Editorial 11: A Day in the Death. It was 20 years ago today, Dec. 8, that Mark David Chapman fired five bullets into John Lennon outside his apartment in New York, killing him. Since then, people have been gathering in Central Park to hold a day long vigil on the anniversary of his death, gathering in the Central Park in “Strawberry Field” - a special section of the park named after the Beatles song in honor of Lennon - to sing songs and to share Lennon’s message of peace and love. The vigil usually runs all day and into the next morning.
However, Mayor Giuliani, not one to normally sympathize with anyone, has announced that New York police will be enforcing the Central Park 1 a.m. curfew. Giliani rejected a plea from the lord mayor of Liverpool to keep the park open this one evening. He even rejected a plea from the Lennon fans to join them that night. “We want to invite the mayor to come down and sing with us,” said Tom Leighton of the Memorial Committee. “We hope he wakes up from his 1950s coma and realizes December 8 is a significant date.” The Lennon vigil will thus be forced to break up earlier than desired.
A number of those gathering have started to refer to Giuliani as a real “Mean Mr. Mustard,” a sentiment that I find quite appropriate (although a bit childish). The overnight vigil for Lennon has occurred every single year since his death in 1980, and Giuliani’s insistence they be broken up in the interest of safety is ludicrous. Those participating in the vigil are a threat to no one, and the need for extra police is negligible. While I don’t claim to be a great expert in civil organization, the gathering of a bunch of aging hippies is hardly a threat to the stability of New York. Although it does take a certain level of fanaticism to sit outside overnight in New York in December, these people are not zealots in danger of organizing a coup against the New York government.
Yes, I realize it’s a little bit more complicated than that. The NYPD would need to send cops to protect the crowd from the criminal element that would be prey on the poor hippies, taking away from the cops’ important time harassing homeless people and shooting people armed with wallets.
The other question is one of liability. New York is worried that if one of the crowd is injured in any way, they could potentially sue the city for their injuries. This, too, is ludicrous. The vigil has been going on every year, and the city has never been sued once for any mishaps.
I’m not sure if this is actually the case, but I think Giuliani considers this another victory in his fight to clean up New York. First the homeless, then the pornography shops, then the drug dealers and murderers and now the hippies. This ignores the fact that the vigil is in honor of one of the most important pop culture figures of the past century, who made New York his adopted home and celebrated the city. This is a vigil that harms no one. If I had any illusion that Giuliani would read this, I would continue my rant. But instead, I must close with a frustrated and defeated sigh.
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