Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He produces the Café Concerts series and the podcast/show Conducting Business. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Granny Protesters Stage Vigil at Lincoln Center
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 10:01 PM
About 125 protesters led by an anti-war group called the Granny Peace Brigade held a vigil on the plaza at Lincoln Center on Tuesday night, but an anticipated larger corps of protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement failed to materialize.
During the hour-long vigil, protesters, some supporting themselves with canes or walkers, stood silently in front of the Lincoln Center fountain while holding signs that denounced the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The group chose Lincoln Center because of its visibility and the presence of the David H. Koch Theater, named after the head of Koch Industries, which funds several conservative causes.
The timing of the Granny Peace Brigade event, from 7 to 8 pm, was to coincide with the curtain times of several Lincoln Center events, including the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic. As patrons arrived, some stopped to watch, some voiced their approval and others hurried by to pick up their tickets.
When the demonstration began, there was a potential for real theater to rival what was taking place inside the venues. Lincoln Center’s director of security arrived to tell the protesters that they must move to the sidewalk in front of the plaza or they would be arrested. Yet the NYPD, who were stationed around the plaza, allowed them to continue and no arrests were made.
“They were not disrupting anyone, they were not blocking any of the entrances here,” said the Granny's attorney Norman Siegel.
A Lincoln Center official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the GPB protesters never sought a permit to demonstrate and the arts complex only learned of the event through a report in the New York Post on Monday.
On Sunday, members of the Occupy Wall Street movement announced that they would be joining the GPB in solidarity but only a handful could be seen Tuesday night. Earlier on Tuesday, about 200 OWS protesters rallied outside of the Manhattan District Attorney's office to denounce police violence. A group of protesters also joined Teamster workers in a rally earlier in the day outside Sotheby's auction house, where unionized workers are in a contract dispute.
The Granny Peace Brigade vigil marked the group's sixth anniversary. It was founded in 2006 when 18 women were arrested on charges that they blocked the entrance to the military recruitment center in Times Square when they tried to enlist.
“What brought me here is the rising up of people to demonstrate against war, against what’s happening with our economy and the fact that there’s one percent who talk and everything,” said Kitty Lawston, a GPB demonstrator. “People are out there hurting and I’m so glad to see these kids taking the initiative and yelling for all of us.”
Sedgwick Clark, the editor of the Musical America Directory, a music-industry publication, came to watch the protest after seeing a report on the 6 pm news. “I haven’t seen anything of this nature but I remember the New York Philharmonic out on strike in 1973,” he said. “Lincoln Center is a place for everyone to come to. Whether you want to come and sit by the fountain or see Siegfried at the Met or the New York Phil or whatever -- these people are here with placards and they’re saying what they believe.”