After his release from the police station and a walk back
to Lafayette Park, Thomas learned the particulars of the security
concerns which so disturbed Sgt. Turonis and Off. Bergo. Once
he found out what happened Thomas was even more convinced that
official park closure "security concerns" had actually
Earlier in the morning, before his arrest, Thomas saw some
character dressed in an Uncle Sam costume, accompanied by a woman
dressed like the Statue of Liberty. Uncle Sam was manipulating
Liberty with a giant marionette control as they passed through
Lafayette Park on their way to another demonstration in opposition
to NATO bombing, which was taking place four blocks away in Freedom
Plaza. After the other demonstration ended they where returning
through Lafayette Park, where approximately 2,000 Albanians were
chanting "Bomb, NATO, Bomb."
According to Concepcion, as
Uncle Sam and Liberty were leaving the Park on the north side
-- close to where Concepcion had been forced to move her signs,
and far from the area which had been closed for "security"
-- they were attacked by about a group of about 20 young Albanian
males. Both Uncle Sam and Liberty -- who refused to give their
names for fear of Albanian reprisals -- were punched, knocked
to the ground and had parts of their costumes torn off and their
hats stolen. Park Police finally intervened and escorted the battered
symbols of liberty out of harm's way.
The second and third security concerns also occurred on
the north side of the Park. Similarly these incidents involved
people who were passing through the Park on their way home after
the other demonstration. These people were carrying the signs
they had at the other demonstration.
Art Laffin was walking with a young woman
named Julie. Both Julie and Art are members of a local Catholic
Worker community, two extremely polite people, firmly committed
to non-violence, who prefer feeding homeless people to antagonizing
demonstrators. Like Uncle Sam and Liberty, Art and Julie were
set upon by a score or so of antagonistic young Albanians. Park
Police again intervened and escorted the two Catholic Workers
until they got out of the Park.
The third incident involved
a young woman named Nancy Hay. Nancy, who is under five feet tall,
was also carrying a sign from the anti-bombing demonstration,
and transiting Lafayette Park on her way home. Nancy was pushed
and punched in the same vicinity as the other four victims, by
a similar number of young men who then fled to a bus, parked on
the north side of Lafayette Park, before any police involvement.
As Nancy passed the bus, she shouted, "If you want to fight,
go to Kosovo. I don't want my taxes used to fight your war."
In response about ten young men piled off the bus, knocked Nancy
to the ground and tore up her sign. When the police intervened,
Nancy stated that she wanted to press charges against the men
who assaulted her. "The police refused to press charges.
They told me, 'They have a permit'."
Reminiscent of their demonstration
a week earlier, Concepcion, who also is less than five feet
tall, was intimidated, spat on, and had her literature snatched
out of her hand and torn up by Albanians who apparently didn't
like her stand for peace. There was no police involvement in Concepcion's
case. And in no case was there any connection between the park
closure, and the "security concerns" that occurred.