BY CHRIS FLASH | Re Clayton Patterson’s op-ed “Let’s move on: No one was to blame for Tompkins Square hardcore concert,” published May 27 in The Village Sun:
Thank you, Clayton, for your fair article, and thank you, Lincoln, for publishing it.
From what we have learned since April 24, certain people within the Parks Department want to eliminate ALL shows in Tompkins Square Park. They are using the April 24 show as their excuse. Whether it had been a small show with less than 100 attending, or the huge rally we had with a few hundred (NOT thousands, as has been horribly misreported in the media) attending, the Parks Department was determined to use that show, the first of the year in the park, to shut down future shows.
To that end, before issuing us a park permit, we had to agree to three pages of terms contained in a COVID-19 Safety Guidelines package sent to us by the Parks Department. Within the three-page package was the phrase that we “shall ensure compliance.” This phrase was included in order to set us up for justification for their shutting down future shows in the park.
Let us be clear: NO ONE can ENSURE or ENFORCE compliance, especially with Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which are NOT law. Law enforcement is for cops and we are NOT cops. We cannot and will not act as cops and we cannot be prohibited from holding our political rallies for not acting as cops. Even N.Y.P.D. members we spoke with that day told us that they CANNOT and WILL NOT enforce mask wearing and social distancing anywhere in the city.
As an alternative to being coerced into acting as police, we agreed to “ENCOURAGE compliance.” We did so by providing two tables with masks, gloves and sanitizer goop, along with announcements from the stage to practice “COVID safety.” But that was not good enough for the Parks Department, which was looking for something, ANYthing to claim that we violated the terms of the permit.
Paul DeRienzo reports from Tompkins Square Park on May 22 as Chris Flash discusses the concert controversy with a Parks Department official. Flash is trying to get a restraining order against Parks, which says it has banned him from putting on concerts in the park for two years, even though Flash had already been granted permits to hold them. (Video by Paul DeRienzo)
Aside from our alleged failure to comply with current C.D.C. guidelines that are changing practically daily and which will be moot in June and in the months to come, the Parks Department used other allegations to revoke future park permits: that we “lied” about the attendance, that we “allowed consumption of alcohol” in the park during our event and that our event was just a concert and not “political” at all.
When events are applied for, it is usually six to 12 months before an event takes place. There is NO WAY to know how many people will attend an event. An applicant can only GUESS, and the Parks Department KNOWS this.
Every day, in every park throughout the city, countless groups of people of all ages can be seen sitting in close groups with NO masks. Some groups drink alcoholic beverages. The Parks Department’s claim that our April 24 event is responsible for the behavior of parkgoers, whether they were in the park for our event or in the park regardless of our event, drinking booze or not, and that we “allowed” them to consume alcohol, is ABSURD. HOW are event organizers expected to enforce liquor laws when we have NO authority to do so? If the police present on April 24 saw evidence of liquor laws being violated, they would have confiscated the booze, issued summonses or made arrests. None of that happened.
The April 24 event was as political as it gets. From speeches made onstage to the songs being performed, it was all a positive political message of peace, racial unity and artistic freedom. As any lawyer can tell you, PROTECTED SPEECH does not only exist in the form of writing and talking — it also exists in the form of songs performed to an audience.
Besides using false allegations to justify revoking permits in the park, the Parks Department also engaged in a deliberate and coordinated SMEAR campaign against me and event organizers by telling the media that we lied about our event being a “September 11 Memorial.” IN APRIL.
To that end, the Parks Department sent to various media outlets, including WPIX, Gothamist, “Inside Edition” and The New York Times, a VOIDED event application that contained organizers’ real personal information along with Parks’ false “September 11 Memorial” narrative.
Two days after our event, the media feeding frenzy was ON, with media outlets fed by the Parks Department and sub-media outlets that feed off social media and other media sites, regurgitating and compounding the LIE that we were exploiting the memory of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. The fact is that in 2020, we applied for a “September 11 Memorial” for September 11, 2021, NOT for APRIL 24, 2021. The Parks Department denied us September 11 and gave us April 24 instead.
We obviously weren’t doing a “September 11 Memorial” in April, but the Parks Department created and spread the LIE that we were. The Parks Department smear campaign has caused damages to me and to my co-organizers. For this, they will be held fully responsible. Defamation and libel are what attorneys rightfully call “actionable” offenses.
As Clayton points out in his column, the show organizers are members in good standing of our community and our political and music scenes. We love and respect Tompkins Square Park and everything that our park stands for. We shed BLOOD for our park and we have fought, physically and in the courts, to keep our beloved Tompkins Square Park FREE of state repression.
Though gentrifiers, with the help of certain elected “representatives” who have been working on their behalf, have largely taken over our neighborhood, Tompkins Square Park is STILL our park.
Long after monied transients move on, looking for “edgy” scenes elsewhere and the wealthy lose everything in the coming crash and politicians get booted from office, WE will still be here, in our beloved Tompkins Square Park.
Flash is the publisher of The SHADOW, the local anarchist newspaper, and was the permit applicant and a co-organizer for the April 24 hardcore punk concert in Tompkins Square Park.