Whose Park? Our Park!

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While the city turned down protesters' permit request for Central Park, that hasn't stopped a medium-sized crowd from gathering on the Great Lawn to dance, chant, and otherwise hang around.

I know there's a group of Manhattan Libertarian Party folks slated to be here with Badnarik and, sure enough, I'm barely there 15 minutes when I spot a "Hot Libertarian Bitch" sticker affixed to the back of a passing woman. She's joining a crowd of LPers in black T-shirts proclaiming "Permits? We don't need no stinking permits!" This does not, doubtless to the chagrin of their PR people, lead to any dramatic conflicts. Assistant Chief Raymond Diaz of NYPD tells me they're planning to let people hang out, and the large phalanxes of cops they've brought in seem a bit bored by the mellowness of it all. "To be honest," says Diaz, "it's usually a lot more crowded than this. It's a busy park." Ouch.

Badnarik is there introducing himself to passersby, and I'm pleasantly surprised to discover that he seems far more ready-for-primetime than I'd expected. He's well spoken and relentlessly on-message with reporters without sounding like he's just rattling off some preprogrammed talking points, which is a good trick. He's even mastered the hello-sweet-little-girl photo-op. He also seems quite upbeat, telling me that with Bush and Kerry as the default choices, "selling people on a libertarian alternative is like selling ice water in hell."

The LPers have just started marching around the lawn, banners aloft and chanting "Draft beer, not people!" and "George Bush, John Kerry, no real choice is really scary!" when the Billionaires for Bush come strolling by. The Billionaires are a one joke group, and for the most part that one joke has been decomposing on its feet since 2000, when it was clever for a few minutes. But it was pretty amusing to watch them raise their martinis and exclaim: "Oh, LiberTEHrians! Don't you people work for us? I hope you're getting our park privatized! HuzZAH LiberTEHrians!" They hang around to mug and quip for the assembled journalists, who are doing their best to equal the protesters' numbers. I take off before the joke gets old.

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