I usually go to the Dag Hammerskjold Plaza by the UN on Wednesday mornings for their farmers market. My first warning that things were about to change was two weeks ago when these signs proliferated at the market:
Last week the UN General Assembly was in session, and not only was the plaza closed but so were streets around the UN. The security was intense. Our apartment is a few blocks away, and we had seen the barricades going up on our street as well as the presence of huge cement bollards installed in the middle of sidewalks.
Police were everywhere in large groups and enforcing security by requiring a UN badge to be admitted to even walk in the area. I ventured out and noted that the street we use daily was lined with fire trucks and ambulances and there were 8 to 10 policemen on our corner. I walked as far as I could to the UN area and was eventually turned back. There were diplomats of all types and many were colorfully dressed. The tv trucks were lined up and there was definitely an aura of excitement.
On market day the plaza was open for a rally, and I decided to see what it was about. The security was the same except that this time one could enter the plaza only after a backpack/purse/baggage search. Iranian nationals were gathered to protest the imprisonment and genocide of their people by the current regime. Thousands were there and it was well organized with balloons and flags and drums.
I weaved my way as close to the front as I could where Patrick Kennedy was speaking, and he was followed by Rudy Guiliani. Both were imploring the US government to help aid these people.
As with the Mideast protests we have all seen on tv, the crowd was agitated and became even more so by the drum beats.
The unison shouting went on and on. Even though these individuals were not advocating violence of any sort and were not decrying the US government, it was still a bit scary to be in the midst of the throng.
I was glad to have seen this protest but also breathed a sigh of relief as I turned off 1st Avenue on our our quiet little sidestreet and went inside to my very safe apartment.
This week the barricades are gone and no extra police are about. I am looking forward to returning to the market on Wednesday.