A scattered left struggles toward coherence

For dedicated adherents of the 24-hour news cycle, it must seem like the left, after winning the elections, simply went into hiding. The word ‘activist,’ once thrown around so wantonly as an epithet by the right, has now been become their primary strategy as Tea Party demonstrations have taken the

Marchers hold signs in the designated protest zone outside the Fox News headquarters in midtown Manhattan.

center focus of media attention in recent months.

But the left, historically more inclined toward activism, has been largely absent from the streets in the past two years. There was the quickly formed Coffee Party group that came together in opposition to the ideas of the Tea Party. The Coffee Party hasn’t put together any major rallies or actions for some time now. The rest of the left stands as a fragmented and confusing mess of initials, acronyms, and hard to distinguish group names.

In New York City however, several groups with sympathetic messages are quickly coalescing into an activist power to be reckoned with.

After the suicides Tyler Clementi at Rutgers University and at least four other LGBT youth within three weeks this fall, it was clear to the left action had to be taken. For several New York-based groups, including the NYC Coalition to Stop Islamophobia, Wait No More NYC, the International Socialist Organization, the Freedom Socialist Party, and the New York branch of the Green Party, this meant marching on the Fox News headquarters in midtown Manhattan.

Pedestrians pass the demonstration.

A temporary coalition was formed between these groups, and the March Against Hate was planned during the weeks leading up to the November election. The coalition believes that the prejudiced statements regularly made by the network regarding Muslims and homosexuals are directly responsible for creating the environments that provoked the suicides. The NYC Coalition to Stop Islamophobia has posted a list of offending statements made by Fox anchors here.* The event was envisioned as a five-hour combination rally and march to reprimand Fox News for its history of homophobic and xenophobic commentary on such popular programs as The Glenn Beck Program and The Sean Hannity Show.

Video of the March Against Hate event.

Advertising was minimal, relying primarily on a Facebook page recruiting attendees virally. However, a great boon to the rally happened when the Facebook page was posted by an anonymous person with no formal connection to the groups to the popular news aggregation website Reddit. It soon made the front page. This is surprising, since none of the organizers asked had even heard of the site. After an explanation of the site’s eclectic focuses, split largely between links to left-leaning news and pictures of people’s cats, Freedom Socialist Party representative Jed Holtz said, “That’s cool…I guess.”

The march took place on October 23 in Columbus Circle. The coalition estimated attendance between 150 to 200 people, though it wasn’t clear whether this was meant as a total attendance figure or the number persons present at an average moment during the rally. “Most emergency response rallies have been this size. It’s a good size,” said organizer Frankie Cook.

There was an open mic, an element that was important to the organizers. “One of the great things for me about the March Against Hate is that there was ownership across the board,” said Kris Lew, a representative of Wait No More NYC.  The intent was to create a decentralized, all-inclusive environment for the participants. Speakers from each of the groups took turns giving impassioned speeches to the small crowd assembled around the fountain at the entrance to Central Park. Topics brought up at the open mic included everything from islamophobia to the financial crisis.

Hear representative Kris Lew describe the origins of activist group Wait No More NYC.(Beginnings of Wait No More as described by Kris Lew.)

While the event mostly went off without any friction, there were reports at the follow up meeting of suspicious incidents. One marcher holding a camera was approached by an imposing man in a suit, described by the marcher, who preferred to remain anonymous, as “the most Matrix looking man I’d ever seen.” The man asked them, with a bit of menace, if they’d taken enough pictures yet. However, the scene at the Fox headquarters on 6th Avenue in Manhattan was almost alarmingly docile, with the protestors barricaded into a small space with a wide sidewalk between them and the entrance of the building.

The follow-up meeting, in a conference room on the 4th floor of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, was attended by representatives of three different progressive groups. The air was laid back. A spectacled woman wearing a black hat and flannel button down shirt looked over an agenda neatly written out in a spiral notebook.

“Ok, the rally. Any thoughts?” asked Leia Petty, one of the organizers.

Though taking the march to be a success, the organizers were hesitant to conclude that any lasting effect was achieved. The five organizers present, including Lew and Cook, agreed that the march was one to build on.  They weighed their position, and were ironically thankful for Fox News providing a unified and simple target.

All the actors were hopeful for the future of the ad-hoc coalition, and said they would plan events for the future. While no official announcement has been made solidifying the coalition or giving it a permanent name, there is both the Facebook group and a 200 member emergency response list-serv holding them together. A new Facebook group has been put together to advertise and set-up future events under the heading Stop the Hate – NYC Emergency Response Network.

Daniel Levine is a CUNY Baruch student, banjoist extraordinaire, and documentary filmmaker. His first film ‘Acquaintances’, featuring a man who broke his hands five times and could play popular songs by cracking his knuckles, is currently under consideration for the True/False film festival. Please spam his IMDB page.