Another attempt at privatizing and corporatizing Tompkins Square Park occurred on July 16, and the shadowy entity that tried to control the park that evening will be back on July 30, and for other Wednesdays in August and September. Whether or not the attempt to block entry into the central grassy sitting area in the center of the park was an "innocent" mistake, we should assume the incident is another step in the Giuliani/Bloomberg program of eliminating public space in New York City.

My friend and I had gone to the park on July 16 to eat a picnic dinner. A film was about to be shown in the central grassy area, although night had not fallen and the film had yet to start. But when the two of us attempted to enter the area, we were accosted by a huge, menacing man who demanded to check my friend's backpack and the carrying bags containing our dinners and the two teas we had just bought at the vegan bakery on St. Mark's Place. I wouldn't let a police officer search me on the street, and neither of us were about to submit to a search by someone wearing no identification of any kind, wearing ordinary street clothes.

My friend firmly said to him that he no business searching anybody, and that we were going in. This huge, menacing man then physically blocked us from proceeding, told my friend "I don't like your attitude" and summarily declared we were "not allowed" to go in and "have to leave." He then lunged at the bag of tea I was holding and I had to pull it back -- I should note that this man is at least a foot taller than I. While the two of us were arguing with him, a perhaps 30ish man came up to intervene. Identifying himself only as "Darren," he said he was in charge. He did say he would speak to his "security guard" and we went in. We noticed that there were no more searches -- the "security guard" from then on simply stood glowering as people came and went.

Later, when leaving, we attempted to find out who had taken over the park. My friend repeatedly asked the "security guard" for his name or identification, but he refused to answer or even acknowledge her presence. After some trouble, a young woman working one of the corporate concessions stands set up directed us to another 30ish guy as the person in charge (although "Darren" had also acted as if he was in charge). This person refused to identify himself in any way, although he reluctantly agreed to talk to us. My friend asked him on what authority he and/or his still unidentified group was conducting searches and deciding who could enter park spaces. This man replied that he "had to do it" because "we don't want people like squatters coming in here." I immediately responded that "Squatters have lived in this neighborhood for 30 years. Who are you to tell them they can't come into the park?" (I suspect he had no idea who squatters are, or anybody else in the neighborhood.) He then arrogantly said he was "finished" talking with us, and walked away.

Clearly, these people believed they could take over the park, search people's possessions and decide who could or could not enter the park. This is totally unacceptable! Too many people have fought too many battles to keep the park public to now allow Bloomberg and his corporate pals from taking it over now. The group's material advertising upcoming films in the park calls itself "Downtown Diversified." That name does not sound accurate at all.

The next film this shadowy group is showing will be on Wednesday, July 30 -- they say "Gates open at 6 p.m." and "movie starts at sundown." Perhaps squatters and other long-time residents of the Lower East Side might wish to show up and defend their right to use Tompkins Square Park and defend keeping the park fully open to the public.