Assessing the Recklessness of Hundreds of Student Protesters Having a Party
By Anthony Paradiso
New York University’s student newspaper, Washington Square News, published two articles that provided insights into the enormous dance parties that took place in Washington Square Park on Labor Day Weekend and the following weekend. WSN described the party: “The crowd, numbering well into the hundreds, was packed tightly together between the fountain and the eastern edge of the square.”
As far as the behavior of the participants, most were not wearing masks and “nobody was social distancing,” and that is not a good thing. No.
Washington Square News interviewed some of those who started the parties and asked them why they were taking part in a dangerous activity. One participant interviewed in the article detailing the first parties that took place on Labor Day weekend, identified by WSN as “Shaman,” was an organizer with “Refuse Fascism.” Shaman helped lead a protest march from Union Square to Trump Tower and back down to Washington Square Park, where the group met up with those who had already started a dance party, or “rave,” in the park in the early evening on September 5th. The article states, “Shaman told WSN that on Saturday night at around 9:30 p.m., an NYPD officer and he made an agreement to end the party at 1:30 a.m.”
The activist group organizer explained why he and his disciples were not wearing masks or social distancing at the party. “Our message means more than worrying about our masks, we die every day on the streets and really get brutalized by police 10 times more than we ever could just by COVID. So we’re not worried about that.”
NYU students, and/or young people were not the only ones responsible for the partying. According to Washington Square News, four activist groups—All Matters Matter, Refuse Fascism, America’s Peaceful Resolution, and NYC Revolution Club—joined the party, which transitioned the large gathering with live music into a full-blown disaster.
Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted NYU’s administration and New York City’s law enforcement for not breaking up the party sooner. He stated, “That is not tough by the NYU administrators, who as soon as they heard it should have said, ‘Stop it,’ send the NYU security, break it down. It’s not tough by the New York City enforcement. They saw the large gathering, violation of social distancing—it wasn’t smart.”
WSN reports that the discipline handed down by NYU was aided by students who anonymously reported the gatherings to the university’s “COVID-19-compliance email.” NYU suspended 20 students based on these reports, but, inexplicably, WSN reported that NYU said it “has not received any reports of particular NYU students being involved” with the parties at Washington Square Park.
It is not yet clear if these massive parties have spawned a COVID outbreak. However, at NYU’s Rubin Hall there have been six students who have tested positive for the virus.
Since the parties took place at Washington Square Park, which is the epicenter of NYU’s Greenwich Village campus, the NYU administration has updated their “Community Standards and COVID-19 webpage.” The university has also been sending students who volunteer to be “public health ambassadors” to inform students about the dangers of taking part in these events and to give out personal protective equipment.
On June 15th Governor Cuomo announced that gatherings of up to 50 people would be permitted. All reports on the recent park ragers concur that these parties “numbered well into the hundreds” and that no one was social distancing.
For many of us who know the Village and want to keep this community safe from another resurgence of COVID-19 these parties are an insult. Maybe they were intended to be just that, at least that is what Shaman seemed to imply: “Friday’s and Saturday’s parties probably won’t be the last…Shaman floated the possibility of ‘pop-up protest parties’ every weekend.”
NBC4 New York reporters interviewed a young lady who said that NYU students have been pent-up for so long, referring to a two-week quarantine that was required of all incoming students prior to the beginning of the fall semester. She explained that the party was a reaction to that.
I say this: NYU can help its students feel less “pent-up” by organizing safe activities for them to enjoy, with masks on, in small groups. In the meantime, though, we should all remember that the response to dealing with adversity is not to give up. Please do the right thing by not participating in or encouraging big parties!