Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Conquering of Tompkins Square

The 1988 Tompkins Square Park Riot in New York was, depending on where one stood, either about reclaiming a park from lawless drunks and anarchists, or the official beginning of the war against the homeless over the use of public space. Rapid gentrification of a formerly working class neighborhood led to pressure to clear out the homeless who camped there. This was during a decade where the numbers of people on the street doubled or tripled. When homeless people and their supporters made their stand, the police came in force in the middle of the night to bust heads. It was an early and bloody skirmish in the class war that is still unfolding today. The video below, made twenty years later, erases the history.
"I always knew that I'd be here some day,
sleepin' on the grass on this perfect day,
I think that I could spend my life this way."
The rich irony here is lost on most. Tompkins Square, "the heart of New York's East Village," is just another scenic little enclave for the affluent few. They even show a homeless person. They allow them now, so long as they're outside the fence and their bags are packed to go.

1 comment:

Trevor said...

I thought it was both.