posted to Twitter, as reported by the New York Post.

At a press conference today, after Gothamist reporter Sydney Pereira recalled “aggressive arrests with pushing, pushing with batons and the bikes,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while he wasn’t familiar with all the details of last night’s protests, “The crucial point here is that we, honestly, cannot allow violence. Let’s be clear: Attacks on people, setting fires, attacks on officers, attacks on property, we just can’t allow that and we won’t. But at the same time the goal is always to de-escalate.” He added that “overwhelmingly what we’ve seen now for six months is peaceful protests managed peacefully by the NYPD.”

Correction: The original version of this post was revised to correct the spelling of Sherry Gorelick’s name.

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NYC Gift Shops Mix Business With Politics, Sometimes at a Price

(Photo via @lockwoodshop on Instagram)

Since it opened in 2017, Lockwood Paper has stocked political-themed cards and trinkets alongside the usual greeting, Get Well Soon, and holiday cards. Walk into the Astoria stationery shop today and you might find a scented candle that claims to smell like “Is it over yet?”—a reference both to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly high-stress political battleground in the U.S. There are items bearing an image of Kamala Harris with the phrase “Stay Nasty,” and “2020” stickers printed with a cartoon-style rendering of a dumpster fire—a best-selling graphic across products ranging from birthday cards to tea towels. More →

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Praying For Our Nation On Election Day? So Are These Churches

Old First Reform Church in Brooklyn. (Photo: Maureen Doyle) 

As people across the country brace for what could be an agonizing night of slow election returns followed by post-election pandemonium, churches are stepping in to offer moments of quiet prayer.  

It’s perhaps not even worth mentioning that this year’s election is different from any that have come before. Not only are we living under a president who refuses to say that he will peacefully concede should he lose, we are also facing unprecedented logistical challenges. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, states are seeing historically high levels of mail-in ballots, which take longer to count than in-person ballots. There’s a good chance we won’t even have election results by election night. All this to say, there’s a lot of uncertainty at an already stressful time. Responding to the anxieties of their communities, churches are offering their constituents a safe haven. More →

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Costume Stores Say Halloween Shoppers Haven’t Been Scared Off

A last-minute shopper visits the Halloween Adventure Shop. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Just one day before Halloween, there’s a bit of a frenzy inside the Halloween Adventure Shop on 4th Avenue. Customers walk in carrying sopping wet umbrellas, and they leave behind their slippery footprints. Inside, they shuffle around the store, some selecting the final touches to their costumes, others still looking for inspiration as they browse the wall of wigs.  More →

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‘The Music Elevates the Purpose’: The Blacksmiths Band Together For Racial Justice

Russell Hall and Michela Marino Lerman leaving Washington Square Park at a DSA musicians’ march in support of BLM on June 29, 2020. (Photo: Reuben Radding)

As the problems of America incited protests across America, the streets of New York City became well worn by those demanding more for their country. Shouts and chants weren’t the only sounds comprising the din of the city’s demonstrations. There was a marching band, jazz trio, vocalist, string orchestra, and tap dancer heard within these movements, and they are a movement unto themselves—they are The Blacksmiths.  More →