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Saturday, May 3, 2008
Protesters put in pens during papal visit to New York, one Bostonite talks about fighting cops and crowds, to get close enough for pope to see signs
Above: Protesters behind Pens for pope's visit to New York. Below: View from a pen, dump trucks block dissent.
(Photos by Robert Costello, click to enlarge)
By Kay Ebeling
In New York, anyone who looked like a demonstrator was put into a pen during the pope's recent visit, with dump trucks parked in the road to prevent any view of the pope or any view of demonstrators by the pope or anyone else, (click photos to enlarge). The pens aka "free speech zones" did not stop Paul Kellen from Boston and Robert Hoatson from New Jersey.
“When the pope came by, we raised those signs and I'm six feet tall,” said Paul Kellen. But to get to a spot where the Pope could see them, Kellen and Hoatson had to battle up the avenue as if they were in a country with no First Amendment right to free assembly.
“The first pen had the atheists, the second had this collection of bigoted Baptists from Kansas,” Kellen said. “We had the third pen, and the next pen down was the Communists. So we were between the Communists and the atheists. It's like they label someone as a fringe nut and put them in a pen,” Kellen said. “You could move around but to me I might as well be wearing a prison suit. I said, I'm sorry this is disgusting."
Kellen then battled goliaths at every street corner to get closer to the pope. The following is his story, in his own words:
Bob Hoatson and I said we might as well be out of town down here. So he and I took the pictures and we hiked all the way up from 47th to 57th and in New York City those blocks are long.
They tell us you can’t go up Fifth Avenue so we go to Sixth Avenue. We talked to one of the cops there and he said we could go to 53rd and go over. But we get to 53rd and you can’t go down, 54th, 55th finally at 57th, there were cops there but they didn't stop us.
So we finally get down to the avenue but then the cops are pushing everyone off the streets.
The sand trucks were being pulled out of the way so the pope could drive by.
When they finished parking the sand trucks, we were poised to move as soon as the barriers went up, we got right in the front row.
I'm thinking I have the pictures of the two sisters. We waited probably 25 minutes and the procession came up. We were in the front and I have the signs.
There’s this cop who sees the signs and he walks up. I'm braced, but the cop says, you should hold those up high, so people can see them.
And you realize, sometimes it just means getting to one person.
When the pope came up I raised those signs, and I'm six feet tall and those signs were up in the air. When he got to us he looked right at them.
But when the pope passed by, it was another leaden stomach moment for me. You could hear the cheering echoing down Fifth Avenue. My dream was to have 60 people holding signs but it’s hard to get 60 people to do anything. I'm not an organization person, I do what I do.
PAUL KELLEN'S STORY CONTINUED:
On Friday afternoon they did the same thing, they said you can’t be on the sidewalk.
They have these metal pedestrian things it looks like a piece of fence with feet on it. They made a rectangle out of it, you had to stand inside a rectangle so you look like an animal on display.
It drives me crazy, I would not get in the pen.
So I take my pictures, I'm walking around around 50th street and a cop approaches me says you can’t be here. So I say to myself, I'm not going to take this.
I say to the cop, I'm waiting for a bus. At that corner there’s a bus stop. I have the pictures on signs in my hands, in front of me and behind me, so you can see the faces of these children.
He says no you're not.
I say look I don't belong to an organization, I'm not blocking the sidewalk, I'm not talking to reporters, and he says you can’t be here. I said, I'm waiting for a bus and he says no you're not.
He wasn’t saying it to other people. The sidewalk was mobbed with people, a Friday afternoon in New York. But because I had the stuff in my hand...
I know damn well by my constitutional rights, he couldn't stop me but supposing I end up in jail. So I kept walking up and down and we finished the conversation and I just walked away and crossed the street, now I'm farther away from the cathedral opposite from the cathedral at the southern end and my group is at the north.
I don't want to fight with the cop but I'm not going to get in the pen. I'm just not going to do it.
So I walked from across the street from the cathedral, to Rockefeller Center, and there’s a huge bunch of people, it’s Friday night. I’m wearing on me pictures of two men who died at 29 and two sisters, one died at 47.
They are heart wrenching stories.
People saw those pictures. They stopped and they looked and they read the captions on the pictures. And they Saw It.
One woman wanted to stop and read, so I would stop and let them read. The woman looked at Helen’s then Kathy’s pictures, then read the captions, and looked up and started to cry. When it hits home with people what we're talking about, they do hear it.
Sometimes when you are out there, you wonder if it does any good. And then something like that happens and you know you've done something right.
Robert Costello from A Matter of Truth organized the vigil at a Crosses exhibit Friday night. He described the pens:
“Trucks from the city of New York pulled up and parked, garbage trucks, a row of them in front of us so we couldn't see the Cathedral.
“How many times did they react with this kind of force to protect the children from the pedophiles in the church?”
(TO BE CONTINUED)
NEXT POST: Names of Survivors Read Out Loud at Vigil and Crosses exhibit.
CALL: Target Crimes, LA DA's Office, to report sex crimes in the Catholic Church: Phone: (213) 974-5985