Tuesday, August 9, 2011

[Updated] A recap of Saturday night's protest at the BMW/Guggenheim Lab

[Photo by Steven Hirsch]

On Saturday night, I posted some photos by Bobby Williams of the "Let Them Eat Cake/Eat the Rich/No Comfort Zone street party." (The comments section is still smoldering.)

In any event, here are some links that offer more of a narrative of what happened that evening. Bob Arihood has posts from the three stops on the tour: the Economakis Dream Mansion ... the BMW Guggenheim Lab ... and Mars Bar.

Goggla has a nice summary here. Including video.

Marty After Dark was around for the Mars Bar portion here.

Gothamist had a summary post here.

From a distance anyway, the most interesting part of the evening came when the group — 25 strong or so — arrived at the BMW/Guggenheim Lab near closing time. I've heard several variations of what happened. This isn't everything that happened, just a brief summation.

Several people spoke out about the history of class warfare in the East Village and why the BMW/Guggenheim Lab is a self-congratulatory project for a few and doesn't address the needs/talents of the community at all, as Goggla put it. A sober LES Jewels read a poem. Unfortunately, at this time, there wasn't much of an audience, save a few Lab administrators and curators.

[Photo by Gil Robichaud]

Rob Hollander, who arrived just after the demonstrators entered the space, described the reaction this way: "I would not call it 'friendly,' but maybe 'acquiescent.'" Those in attendance said that the Lab curators stuck close by to prevent the Guggenheim from inciting an incident that might have brought them ugly press.

According to witnesses, the only time things got heated occured when John Penley lit a cigarette. One administrator reportedly yelled at Penley to put out the cigarette; that the Lab is on Parks Department land and smoking is illegal in city parks. Several other people in the group also lit cigarettes. One of the curators was said to whisper something in the administrator's ear. She then left the immediate area.

And, thanks to Goggla, we have some video. (She has more here.)

I asked Penley on Sunday for his thoughts on his reception to the Lab/Community Center.

"The management was angry and and didn't listen to what we said. They were typical of people in authority who, when confronted, ignore you but look pissed off since they couldn't call the cops, which I asked them to do because the publicity would be bad for them. They let it go. The workers loved it."

As Rachel Pincus reported for Gothamist:

"The Lab itself greeted the protest with a mixture of appreciation and utter annoyance, sympathizing with its cause but finding its aggressive tone objectionable. 'This space is meant for dialogue,' said Lab team host Kristian Koreman, who has roots as a squatter in Rotterdam. 'If they had acted in a way where they wanted an answer to their questions, we would have answered.'"

I followed up with the press contact that I had for the Lab. "As quoted in Gothamist, the Lab is about dialogue – of all kinds," said Eleanor R. Goldhar, deputy director and chief of global communications. "The protesters have a point of view to express which we respect. We also appreciate the courtesy they showed while engaging with staff and visitors at the Lab."


Anonymous said...

People, stop smoking! You're supporting a tobacco industry that kills millions! Including you!

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of losers, no guts to show up when people are actually there to personally tell them to fuck off.

randall said...

truth. Talk about a big bad corporate entity which has gotten their hooks into your lives more than Duane/Reade, citibank and all the "yuppie/frat" bars in a formerly bombed out neighborhood. Physician heal thyself. Manhattan is sinking like a rock, into the filthy Hudson.

DLD said...

I'm not sure who's more self-congratulatory here, the Lab or the protesters. The guy who sleeps on the stoop next to Ray's read a poem and a bunch of people smoked cigarettes. Way to stick it to the man.

Marty Wombacher said...

@Anonymous 8:36 AM: I find it funny that someone who doesn't have the guts to sign his or her name to your comment calling others, "gutless." The point they were making were to the people that were there at the "Lab," whatever that is.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who you are DLD but you just made me laugh out loud and I needed a laugh today. It is funny about the smoking too. Like the rest of America the radicals are addicted to their ciggies.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Protestors said all the people working the BWM Lab opening night event were white. Judging by photos on this blog and videos on thegoglog.blogspot, except for the guy passed out on the sidewalk outside, so were all the Lab's opening nite attendees, and that includes the protestors. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

Penley is a slave by his own choosing.
That brings me great joy.

Anonymous said...

The Puerto Rican population in the East Village is left out of all of these protests. They are the ones who are most often displaced.

bed-stuy holdin on said...

this is too long. won't do it again, but...

I saw that, too, Ken...Kitchen. All white protest. These are the concentric circles of privilege. Even an out-manned and threatened people, in this case long-time white les residents, have luxuries. And that luxury has always put you, as a class, ahead of all others - black squatters get beat, others displaced. Protest itself is a luxury, unless you get masses of people willing to lose jobs and go all out to say "NO!" martin Luther King created this kind of protest. I live in Bed-Stuy - gentrifying much faster than LES did. Hipsters walking thru marcy with macbook airs on wifi????? (I say did because a $19 omelete on 1st street and 1st ave means you're done.) Bed-Stuy is "done," too. Folks in bed-stuy who are affected (low and moderate income) don't have time or political cover to protest vs. simply going to work driving your buses, running your subway, delivering your packages and whatnot. The point isn't that white les folks don't have a point - it's that they should find a way to show full les solidarity if protest is gonna do anything. As far as the Lab goes, I walk those streets every day and know that black, hispanic, asian...are oil to newcomers' water. The Lab still calls LES "gritty." [wow! next to a $19 omelette at the restaurant Prune.] But it can flash on you if you walk stupid around the projects. All separate worlds. I worked at Henry St. School for a bit and at that public school, you get a real picture of who's vulnerable. The city is dwindling to millionaires and broke folks. You are the white middle class, finally awakening to the fact that race ain't the thing. I ain't mad at that. White middle barely exists in nyc. I grew up in the south/southwest, where you might still be able to pull that off. But all of manhattan, including now Harlem with its black minority, looks done. As protesters, I see your point, but I don't see it winning. Projects ain't goin nowhere - so less incentive to protest displacement. And immigrants aren't in your protest culture set.

john penley said...

Yeah all the protesters are mostly white except me I am magenta. So Effen what. I am not spending 6 million dollars to promote BMW and hiring only white kids to work at my whatever the hell it is space. If you are really not the anonymous jerkoff aholes I know you are you would join me in demanding that the BMW Yuppie Lab hire some black and latino kids from the LES.

Anonymous said...

Bed-Stuy Holdin, thanks. Get what your saying about concentric circles of privilige. White guys in power on the corporate and radical sides just don't get it. It isn't enough to say you want to help the youth who don't share your skin color. You have to include them in the fight. Step back, encourage them to lead. White men represent us everywhere. The time has come for change.

Anonymous said...

How come the one guy is wearing a mask? Did he have Botox that went bad or something?

Anonymous said...

This demonstration was followed by a discussion at ABC No Rio about the "commoditization" of radical culture that the BMW Guggenheim lab was seen to represent. I think the demonstrators here saw it as an invasion, by a corporate cartel comprised of a cultural institution and a multinational auto company, of turf that was formerly considered people's ground. Really, though, I think this mini-occupation signalled the emergence of the OWS two months later. The squatter photographer John Penley, who was involved in this action, was pushing the OWS occupation at the ABC No Rio meeting, and was one of the first on that scene. -awm