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Cops crack down on Tompkins Square New Year’s Eve party

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | A New Year’s Eve “after-party” to commemorate the eviction of the homeless Tent City from Tompkins Square Park nearly 30 years ago ended on a somewhat similar note — with cops kicking the revelers out of the park.

As if on cue, right after the park’s midnight curfew, as 2020 had mercifully given way to 2021, a convoy of police vehicles streamed into the place.

“The park is closed,” officers announced.

The revelers partied near the park’s Christmas tree. (Photo by Paul DeRienzo)

East Village journalist Paul DeRienzo accused the cops of being “aggressive,” in the way they ordered the revelers to vacate the park. As the officers were herding people out, he asked for confirmation that their body cameras were turned on.

Ninth Precinct police flooded into the park after the midnight curfew, even though people said the curfew isn’t usually enforced. (Photo by Paul DeRienzo)

Another man who had been enjoying the park party scoffed that the police were from the “Anti-Frolic Division.”

“It’s New Year’s Eve,” he said, incredulously.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Simopoulos a.k.a. Jimmy Sims, who is recovering from a recent stroke, was out enjoying the night. He was busy handing out free beer.

“Olde English, Guinness and Ballantine!” he called out.

Jimmy Simopoulos a.k.a. Jimmy Sims. (Photo by Paul DeRienzo)

The Cancel The Rent Protest Tompkins Anarchist New Year’s Virtual and Live Afterparty was organized by former East Village activist John Penley. Though he now lives in Las Vegas, he put the event together by creating a Facebook page for it.

It was dubbed an after-party because two other radical events, a Time’s Up! bike ride and a NOISE anti-prison protest, had started earlier.

Penley paid for the free beer. To avoid passing joints — and the virus — during the pandemic, “magic brownies” were also supposed to be on the menu; but DeRienzo reported he did not see any.

Mark Apolloa, a friend of Penley’s, livestreamed the whole affair.

The revelers gathered around the park’s Christmas tree, which was planted in 1992 by Albert Fabozzi for his partner, who had died of AIDS. Fabozzi, who later became chairperson of Community Board 3, led the effort to clear the homeless out of the park. In doing so, he forever earned the enmity of Alphabet City’s punks, squatters and anarchists, who championed Tent City.

Penley was inspired to organize the rally after seeing a cheery post about the park’s Christmas tree on local blog E.V. Grieve. It made him recall watching the homeless being booted from the park right before Christmas in 1991, with one of them, Barbara Henry, carrying out her holiday tree with her.

Jimmy Sims and Chris Flash, publisher of The SHADOW. (Photo by Paul DeRienzo)

At the end of Apolla’s video, Chris Flash, publisher of The Shadow, gave some history to put the night in context. His East Village anarchist paper chronicled the struggles over Tent City and the squats, as well as the fight against imposing a curfew on the park.

“For what it’s worth, we held off the forces of gentrification for a good four years, until 1992, roughly,” Flash said. “But the forces were too strong; they got the money, they got the political clout, they got the police on their side. New York City, the Lower East Side became a safe investment vehicle for yuppies and business interests.

Ninth Precinct officers enforcing the curfew at Tompkins Square Park on New Year’s Eve. (Photo by Paul DeRienzo)

“But we’re still here,” he declared. “We kept our park. It’s still our park. We’re here till death. These moneyed transients come and they go. When it’s not cool anymore, they split. It’s our f—in’ neighborhood, for better or worse.”

As they shut down the New Year’s Eve party, police cited the curfew. But Apolloa said people he spoke to while livestreaming said the curfew usually is not enforced and that people can hang out in the park at all hours if they want to. He said he plans to come back to the park at midnight every night for a week to check if the curfew is actually being enforced.

DeRienzo did a segment on his WBAI News radio show about the police shutting down the park celebration. In the clip, he and Flash note that the park gates at Seventh St. and Avenue A were closed when the police ordered everyone to exit, forcing people to climb over them to get out.


  1. mac mcgill mac mcgill January 4, 2021

    I’m with Jane Doe!!!

    • John Penley John Penley January 4, 2021

      Good to know, Mac. Jane Doe seems like the perfect woman for you. Squat or Rot, Punk.

    • Chris Flash Chris Flash January 4, 2021

      Et tu, Mac?

      You know, it’s pretty great to make friends with people you have come to know in your community through mutual friends, interacting and bonding with them as like-minded people when times are good, when you can do projects together and even join forces to fight police abuse and the forces of gentrification. But TRUE friends don’t turn on their friends when things get ugly, as they have progressively become since March 2020.

      I have observed this phenomenon since March, as certain people I have known and thought of as true FRIENDS, ALLIES and COMRADES for the past 30+ years have seemingly forgotten corrupt world history, abdicating their keen political insight and critical thinking skills in favor of absorbing media mindf*ck (Lincoln doesn’t like cuss words here!). They are allowing themselves to be terrorized into submission without daring to question ANYthing they have been fed by state media, and then going as far as ATTACKING and “unfriending” their friends who either fail or refuse to comply or abide by the new orthodoxy or who even DARE to question what is happening. This “Divide and Conquer” routine is straight out of the COINTELPRO handbook!

      During times like these, fair-weather “friends” are the worst kind of people to have in your life, as THESE are the times when TRUE friends and comrades must work together to fight the forces of evil, which no longer bother to maintain the facade of “freedom,” equality and fair play.

      One unexpected reason for me to appreciate this covid scare frenzy is that it has shown me where those I have thought of as true friends are REALLY at. The hardcore mofos I know are tighter than EVER while those fair-weather “friends” who have now revealed themselves will not be missed, as they were not REAL friends in the first place.

      Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining…..

  2. Steven James Silva Steven James Silva January 2, 2021

    Thank you for filming this. Great to see Jimmy doing fairly well. Sorry I couldn’t make it…

  3. John Penley John Penley January 2, 2021

    I was totally gentrified out of NYC East Village because I am a Veteran who was poor — and I also put my name on anything I post in a newspaper. Real fascists don’t sign their names to comments, “Jane Doe.” Why I live where I live now is none of your effin’ business. In every communication I advised people to socially distance and wear masks. If you look at Tompkins Square photos during Covid, you will see that in all of them more people are not wearing masks than are. I guess you would have also called Gay Men who became HIV Positive because they didn’t wear condoms “Fascists”? The problem is that because people like you and Trump politicize mask wearing, it causes a problem because more people don’t wear masks to make a political statement. Anyway, The Village Sun should require names on comments because it is too cowardly and easy to call people names when you don’t have to sign your name to it. Once again, I repeatedly asked people to wear masks and socially distance, which is mentioned in The Village Sun’s preview story before the event. Where do you live, “Jane Doe,” and were you by some chance a Pagan Fabozzi Fascist kill-the-homeless hater????? Those people were gonna go out on New Year’s with or without masks, and at least I got them to go and stay outside in a Park. At least until the NYPD pushed them out.

  4. Paul DeRienzo Paul DeRienzo January 2, 2021

    People should have been wearing masks, I sure was wearing mine. But the hypocrisy is who gets the vaccine and who gets penalized. Already it’s being stolen — as happened in Orange County — apparently by some of the same people who were claiming religious exemption to the lockdown and holding 10,000-person weddings. The cops know there should always be an escape valve and they purposely didn’t provide one on New Year’s Eve. It’s about Trumpism run wild in the NYPD, not a few New Year’s revelers in a park with a low incidence of the disease.

  5. Jane Doe Jane Doe January 2, 2021

    Few of these selfish people are wearing masks when the covid rate in the city is around 9%. Organized by some guy who fled NY for Vegas? Quarantine them all for 14 days and put them in the same ward with the Trump fascists who also don’t believe in masks or social distancing. Birds of a feather flock together.

    • John Penley John Penley January 2, 2021

      Are you the real fascist? See my comment below and one thing for sure, you are a coward.

    • Chris Flash Chris Flash January 4, 2021

      Hey Jane D’oh: You are either a disciple of the scums who sought to gentrify the LES under the guise of a “neighborhood coalition” that divided the community against itself, or you are a clueless FOOL. Either way, there is no excuse for you.

      Since their “success,” said “coalition” members either sold their apts and split NYC with big bucks, accepted payoffs from their landlords to move out of NYC with big bucks, or have DIED under strange circumstances or in obscurity. Though John Penley was forced out of NYC, he has never stopped fighting and advocating for our community.

      Other than penning cowardly anonymous barbs aimed at genuine community activists, feel free to tell us what YOU have done to address issues of concern to the LES community. Have you ever volunteered your time? Have you organized politically or at least joined progressive efforts in order to effect positive change? Have you done ANYthing meaningful or are you just a malcontent, jealous of those like John Penley who dare to do what you cannot and will not do? Just WHERE the hell do you get off making assumptions about John when you know NOTHING about him??

      As for the New Year’s Eve event, a lot of people were NOT wearing masks. Neither was I. SO WHAT? If you bothered to READ, that was not the subject of the story. Are you really labeling the mostly young persons at the tree “fascists” and “trump supporters”?

      Look in the mirror and you will see the true face of FASCISM.

      Chris FLASH
      The SHADOW

  6. Alexander Walsh-Penley Alexander Walsh-Penley January 2, 2021

    9th Precinct bully boys…is now and ever shall be! Way to work from far away to help the old hood, John!

  7. John Penley John Penley January 1, 2021

    Shame on the Ninth Precinct for using overwhelming force and threats to demonstrate how much they support ” Cancel Culture.” This is clearly a great example of why the NYPD is getting too much money, and it is unnecessary force like this that has sparked calls to DEFUND THE POLICE all over America.

  8. Paul DeRienzo Paul DeRienzo January 1, 2021

    The gates at the 7th Street Avenue A exit were locked so when the people got there there they were “kettled” and had to climb the fence. Could have gone bad if the wrong order was given.

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