Whitman Interrupted

By Jenna Orkin

We are three activists in search of the action: Kimberly,Barbara Caporale and me. Also with us is Barbara's daughter, Rockella. From the top of the hill at 79th street and the river we spot a sporty crowd at the dock. They are standing in front of an impressively decked out sail boat, no pun intended. Some of the crowd have notepads and cameras. Others have blue jackets that say 'epa.' —guess this must be the place.We stroll down (look casual!) to the security gate where four guys with cell phones greet us pleasantly.

"Is this theearth day celebration?" Kimberly asks in her best girl scout voice.

"Sure is. Come right in," says guy number one.  In addition to Kimberly's guileless inquiry, it helps to have Rockella along.  She does a dynamite impression of a five-year-old on a park outing.  Christy Whitman is addressing the crowd and doling out awards: riverkeeper, south street Seaport... We strategize on when to shout our complaints. Just three weeks ago a hundred people got arrested for standing on a sidewalk.  We will probably get more mileage out of waiting so that we can't be accused of spoiling the party. Barbara applauds along with the crowd, hypocrisy not even required. Yay, Riverkeeper!

Mary Mears has spotted us. She edges over to a security guy and whispers at length. He glances at us and nods.  Mears slinks away.  The speeches wind down.

Caporale launches. "When will EPA do a real cleanup of lower Manhattan? —beyond canal street and to include offices and workspaces?"

A large camera, the only one there, trains on her. Barbara goes on.  Afterwards she explains, “When you stop is when they grab you.”

Kimberly and I take up the torch. We get in some choice sound bites: EPA has lied about the air quality in lower Manhattan and with the endorsement of the white house.

Christy frowns. She looks around for the mike but it has been dismantled and she won't stoop to shouting back.  There is a god.  She turns to get on the boat. We continue shouting as the crowd is still within earshot.  Security guy number 3 consults with guy number 4. Is this public property?  Do we have the right to do this?   Guy number 3 comes over. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave. You need a permit. this is city property."

Being reasonable rabble, we do, but not without distributing the daily news article from NYCOSH which Kimberly has brought along.

“Don't take that,” Mears tells one of our polite recipients. “It's garbage.”

He looks at it as though to check out its trashy qualities but doesn't hand it back.