Revolution#136, July 20, 2008

NYC: “Freeze Action” Against U.S. War Threats on Iran

Bustling Grand Central Station in New York City was the scene on Thursday, July 10, of a dramatic, effective protest against U.S. moves toward a possible attack on Iran.

At the height of the busy evening rush hour, with thousands pouring off their trains after work and heading home, they were met in the station’s ornate, cavernous main terminal by about 150 people wearing signs or large stickers saying “No Attack on Iran!” At first the protestors just milled about, but at exactly 5:40 p.m. all of them suddenly froze in place, like statues. Some froze with an arm extended, holding a flyer by World Can’t Wait, the initiator of the action. Others did so as they were sipping a drink or cup of coffee, taking a picture with their cell phone cameras, or reading a newspaper or book. Some froze while in pairs, holding each other’s hand, or in small groups of three or four, gazing at one another, their faces impassive or their lips creased in faint smiles.

The “freeze action” had a galvanizing effect. While many commuters continued to move by, significant numbers were at first startled by the frozen protestors, then stopped to take in what was going on. Animated discussions broke out among some of them as they stood watching the protestors, some agreeing, others not. Several in support became involved themselves, freezing where they stood.

One person, a middle-age businesswoman, told Revolution: “I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this. I’m very concerned about what they’re up to around Iran—just like the time leading up to Iraq—and we can’t let them get away with it again.” Others standing around clearly were in agreement with her, as they nodded approvingly at the protestors.

There were some who felt differently. Two young men said they thought the protest was “ridiculous” because Iran is “too big” and the U.S. already has its hands full in Iraq and elsewhere. Another young man was angry, saying, “If we attack Iran that’s fine with me, because the cretins running that scene deserve whatever they get.” 

Another person who apparently had learned about the protest in the days leading up to it came wearing a red, white, and blue bandana covering his mouth and nose, his shoulders and back draped with a large cloth decorated with scores of swastikas and reading “Free Iran From Theocracy.” The front of his T-shirt said, “Supporting Our Troops Means Letting Them Win.” As he stood there, in the moments before the freeze action began, a number of protestors surrounded him and tried to engage him, but he would not respond. Several commuters, though, did notice the scene and stopped to get into brief discussions about the situation in Iran, why the U.S. is moving toward a possible attack on that country, and why that must be opposed even while not upholding Iran’s theocratic regime.

At 5:45 p.m., exactly five minutes after the freeze had begun, it just as suddenly ended. Protestors and some commuters broke into loud, echoing chants of “No Attack on Iran! No Attack on Iran!” for several minutes, as others applauded. At one point, four young Iranian women who had participated in the freeze led the spirited chant, as other protestors gathered around them. Then, moments later, the protestors quietly dispersed, melting into the still-remaining rush-hour crowds.

For most of those who came, this was their first participation in a creative, “theatrical” political protest. They expressed excitement over how effective it was, of how relatively small numbers can have a big impact if imaginative but determined forms of action are taken, and how, on that basis, the numbers of protestors can grow to the many, many thousands that are required. The next “freeze” is scheduled for Monday, July 21, at Pennsylvania Station, another busy New York transportation hub.

In addition to World Can’t Wait, other sponsors of the protest were Activists Response Team (ART), Code Pink, Peace Action, and United for Peace and Justice. The Granny Peace Brigade,, and Theater Against War were also in the house.


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