Marching Through The Slush

January 24, 2010

Lots of citizens but few politicians at this year’s Martin Luther King event in Lincoln Park

This year the annual march from the State Plaza to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King statue started late, getting going around noontime. As usual there was no public notice of the march, so I came out of my house around 10 AM and discovered that I had a lot of time to kill. So I watched the lone City Department of General Services (DGS) guy clear from the monument the six inches of snow and slush that came down last night.

I wanted to ask him why he was clearing off the patch of ground next to the monument, but our brief conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a supervisor lady who announced, ”I’m from DGS.” The guy had to stop working to smile and nod while the lady from the managing class ritualistically established hierarchical control over the working class man. I’m sure this guy never saw her before, but working jobs often require public acts of obeisance to middle class supervisors and he was clearly no fool.

DGS Guy With The Supervisor Lady DGS Guy With The Supervisor Lady

Although this exchange was grimly amusing, I decided to wander across Lincoln Park to the State Plaza to see if anyone was yet assembling to march. The road was closed off but deserted, so I wandered down into the Plaza to keep warm. It was sunny and warming up a bit outside, but this is January and the temperature was barely above freezing.

Army Guy From Watervliet Arsenal Who Waited An Hour For The Marchers

Army Guy From Watervliet Arsenal Who Waited An Hour For The Marchers

No way that I was going to walk all that distance underground across the Plaza to sit miserably in the auditorium under The Egg and listen to politicians dish out slop while I’m being eyeballed by the amateur cops who work under the Capitol. Been there, done that, I try to avoid abuse when I can. Instead I hung close to the entrance and watched the program for a bit on one of the three big TV screens on the marble wall.

The program looked pretty entertaining this year. I watched one outrageously talented lady belt out some top notch gospel tunes, and all I could think about while watching her was issues of separation of church and state. One or two other people passing by stopped to watch while I did, I left when the keynote speaker took the podium.

I wandered back to my neighborhood and talked to the Parking Enforcement guys in charge of securing the parade route. There were no expensive police officers this year, the parking supervisor sat in his SUV at the end of the route at Morton Avenue instead of a cop. He was friendly but he didn’t seem to know anything about the event.

Blocking The Parade Route Blocking The Parade Route

The guy stationed at Park Avenue had placed his saw horses across the parade route. So I told him about how last year the guy doing his job also put his horses across the parade route exactly like he did and got yelled at by the supervisor. “Really? From that direction?” he asked. “What’s this all about, anyway?” I briefly explained about the march and he thanked me. “They didn’t tell me anything,” he said.

This time I walked over to the Plaza and found the parade assembling under the overhang.

Assembling In Front Of The State Museum Assembling In Front Of The State Museum

Pretty good attendance this year, I figure about 300 people came out to follow behind the instruments of state control. I don’t recall hearing that Dr. King was supported on any of his great historic marches by a contingent of cops and politicians. On the contrary, these were the kinds of authorities who opposed and tried to destroy him and the suppress the people who followed him.

Assembling In Front Of The State Museum

Not a lot of politicians this year, the wimps. Once again I’ve got to hand it to Mayor Jerry Jennings, he certainly marched shoulder to shoulder all the way with NY State Office of General Services Commissioner John Egan and City Court Judge Helena Heath-Roland. Common Council member Cathy Fahey kept a little distance from His Majesty. Marching behind Him I spotted Assistant Chief of Police Steven Krokoff, who is probably the acting head of the Albany Police. As far as I could see that was it for the politicians.

Along Park Avenue, State Museum In Background Along Park Avenue, State Museum In Background

Earlier I was killing time shoveling slush off the sidewalk on the other side of Morton Avenue. My Common Council representative Dominick Calsolaro, who was sitting in a parked car waiting for the parade, rolled down his window and critiqued my shoveling technique. He also accused me of roundly condemning him on this blog for never attending the ceremonies, which I don’t believe I’ve ever done… even though I can’t remember the last time I saw Dom out here in January at this event.

This year I have photographic proof that he did indeed participate in the ceremonies, even if he didn’t join the grueling quarter mile downhill stroll. Okay, with that leg of his I wonder how he manages to get up and down all those First Ward front stoops. At least he showed up.

In Lincoln Park In Lincoln Park

I ran alongside the march slipping and sliding on the slush taking photos. I nearly fell several times, I’m sure I provided a bit of amusement to the marchers. As I slipped on the slush I imagined His Majesty muttering to His buddies John and Helena, “I hope that son of a b—h lands face down.” If so, then I disappointed Him. Maybe next time.

Some of the marchers carried preprinted signs that said lame things like “Health Care For All” and “End Segregation Now.” I mean like okay, no one’s going to argue with those slogans, but that’s the problem. These signs were lowest common denominator, only unpatriotic idiots would argue with them.

C’mon, I could think up better signs. How about “Single Payer Medicare For All” or “Equality Is Self Evident.” Or to be really up to date and relevant, how about “Corporations Are Not Citizens.” And to get to the heart of all of our social problems, “Restore The Bill Of Rights.”

Politicians Move To The Cleared Patch Of Ground Politicians Move To The Cleared Patch Of Ground

I think it’s pretty obvious that this event is not widely advertised on purpose. The Mayor and the State persons involved want to control the event and keep it bland. The last thing they want is real marchers and real protesters really demanding equality and health care. Even Congressman Paul Tonko’s comprehensive calendar of events that his office sent around by email neglected to mention the march out to the statue.

All right, this is supposed to be a feel good event, a place where the government publicly ritualistically agrees to adhere to equality and justice for all Americans. We’re supposed to be above conflicts here. And yet, I don’t see the bland agreeable crowd assembled in front of the statue putting the government’s resolve to the test. I mean, who’s really in charge here?

After we arrived The Mayor led the politicians and pastors, etc. to the patch of cleared ground off to stage left that the lone DGS guy had provided for them. This is where all the speaking and invocating took place. I suspect that this year Jerry decided not to hide behind the monument wall and wave over the top at us peoples down in the road. Other years the dignitaries all looked like they were reviewing a military display in Red Square.

Jerry Was Brief Jerry Was Brief

There was hardly any media this year. I kept bumping into a woman from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as we both snapped photos. Channel 9 was the only TV, I saw one print reporter and of course bloggers. A Hearst Times Union employee pointed a camera, but I don’t believe the daily rag used any of the photos of the event.

How strange. After everything was done and some of us were standing around chatting, a TV camera operator from channel 13 decided to show up. I politely asked the fellow if there was another big story that morning, and using a voice dripping with contempt he replied that there was “a fire in Troy.” Of course there was no such thing. I hope all the equipment operators and content providers at channel 13 get downsized by their corporate owner and spend the rest of their snotty little lives dipping french fries.

Politicians Looking Down On Their Employers Politicians Looking Down On Their Employers

Everyone commented about the weather, it was actually pretty pleasant for January. For us winter bound locals, that is. If Dr. King were alive and present here in Lincoln Park he would no doubt be suffering mightily with a look of frozen horror on his face. After all he was a Southerner. He was a great man who stood up to authority, but he probably couldn’t handle slush and 35 degrees fahrenheit.

ennings, State Commissioner John Egan And City Court Judge Helena Heath-Roland Pledge Allegiance To Martin. Jennings, State Commissioner John Egan And City Court Judge Helena Heath-Roland Pledge Allegiance To Martin.

This was Jerry’s show, and He kept it short and sweet. As usual, the weather was fine but not good enough to encourage rhetoric. The wreath got laid at the base of the statue followed by the moment of silence, and bam! everyone started to scatter. That’s what I like about this event. No fooling around.

DEC Officers Prepare To Furl The Flags DEC Officers Prepare To Furl The Flags

So I walked over to Hackett Middle School on the north side of Lincoln Park to see the big indoor show. If you haven’t seen the interior of Hackett since the Facilities Plan renovations then you ought to. I wish the schools I went to looked gorgeous like that. I keep hearing that The Mayor and the corporate media now want to sell off the public high schools to “charter” school corporations, so check out the building while you still can.

In the auditorium the kids put on one fine performance up on the stage, lots of gospel songs accompanied by a keyboardist and a hot drummer. Here’s where all the politicians were, inside where it was warm and entertaining. About half of the Common Council was in attendance, along with at least three City Court judges, and officials of every description.

Congressman Paul Tonko was right up front by the two man band, on his feet clapping and swaying to the music. Mr. Tonko has been very visible, I’ve seen him and talked to him more times in his first year in office than I did his predecessor over 20 years. I guess that’s because Mr. Tonko likes to be visible… and he’s got nothing to be ashamed of. I’m sure Dr. King would approve.

Congressman Paul Tonko Clapping With The Kids Congressman Paul Tonko Clapping With The Kids

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