May 21st – Making Public Union Square’s History

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quiltyusa0011On May 21, 2008, we–a group of concerned citizens–began our efforts to bring the history forward, to tell the old story inside the new story and above all, to keep the park (all of it!) public. Union Square has long been a site where the history of our present times was shaped, and the Union Square Pavilion was built as a place where people could convene and exercise their freedom of speech and assembly. Figures whose histories are written into Union Square include inspiring notables such as Dorothy Day, Emma Goldman, Norman Thomas, Lucy Parsons, George Washington, Paul Robeson, and others.

To make Union Square’s history public, we tied beautifully crafted cardboard cutouts of historical figures to the fence surrounding the construction and read passages from their writings. One organizer, Savitri, reads from Emma Goldman…

quiltyusa0005A little earlier we were inside whats left of the park, and on the way out we left a little present, George Washington and Paul Robeson arm in arm. As we were calmly tying them to the garbage trucks a parks employee said she had called the police and we better leave because “I don’t want any arrests on my property” about 12 people cried out from the sideline “its our property! all of ours!”

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