The Untold Story of the Tompkins Square Murder

Blood Simple

Daniel Rakowitz moved in with Sylvia and Shawn on July 7, bringing his scrawny brown rooster and three cats with him. “The rooster’s name was Rooster,” remembers Sylvia, a pale 27-year-­old nursing assistant with long brown hair and a striking red-and-­blue tattoo on her right arm. “All night it would cackle and crow. I told Daniel one night, ‘Daniel, I can’t listen to this rooster anymore.’ So he took a sock, and he put it over the roost­er’s bead. And the rooster would lie on its back with its legs up. And after 10 hours I said, ‘Daniel, the rooster — it looks like he’s dead.’ And he says, ‘No, he’s in a trance.’ He’d take the sock off — the rooster was fine. But you put the sock on, and the rooster just lay on its back with its legs up in the air.”

Sylvia and her boyfriend Shawn, both from Morris Plains, New Jersey, had been living together in a cramped two­-bedroom apartment at 700 East 9th Street for a couple months. “When I first met Daniel a year and half ago, he sold me pot in Washington Square Park,” says Sylvia. ”I didn’t really get to know him until be moved into the apartment.” Rakowitz, a 28-year-old part-time cook and marijuana dealer who was sleeping in Tompkins Square Park at the time, agreed to cover half of the apartment’s $500-a-month rent. “I saw a change in Daniel: he felt like he was a normal per­son,” explains Sylvia. “He had a home, he could take a shower, he had a big TV.” In fact, Rakowitz developed a fixation for television. He’d watch until dawn, saying “C’mon Sylvia, watch TV — just one more show, there’s something good coming on!”

Despite a gaping hole in the wall oppo­site the stove, the kitchen was another plus: Rakowitz would often wake up in the morning and head for Key Food on Fourth and B. Hanging out by the front door, he asked people for donations. Strangers shopping at the store would buy him just what he asked for: chicken, potatoes, butter, bread, vegetables. He would return to the apartment with 30 or 40 pounds of food, cook it all up, bring it to Tompkins Square, and feed the home­less there. “He prepared a lot of chicken mainly,” says Jerry the Peddler, a local squatter and community leader. “He’d feed people a couple or three times a week.”

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Sometimes he showed up with break­fast. “He’d make stacks of pancakes for everyone,” says Shawn, a dark, muscular, 25-year-old electrician. “And he even used to get the syrup from the people in the street — he never paid for any of this. We cooked up everything. It was fun. And it was good. He had consideration for other people. He knew what it was like because he had been homeless.”

But life with Rakowitz was not a con­stant picnic: his incessant babbling would have driven almost any roommate mad. “When he used to go off on his trips,” recalls Sylvia, “I’d say ‘Daniel, you have your beliefs, and I have mine. I don’t impose them on you, so please don’t im­pose yours on me.’ And he’d respect that. And he’d stop saying, ‘I am the Lord of the Lords,’ and ‘By 1996, I’m gonna be president,’ and ‘By 1992, my followers are gonna take over,’ and ‘If they think Hit­ler was something, they haven’t seen any­thing yet.’ ”

“He was a classic nut,” says the Ped­dler. “He had all the symptoms: he had sudden fits of rage, he had delusions of grandeur, he didn’t like touching people, he had fantasy followers. Once, we were walking down Avenue B and we found a couple of pages of pornography on the street. He takes a handkerchief out of his pocket, and he lays it across the paper and then picks it up by the edges. And he looks at the women’s pictures for a min­ute and he finally folds it up very neat­ly — never touches it — and puts it in his back pocket.” The Peddler also saw Rakowitz try to pick up the real thing: “He was constantly going up to women — ­constantly. He’d stop right in the middle of a conversation and run over to talk to a single woman alone in the street or in the park. I saw him do that all the time. He never seemed to pick up that many.”

Soon after Rakowitz moved in, Sylvia and Shawn experienced problems in their three-year relationship; around July 20, they broke up and Shawn moved out. Sylvia, fed up with the city, decided to move shortly afterwards, leaving the apartment to Rakowitz. But he couldn’t support the place himself; when the lease changed hands, the rent would rise to $605. And Rakowitz — a skinny, bearded, long-haired drifter — was not exactly what the average landlord considers an ideal tenant. So the search began for a new roommate. “Daniel needed someone to share the rent,” says Shawn, “but he also felt threatened that we were going to kick him out — that I was going to kick him out — so he wanted the lease put in his new friend’s name. Daniel, I guess, didn’t want his name on anything.”

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About two weeks later, according to the police, Rakowitz met Monika Beerle, a 26-year-old modern dancer, in Tompkins Square Park. Beerle, a slender, dirty blond-haired girl from St. Gallen, Swit­zerland, had earned a teaching and chore­ography certificate from the Sigurd Leeder School and had recently studied at the Martha Graham School. Though she had a reputation for dating adventur­ously, one friend says, “She was a pretty smart girl. She seemed pretty profession­al, had a good head on her shoulders. The girl wasn’t stupid and she wasn’t crazy.”

In late April, Monika had moved from 93 Orchard Street to 171 Avenue B but was already looking for another place to live when she met Rakowitz. He took her home and made his pitch. When she ac­cepted, the two of them toasted their future with a couple of joints from Rakowitz’s stash.

Sylvia first met Monika before the lease had changed hands. That night, Rakowitz had been slow to answer her knock, and when the door swung open, he was zipping up his fly. “He never had women up there,” says Sylvia. “I’d never even seen him with a woman. So I’m saying to myself, ‘All right, Daniel, I know that you’re just trying to goof on me and make me think that you just went with this woman. So I went in there and he introduced me to her, and he says, ‘Yeah, she’s gonna move in and she’s gonna take over the lease.’ ”

Monika and her belongings arrived in the first week of August. “Daniel had cleaned up this place so immaculate be­fore she moved in, just for her,” Sylvia says. “I asked her the next day-because I thought Daniel was playing a joke-I said, ‘Daniel told me that he went with you.’ And she goes, ‘He did,’ point-blank in answer to me.”

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Something about the arrangement bothered Sylvia. “I told Daniel ‘This girl wants just the apartment.'” she recalls. “He kept saying, ‘No, but she cares about me, and she wants to live with me, and she wants to be my roommate.’ And I said, ‘Daniel, she wants the apartment. And she’s gonna take the apartment right from underneath you. She’s gonna have the lease in her name, and once it’s in her name she’s gonna throw you out. And I ain’t gonna be here anymore, and there’s nothing I can say when the lease is changed over. So if she throws you out, you’re out — and you’re homeless again.'”

But Rakowitz wouldn’t listen. “He’d say ‘I love her, I love her.’ I’d never seen him go out with a girl, much less say that,” Sylvia recalls. “But it was ‘Oh Monika, do you want this?’ Or ‘Monika, you want me to make you something to eat.’ I mean, he was just ‘Monika’ everything.”

“She treated him like shit,” adds Shawn.

Lynn, a vivacious 18-year-old girl who often sold Rakowitz sheets of blotter acid, tells an entirely different story: “I remember when the girl first moved into his apartment. It was early one morning, and Daniel was saying, ‘Oh yeah, there’s this girl.’ He said she’d moved in, and she was really stupid, and she had paid off his back rent so he wouldn’t get thrown out of his apartment. He was just using her; that was the whole thing.”

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Monika broke off the romance almost immediately, and she began bringing oth­er men to the apartment. One evening, she invited a Rastafarian to stay the night and Rakowitz inadvertently sur­prised them. Later, he confided in Sylvia: “He said to me, ‘Sylvia, she has a black man in there.’ And he looked hurt, and he looked mad, because that’s one of the people he hated — gays and blacks — to him, that was the worst insult you could give him. I said, ‘Daniel, what do you want me to do about it?'”

Monika’s friends, alarmed by Rakowitz’s ravings, urged her to throw him out. In mid-August, about a week after moving in, she took their advice, telling Rakowitz that she wanted him out in two weeks. Rakowitz pleaded, “Please, Sylvia, don’t let her throw me out. I have nowhere to go.”

“I said, ‘Daniel, I told you this was gonna happen, ‘ ” remembers Sylvia. “And it kinda freaked him out, you know? He was pleading every way he could to make some type of arrangement.” But Moni­ka’s mind was made up.

“She was stupid to fuck with him,” says Lynn. “He told her he was gonna kill her. She said that he had told her that.”

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“Daniel would go through this all day long,” remembers Sylvia. “He’d say ‘I’m gonna kill her.’ And five minutes later, he’d say, ‘No, I love her, I’m not gonna kill her.” This continued for three days. Neither Shawn nor Sylvia took him seri­ously — partly because of all the wild things he’d said in the past, partly be­cause neither of them had ever seen Dan­iel become violent. He talked a crazy streak, but he behaved himself. “Around August 12, I told Monika that ‘Daniel said he’s gonna kill you,’ ” says Sylvia. “And she just, kind of, laughed. And she went up to Daniel in front of me and said to Daniel, ‘I’ll kill you first.'”

On the evening of Thursday, August 17, Rakowitz walked Sylvia to the PATH train. As they shared a joint, he told Sylvia that he couldn’t take Monika any­more, he’d had enough. He said be planned to kill her the next day, and he asked Sylvia to come back and help him get rid of the body. “I said ‘Daniel, what are you, crazy? I ain’t gonna help you with anything.’ ” recalls Sylvia. “And he was really nervous. He was terrified. He was so terrified of being homeless.”

“I didn’t go there Friday,” she contin­ues. “I didn’t think about: ‘It’s Friday — is Daniel killing Monika?’ On Saturday night, I could see from the street that the apartment was dark, and I knew some­thing was wrong. But I went up there anyway. I was coming up the stairs and I heard Daniel’s TV, and it was really loud. And I opened the door, and his TV was in the kitchen, and it was very dim. I went back to my room to make sure my stuff was okay, ’cause I told him I was leaving it there for awhile till I got it all out. And Monika’s door was closed, and I went and knocked on Monika’s door, and nobody answered. So I went to the kitchen. And on the stove there was a pot. And in the pot was Monika’s head. She was all burnt-up, and her eyes were closed.”

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“I was born on Christmas Eve 12/24/60, which equals 96,” Daniel Rakowitz said to me in an interview this June. “And I have 18 letters to my name. I was born in the 21st Hour, which is 9:02 p.m., which they say signifies the coming of the Lord Jesus, according to what the Bible says.”

Rakowitz’s father, Tony, was a deputy in the small South Texas town of Rock­port. Tony’s boss, Sheriff Robert Hewes, told Newsday that Rakowitz’s father “was a straight-laced fellow, a real disci­plinarian.” According to Fred, who knew Rakowitz in New York for about two years, Rakowitz’s mother “died of a heart attack right in front of him. It happened when he was a kid, and when that hap­pens, people feel very very helpless.”

Rakowitz became aware of his divinity in 1966, when he was five years old. “Three Lords looking like Jesus floated out of the wall one at a time, one wearing a purple, one wearing a yellow, and one wearing a blue robe.” Rakowitz told Syl­via and Shawn that his parents had re­peatedly put him in psychiatric wards (when phoned, Tony Rakowitz refused to answer any questions about his son). “From the age of nine to 11 they forced me to take Ritalin [a drug prescribed for hyperactive children],” Rakowitz said in his June interview. “The other students decided to hit on me and spit on me. And if I defended myself, I got paddled. And I was the slowest runner in the school, too.”

“He told me they gave him shock treat­ments when he was 14,” says Sylvia. “I think he was the way he was from what had happened to him in the past — what people had done, the drugs they had giv­en him, his family committing him to psychiatric hospitals. He was committed. And he was very bitter about that.”

The tension between Rakowitz and his father peaked when the deputy found marijuana in his teenage son’s room. Rakowitz’s father took him to the Rock­port station and booked him for possession.

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At 19, Rakowitz enlisted in the army. He became an expert rifleman and spent 14 weeks in army law-enforcement school. After his discharge, he applied for a job as deputy alongside his father. He was turned down. (Rakowitz later spoke of taking over Texas: “I want to do every­thing as a Texas sheriff and I’m going to have many counties where a lot of people that smoke marijuana can come.”)

“On April 3, 1983, I made a prayer that I would have a dream to learn future events,” Rakowitz said. “Six days later, I did indeed have the dream and it told me I would come into total possession of a 14-year-old girl who two weeks later be­came my wife. And before we got mar­ried, I said, ‘According to the dream, you’re gonna leave me and I will go to New York and find a blond-haired woman and get married. Some day I come back and, according to the dream, you come back to me but you have another man’s child.'”

Police confirm that Rakowitz was mar­ried in Texas. “He told me his wife was Mexican,” says Martha, who befriended Rakowitz in New York. “She was really young. He was very upset when they split up and, I think he hoped at first — when I met him in 1985 — that they would get back together.”

No one is sure when Rakowitz first came to New York but police say he had not been back to his home state since 1981. “He was living at the Palace Hotel on the Bowery when I met him,” remem­bers Martha, who sold him quarter-­pounds of pot for resale. “He was always paranoid about visitors. And the police had questioned him before, you know. He told me how he had to sit down and tell them about his constituents, you know, how he had a constituency, how he had, you know, followers in his church, and how he had land in Colorado. He told me he had land in Colorado where he was gonna build his church and grow marijua­na there. I can’t remember the name of the man that he bought his land from but he would make payments on his land. I kept telling him, ‘Danny, it’s a sham, the man just took your money.’ ”

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Almost everyone on the Lower East Side knew Rakowitz:

“He’s a whacko,” says Clayton Patterson, a hat-store owner and the famed videotaper of last year’s riot in Tompkin’s Square. “All he ever talked about was killing; it amazed me that he talked about killing as much as he did. Daniel wasn’t a great marijuana salesman. Daniel was, you know, a slow learner. He was kind of a jovial-looking guy, but he was isolated, lonely; Danny-boy was always standing around by himself.”

“The man had charisma,” claims Jerry the Peddler. “It took people a couple of minutes to realize he was a kook, but he always managed to get them to stop and listen to him. Most people didn’t think of the guy as really being a nut. I used to talk to people about him. And they’d go, ‘Oh, no, he’s harmless.’ I used to tell them ‘Someday he’d gonna kill somebody.’ I swear I did.”

Jerry had reason to make his prediction: “Daniel liked to kill animals,” he remembers. “He killed his pets constant­ly. I saw him go through a lot of cats — a lot of cats. He had, like, three dogs that he’s killed. Everybody knew the white English terrier he had. He didn’t kill it, although he did kind of starve it quite a bit. He finally sold it.”

Dana Beal, Yipster-in-residence at 9 Bleecker Street, disagrees with the Ped­dler on at least one count: “He would have had a cult, and would have had a cult following, if he’d had charisma. You have to realize, it wasn’t that this guy didn’t go out and proselytize every day to win converts. It was that nobody would convert. It was a cult of one, you under­stand what I’m saying?”

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“I was gonna squat with him once,” says Lynn. “We opened a building on Suffolk Street one night, a whole group of us. He had some really cool ideas for what he wanted to do with the building: he wanted to make the first two floors housing for handicapped people. And it just didn’t go off. We thought he was pretty crazy for wanting to do that. He used to say that he wanted to, like, mur­der the cops and give their money to the poor. And he was gonna start this cult and have five children with each of 25 women, so that he could create his ‘mas­ter race.’

“Daniel used to burn incredible amounts of pot,” she continues. “That’s why I hung out with Daniel. That’s why everyone hung out with Daniel. And when you get stoned, and you listen to him ranting and raving, and it gets really hysterical. I mean, he was just amazing to listen to when you were stoned. So there was one day, and he had the grass on a table, and his rooster jumped up and scattered the pot. So he starts, like, beat­ing the shit out of this rooster. Someone jumps on Daniel and pulls him off, and everyone’s grabbing the rooster. Every­body was always, like, ‘Liberate the rooster!’ ‘Liberate the rooster!’ because Daniel used to carry it around in this bag, and it never saw the light of day.

“Some people said he had some kind of charisma,” Lynn concludes. “I never thought so, but a lot of girls thought he had some kind of weird charisma. I never thought there was anything interesting about him at all.”

Fred has a different perspective: “He hated women. He used to speak about how he was going to control women.”

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On November 9, 1988, WCBS-TV re­porter Mike Taibbi went looking for the Devil on the Lower East Side, found his man, and failed to recognize him. “I think we spent, probably, a total of four hours with Daniel,” says Taibbi, who was intent on proving that the noise band Missing Foundation had inspired the Tompkins Square Park riot. “We inter­viewed him for probably 30 minutes. Well, if you’ve heard his rap, you probably know all about this. We shot the whole thing, when he was going through his rap. We reviewed the logs, and one of the things he said was that — I don’t have the logs in front of me — but he did say that he was going to dismember his girl­friends. If they got pregnant and had an abortion, he was going to dismember them.”

“He asked Daniel all kinds of ques­tions,” says the Peddler, who sat next to Rakowitz on a Tompkins Square Park bench during the interview. “Basically, Taibbi just kept playing on Daniel’s weird rap about 966. He was mainly interested in making the Missing Foundation link; Missing Foundation was the whole point of the interview.” Amazingly, Rakowitz bought Taibbi’s premise that Missing Foundation was a Satanic cult rather than a band with a devoted following of anarchists. For some time afterwards, Rakowitz paced the park, telling people, “You think Missing Foundation are big Satanists? I’m going to be the biggest Satanist of all, wait and see.”

“We used just a bit of it,” says Taibbi, “as it related to a story we were doing.” Asked if he is now upset at having thrown away the rest of the footage, Taibbi answers sharply: “Not necessarily.”

While interviewing Rakowitz, Taibbi questioned him about the Temple of the True Inner Light, a storefront on East Ninth Street that houses five young men and women who worship psychedelics. At that point, Rakowitz was barely aware of the place. Within weeks, however, he was knocking at tbe temple’s door.

“I believe we were the only people that briefly — and I’m talking about real brief — got Dan in touch with his conscience,” says temple member Mary, a woman with spectacular red hair. “Dan was not hopeless. He had a lot of prob­lems — a lot of spiritual, mental prob­lems — and anyone that talked to Dan for five minutes could see this. Dan had started telling me that he felt guilty about all the animals he’d killed. He started telling me, ‘Oh, I had this many chickens, this many dogs, this many cats, this many rabbits,’ — he named a whole bunch of animals.”

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The temple members were so spooked by Rakowitz, they actually took him out­side to search him for weapons — the first such incident in over five years. “He was telling us he couldn’t leave this bag that he had,” says Mary. “And I started thinking that he had weapons in it, but then be pulled out Hitler’s book. He definitely had severe, severe problems.”

Rakowitz’s obsession with Adolf Hitler alienated everyone, especially those who hung around the Square, not a place where right-wing, fascist ideology is fash­ionable: “About a year ago,” says Aron Kay, the infamous pieman of the late ’70s and a fixture on the Lower East Side. “I found out that Daniel was into admiring Hitler’s Mein Kampf. And I asked him why doesn’t he give it up or burn it, but he kept defending it. He said that he loved and literally worshipped the book. My parents are Holocaust survivors. I couldn’t take it anymore. That pushed my buttons. I literally floored him on Avenue A.”

Rakowitz was infatuated with his German edition of Mein Kampf because he believed the book to contain “evidence of the supernatural,” facing page 696. The evidence had nothing to do with the text itself; rather, it was in a simple diagram rendered by a blue felt-tip pen on a small piece of paper slipped between the book’s pages: a blotch of ink in the center, a ‘9’ to the left of it, a ‘6’ to the right. Rakowitz believed this diagram signified that he was the Second Coming of Christ.

As Daniel explained in June, when he looked at the diagram he saw a cow’s head with two horns rising toward him through the ink. Rotating the diagram 90 degrees, “it turns into my entire image­ — my face, my hair, my beard, my shirt, my coat, my pants.” The Daniel in the pic­ture has dog’s paws instead of feet. (He later told Sylvia he could evade arrest for Monika’s murder because he was able to turn into a dog at will.) Off to one side, he saw “a blond-haired woman looking at me coming toward her.”

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Shawn reaches out to hold Sylvia’s hand as she continues recounting her nightmarish walk through the darkened apartment. After the shock of seeing Monika’s blackened head in a pot on the stove, Sylvia walked toward the bath­ room. “I walked to the very tip of the bathroom — I didn’t go in. And I saw in the bathtub what was, like, a ribcage, with everything off — just the bones, just the ribs. And it was full of blood. And there was, like, guts. So I left, and I couldn’t even lock the door I was shaking so bad. But I locked the door ’cause I thought, ‘Jesus, if anybody sees this … ‘

“I went to a phone booth on Avenue A and I called up Daniel’s beeper number. And I said, ‘Daniel, you did it?’ And he said, ‘You saw it, Sylvia?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he goes, ‘I’m sorry you had to see it, but I had to do it.’ And he said, ‘Come up to the apartment and smoke a joint with me.’ And I said, ‘Daniel, meet me in Tompkins Square. I’m not going to the apartment.’ So he met me in the park. And he was apologizing. ‘Sylvia, I’m sorry, I had to do it, I had to do it.’ And he started telling me what happened.”

Rakowitz told her he was not alone when it happened — he said he was with a friend from a Satanic church in Brook­lyn. That evening, according to Rakowitz, Monika told him, “You have to leave by tomorrow, and if you don’t get out, my friend with a pit bull is gonna come and get you out.” Then she went into her bedroom. His friend said, “What, you haven’t killed her yet?” Monika came out and started yelling at his friend. His friend said, “Why are you yelling at me? You don’t know me.” “But I know Dan­iel,” she replied, “and you’re his friend.”

“So I guess maybe that had set Daniel off, I don’t know,” says Sylvia. “But he told me that he had an extension cord and he went up, she was walking away, heading toward the two bedrooms, and he put the extension cord around her neck. She said, ‘What are you doing, Daniel?’ And then he strangled her with his hands,” Sylvia says. “He told me, ‘When I strangled her, she scratched me.’ And he pulled his sleeve up, and he had long scratch marks down his arm.

“He had choked her to death. And when she was dead, he said he stomped on her head 10 times and stabbed her over 30. He told me that he used her chest as a carving board.”

“He cut off her head,” Shawn inter­jects. “He took her arms and legs off her, and he used her chest to cut the bones, and everything, off. And he cut all this up and did this all in the bathtub.”

“He told me he had eaten the brains and that his friend had eaten a part of her too,” says Sylvia. “I told all this to the detectives and the D.A., too.”

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Rakowitz said he had spent over $80 in a hardware store on tools with which to kill Monika, cut her up, and clean the apartment. “Less than two weeks before he killed this girl he was in a store and he was trying on these work gloves,” remem­bers Lynn, “and I asked him why he had the work gloves. He was like, ‘I’m gonna make some fertilizer and I need these.‘ He really freaked me out, I was really scared of him at that point.”

“He had a 13-inch carving knife,” reports Shawn. “And he used a metal pole — a solid-steel pole — to break her bones.” Sylvia continues: “And be boiled her. And he was still cutting her up — he hadn’t finished yet. He was cutting her up into little pieces, he told me — over a thousand — and he flushed it down the toilet. And he was afraid. But he looked to me like, in a way, that he was free, and that this was gone, this fear.

“And I told him to stop, because I couldn’t hear it; I didn’t want to hear it. It just totally blew me away. I didn’t believe it till he got locked up, until I saw him on the news. Then it hit me.”

A few days later, Sylvia saw Rakowitz in Tompkins Square Park, and Daniel said to her, “Sylvia, it’s starting to smell up there.” She said “Daniel, they’re gonna find out, and they’re gonna lock you up, and they’re gonna put you in a psychiatric hospital, and I don’t want to see that happen to you. I think you’ve had enough.”

“Oh, I’m gonna clean it,” he replied. “I’m gonna clean it all up so that you can come up there.” Sylvia said, “Well, when it’s clean … let me know.”

A day or two later, Rakowitz told her it was okay to drop by. Monika’s skull was still in the apartment. “He boiled it and peeled the skin off it,” says Shawn.

“He bad it to where it was all just bones and a skull,” continues Sylvia. “And he’d get angry at Monika, he told me. And he’d say, ‘I spit on Monika’s skull.’ He told her, ‘Well, hey, bitch, at least you’ll always have a home.’ And he told me that ‘she looks more beautiful now than she ever did.’ ”

“This was her skull,” notes Shawn.

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Rakowitz had thoroughly cleaned the apartment and had taken a bucket con­taining the skull and bones to a storage facility at 43rd Street and 11th Avenue, later moving the bucket to the baggage check facility at Port Authority.

“I still understood Daniel,” insists Syl­via. “And I really wasn’t … I was a little frightened of him, but I wasn’t that frightened. I was more concerned of what was gonna happen to him. I told Daniel that I would never tell on him, and I never went forward and said anything, and a lot of people are gonna think that’s a very shitty thing for me to do. Maybe if they understand anything that I have said — and really take it to heart — and maybe if they realize what kind of person Daniel was and what he wasn’t, because of what was done to him, they might understand why I didn’t want to say any­thing. Because I didn’t want him hurt anymore.

“People say, well, he could go out and do it again, but I stayed up there a few times. I slept in that apartment with Daniel. He was in the other room. After he’d killed her. And the detectives know this. Everything I’m telling you is what they know, and I told them exactly what I’m telling you. And the reason why is that Daniel has been in a prison most of his life — in his own mind. And you’re not trying to help him by locking, him behind bars. If you want to help this man, you get him some real psychiatric and psy­chological help.”

On Tuesday, August 22, Shawn stopped by the apartment to buy some reefer from Rakowitz. He told Shawn that he and Monika had fought Friday night and that he had broken her nose. During his visit Shawn saw meat in the frying pan and in the freezer. “He ate this woman,” Shawn believes. “He didn’t eat the whole thing, but he ate human meat.”

“He told me be had,” remembers Syl­via. “I believe it.”

“He also said that he was gonna feed Monika to the homeless people in the park,” says Shawn.

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Shawn returned to the apartment on Saturday, August 26 — after Sylvia had finally told him of Monika’s murder. “Daniel had cleaned up everything al­ready,” says Shawn, “but there was a smell in the apartment. I told him that I could smell death, and he’s going, ‘Real­ly? Can you smell it? Can you tell?’ And I go, ‘Yeah.’ I wasn’t lying.”

Meanwhile, Rakowitz was bragging about the murder to anyone who would listen. “Daniel told everyone before he did it; he told everyone when he did it; he told everyone after he did it,” says Lynn. “He told all my friends. Everyone who he saw, he told them. He chopped her up in little pieces, and then he asked my fiance if he would help him get rid of the arms. He felt bad about killing her, apparently. He was scared, and he didn’t know what to do. He wanted to turn himself in, but he was scared — that’s what he told my fiancé.”

The rumors around Tompkins Square grew increasingly bizarre. “It’s the kind of joke that people would make: ‘Oh yeah, he fed her to the homeless,’ ” says Hank, who lives on East 5th Street. “A few days after it happened, before it hit the pa­pers, while the rumors started spreading around the Village, the homeless in the park were going, ‘Yeah, Dan did give us soup yesterday.’ They were goofing on it but they were pretty much grossed out. They were goofing in a way that acknowl­edged they had definitely gotten soup from this guy in the period directly after the incident happened.”

Rakowitz lived in the apartment alone for a week or two following the murder. But Sylvia urged him to move, warning him that sooner or later the cops would be coming by. Daniel finally took her advice. “He left the apartment to move in with another girl, uptown,” says Shawn. “And after I heard that, I thought that he killed her for nothing — that Monika just died for no reason at all. I mean, she died for a reason in the beginning — and there’s no right reason for anyone to die. But then he moved out, and everything was gone out of the apartment, and all we saw was Monika’s stuff laying all over.”

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So Shawn spilled the story to the build­ing superintendant who told the detec­tives. They came up to the apartment to question Shawn and to search for evi­dence. On the door of the apartment, they saw grafitti written in black magic marker: “IS IT SOUP YET?” and “WELCOME TO CHARLIE GEIN’S SPAUN RANCH EAST.” (Charlie Gein is a conflation of Charles Manson and Ed Gein, the serial killer on whom Psycho‘s Norman Bates was based; the Spahn Ranch — misspelled on the door — was the home of the Manson family.) On a steam pipe in the bathroom was scribbled “Broken [hearted] about you.” (The “hearted” was actually a heart with a jagged line running through it). Yet they found no evidence of a murder.

Initially, neither the super nor the de­tectives believed a word of Shawn’s story. But they paged Rakowitz on his beeper and he came to the 9th Precinct to an­swer their questions. He didn’t admit that he had killed Monika Beerle, but be didn’t deny it either. In fact, he said something along the lines of, “If I’d have killed her, I would have cut her up into lots of pieces and flushed her down the toilet.”

“After he made that statement,” Sylvia says, “that Sunday [September 17] they ripped the toilet apart. But they didn’t find anything. They told me the only good thing I had in the apartment was the plumbing.” Shawn told the police that Rakowitz kept a storage bin near the Port Authority bus station.

On Monday, the detectives came back to the apartment and found Sylvia there. They told her they had written state­ments implicating Rakowitz from both Shawn and Laurie Arnold, a woman who lived across the hall. But this was untrue. “I was tricked into it,” says Sylvia sadly. “I was told that they were gonna lock him up anyway and that they already knew what had happened. And I believed it. So I told them. And five hours later, they picked up Daniel. He confessed. He had no choice.

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“He asked for help when they arrested him. He said it to a detective, and the detective told me that he said, ‘I need some help.’ So it must have really dawned on Daniel that he did wrong, because when I talked to him after that, he was, like, he was free. His soul was free.” After his arrest, Rakowitz led the de­tectives to the Port Authority baggage storage room where he produced a claim check for an Army duffel bag. Inside the bag was a white plastic bucket, and inside the bucket were a skull and bones.

One expects the police to be extremely interested to find Daniel’s friend from the Satanic church in Brooklyn. While interrogating Shawn and Sylvia, the cops mentioned several Satanic churches by name, but none of them were familiar to the couple. As far as Shawn and Sylvia know, they never met any of Daniel’s Satanic friends, but they believe the church exists: “This is a for-real church,” says Shawn, and Sylvia agrees.

Just as likely, the police believe, is that Daniel’s Satanic friend was imaginary, egging bim on from the inside. When told there was a report that another man was present at the murder, an officer familiar with the case replied, “I don’t believe that for a second.”

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Although the police say the skull in the bucket has been positively identified as belonging to Monika Beerle, Sylvia’s testimony will certainly be crucial to the prosecution’s case. She has been wres­tling with this for well over a month now. She’s pale and somewhat faded, well aware that her behavior during the course of these events seems bizarre by any­body’s standards. “People are gonna think I’m crazy,” she says softly. “You know what? To me it doesn’t matter, be­cause I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy. But I’m a person who has a lot of feeling, and I feel for Daniel. I feel for Monika’s parents, but I feel for Daniel cause I knew him. And I knew what he was going through, and I feel very, very bad.

“See, people are gonna read this and they’re gonna say the same thing that you just said: ‘Wow.’ You know what I hope they’re saying ‘wow’ about? ‘Wow, this guy had a rough childhood and never really had a chance.’ Daniel did what Daniel did because of what society had done to Daniel. And that is my opinion, and people may think I’m crazy. But I lived with this person, and this person did not kill me. If he was the crazy luna­tic murderer of Tompkins Square, he would have killed me. Daniel moved into the apartment because he was homeless and he killed Monika because he felt threatened.

“If anything comes out of this story, I hope it opens people’s eyes, for one thing, to homelessness — for another thing, to realize and understand the kind of person he was and what really happened and the fear that people have of being homeless, especially when they do have some type of mental illness. I still don’t blame Dan­iel for that, and as far as I’m concerned Daniel will always be my friend.” ■

Some names in this story — although not those of the principal characters, Syluia and Shawn — have been changed. 

1989_Village Voice article on a bizarre murder near Tompkins Square involving cannibalism

1989_Village Voice article on a bizarre murder near Tompkins Square involving cannibalism

1989_Village Voice article on a bizarre murder near Tompkins Square involving cannibalism

1989_Village Voice article on a bizarre murder near Tompkins Square involving cannibalism

1989_Village Voice article on a bizarre murder near Tompkins Square involving cannibalism

1989_Village Voice article on a bizarre murder near Tompkins Square involving cannibalism

1989_Village Voice article on a bizarre murder near Tompkins Square involving cannibalism

From The Archives Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

Reports From the Tompkins Square Riots

NYC: Reports From Tompkins Square

Night Clubbing
By C. Carr

IT STARTED BEFORE mid­night with a ragged little rally directed at the park faithful — the unlucky, the unruly, your tired, your poor. Near the en­trance at 8th Street and Av­enue A, a plump balding man in tie-dye exhorted about 100 punks, politicos, and curious neighbors through a tinny speaker sys­tem: “Yuppies and real es­tate magnates have declared war on the people of Tomp­kins Square Park!” Fliers from the Emergency Coali­tion Against Martial Law covered a card table nearby, and a young man in black clothing and beret waved a black flag stapled to a card­board tube. The cops were going to shut the park down as they had every night that week. I overheard some talk in the crowd from neighbors who thought it should be shut. The crime here… the noise, some guy explained to a companion. The grim cops at the gate, the chants of “Die Yuppie scum!,” the M80s exploding deeper in the park — all added to the aura of latent violence. Even so, who could have predict­ed the police riot to come within the hour — complete with cavalry charges down East Village streets, a chop­per circling overhead, people out for a Sunday paper run­ning in terror down First Avenue. Running from the cops, who clearly regarded any civilian as a target.

At midnight in Tompkins Square, the motley demon­strators had begun trooping defiantly around the paths with their “class war” ban­ners, returning on each swing past the officers lined up along the bandshell. Most nights, the bandshell is filled with homeless, but they’d been hoovered out to god-knows-where that morning. Now it was police headquarters — focal point for 12 vehicles including vans, 11 horses, and the long blue line. One officer shone his flashlight into the lens of every photographer who tried to get a picture — foreshadowing the more ag­gressive camera-shyness to come.

Protesters marched by, chanting that hell no, they wouldn’t go. But they did go, of course. As soon as the mounted cops pranced out to Avenue A.

It was 12:30 Saturday night, a peak traffic hour on the avenue between Alca­traz, the Wah-Wah Hut, 7A, and the Pyramid — when, as a rule, the skinheads and spiky heads hang out at curbside, neighbors go to-­and-froing, and the peddlers set their tattered goods out along the park. But on this night, people were lining the park between 7th and 8th as if waiting for a parade. I could see some protesters pushing on a squad car, jerking it a couple yards closer to 7th. I could see the mounted cops in a line near 7th and the rally “leaders” in the middle of the street at 8th, black flag and card ta­ble stuffed in a grocery cart. Fists in the air, they yelled, “It’s our fuckin’ park!” as another M80 exploded at someone’s feet along the sidewalk.

Suddenly the cops had their riot helmets on and clubs out. Someone in front of a bar threw a bottle to­ward the mounted police massed at 7th Street, and the cops backed up. Protest­ers and onlookers milled around the avenue, while a long line of honking cars tried to make the turn off 8th. Protesters yelled “yup­pie scum” at bewildered drivers. Three Hells Angels drew cheers. Another bottle smashed on the pavement. And another. The mounted police backed up again. The foot patrolmen stood shoul­der-to-shoulder at the park entrance. It was 12:50. Met­al gates began to slam closed over the storefronts. Punks were jumping the fence, urg­ing the crowd to follow. But apart from them, it was no longer clear who was pro­testing and who’d inadver­tently walked into this mess or come outside to see what the hell was going on. By now the crowd numbered in the hundreds.

About 12:55, I heard an explosion and the mounted police suddenly charged up Avenue A, scattering the knot of demonstrators still in the street. I ducked be­hind a car. The policemen were radiating hysteria. One galloped up to a taxi stopped at a traffic light and screamed, “Get the fuck out of here, fuckface!” I walked toward 9th Street; unsure where to go. “Calm your men!” yelled a pedestrian near me.

At 9th Street, foot patrol­men in riot gear formed a line along the drive into the park. Across the avenue, some young men stood on the south corner screaming drunken taunts: “Faggot! Pussy! Koch’s dogs!” I was on the north corner at a phone booth. I recognized two of the patrolmen, de­spite their helmets, as the two I’d spoken to just 45 minutes earlier. Then, they’d told me courteously that they couldn’t say why the park was being closed. Now, they were charging me with their clubs raised.

They couldn’t be charging me.

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I just stood there because I was the press and I was wearing my credentials and I hadn’t done anything and this was my neighborhood and this was the phone I use to call my friend over there who doesn’t have a buzzer and… “Run! Run!” screamed a tall young black man, taking me by the arm. “We gotta get outta here!” And I felt a billy club across my shoulder blades, the cop pushing me. Cop pumping adrenaline. Cop yelling, “Move! Move! Move!”

They were sweeping 9th Street and it didn’t matter if you were press or walking home from the movies or sitting on your stoop to catch a breeze. You were gonna move. At First Ave­nue, I watched two cops on horseback gallop up on the sidewalk and grab a guy by his long hair, pulling him across the street between them. Minutes later, the same guy was down on the sidewalk in front of Stromboli’s, bleeding.

The cops seemed bizarre­ly out of control, levitating with some hatred I didn’t understand. They’d taken a relatively small protest and fanned it out over the neigh­borhood, inflaming hun­dreds of people who’d never gone near the park to begin with. They’d called in a chopper. And they would eventually call 450 officers.

By 1:30, I’d taken all the notes I wanted to take. I wanted to go home, so I walked back to Avenue A, where I was soon trapped, as were many others. “Can I cross the street?” I asked a policeman at the cor­ner of 7th, showing him my orange press card.

“If you do, you’re going to get roughed up!” he declared.

“If you do that, you’re going to get some publicity you aren’t going to like,” I spouted back.

“Hey,” he said, “you’re trying to stereo­type me!”

It had been a big night for absurdities.

Getting back to First Avenue took anoth­er half hour. And there, dancing around their grocery cart in the middle of traffic, were the so-called “leaders,” bandanas pulled up over their noses so the police couldn’t identify them. God. This was gonna take all night. I walked south. Then I heard screams. Cop attack. Panic-stricken pedestrians ran down the sidewalks, as the cops galloped, clubs at the ready. I tried to duck into a restaurant. “No!” shrieked someone at the door, slam­ming it in my face. I kept running.

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THE NEXT DAY I walked up to Tompkins Square. It’s a foul little park and a symbolic one. I’ve lived near it for 11 and a half years and have yet to experience a moment of tranquillity in its crummy confines. But I can tell you that the people who go there are, for the most part, the people who’ve always gone there. The old Ukrainian guys who play chess and the old ladies who go to sit down and the squatter kids, drag queens, Rastas, and junkies. As the neighborhood slowly, inexorably gentrifies, the park is a holdout, the place for one last metaphorical stand.

At the empty bandshell on Sunday, I no­ticed some posters pasted up by the political comic book World War 3 and the Rainbow Soup Kitchen weeks before this curfew dis­pute began. The posters feature a quote from a former resident of the neighborhood:
The uneasy spring of 1988. Under the pre­text of drug control, suppressive police states have been set up throughout the Western world. 
— William S. Burroughs, The Wild Boys, 1968\


The Tompkins Square rising has rekindled a perennial debate: What is the precise moment of gentrification? When the rents begin to swell? At the first restless kick of running shoes? Or is a gentry a nascent life form whose seeds are planted with the entry of the first artists? Mother Graffiti, founder of Loisaida Right to Lifestyle, has shared the procreative pride and nauseous awakenings of her parish as it has grown heavy with gentry, yet remains devoted to the Gospel of Art:

MG: As a human being and renter I sympathize with a neighborhood struggling with an unforeseen gentrification. But new art needs gallery space to grow in, even when the result’s an unwanted gentry. We can’t throw out the baby with the bottled water.

VOICE: Do you advocate the use of condos to prevent conversion?

MG: Trump forbid! There’s a lag between the opening of the first gallery and the arrival of first croissant shop. With the right rhythm you can pull out in time to move to redder-­lined pastures.

VOICE: But is it ever morally permissible to terminate a gentrification?

MG: Have you ever seen an aborted gentry? Its little Walkman peeking out from its tiny ears — sweatpants not quite detached from Gucci bags — did you know their bricks were exposed by the first trimester?

VOICE: We used to frequent your neighborhood to go to the clubs. Now we just get clubbed. Any consolation?

MG: Suffer the gentry to renovate thee … for such is the Kingdom of Koch.

— David Polonoff

The Boombox Wars
By Sarah Ferguson

THE PROTESTORS were shouting “Class war!” and “No more fascist police state!” in Tompkins Square Park last Saturday night, but the massive deployment of 450 officers, a police chopper, and a flotilla of paddy wagons was sparked by a much more mundane urban pain: noise complaints.

According to 9th Precinct commander Captain Gerald McNamara, the decision to enforce a 1 a.m. curfew in Tompkins Square Park was brought on by “antisocial behavior and partying in the park.” Complaints began mounting three years ago from local Community Board 3 and several resident groups, including the 9th Precinct Community Coun­cil, the Independent Demo­cratic Club, and the Friends of Tompkins Square Park. In addition, the Avenue A Block Association, com­posed of tenants living across from the park, was formed a year ago to deal specifically with the prob­lem of kids pouring out of neighborhood bars in the wee hours of the morning, playing loud music and breaking bottles in Tomp­kins Square.

Ilona Merber, a member of the Avenue A Block Asso­ciation, said her group had met with the 9th Precinct and the Community Board about the noise last summer, but the only response by then-precinct captain Ralph Zakar was “a two week blitz” of police sum­monses and boombox confiscations. When asked why the crackdown faded, Ser­geant Jack Smythe blamed a “lack of cooperation” from the Community Board. “They didn’t appreciate Zakar’s hard line; the board had different priorities,” he added.

Saturday’s riot was pre­figured by a curfew protest the previous weekend, when angry youths clashed with riot cops in the park, resulting in nine arrests and five police injuries. After the crowd swelled from 60 to 300, the police were forced to cede the field. McNamara called a private meeting the following Tuesday at Man­hattan South headquarters with local officials and resi­dents to discuss the contin­uation of the curfew. The meeting was attended by representatives of Commu­nity Board 3, the offices of Councilwoman Miriam Friedlander, Borough Presi­dent David Dinkins, and State Senator Manfred Oh­renstein, and several of the local resident groups who had filed complaints about the park. All agreed to the continuation of the curfew until the noise problem abated.

Many of those opposed to the curfew, however, were angered that they were not allowed to attend that meet­ing. “If they had allowed for the people who use the park to give their input, this probably wouldn’t have hap­pened,” said local resident Peter Le Vasseur.

After the angry crowd of persistent hecklers and bot­tle-throwers had forced offi­cers to back down July 30, the police were determined to make a show of strength last Saturday. On Friday, August 5, police were seen parading on horseback and marching in formation be­fore the bandshell in Tomp­kins Square Park, as if drill­ing for Saturday night’s confrontation. By 10 p.m. Saturday, cops had barri­cades ready at all park en­trances and were roaming the park in groups of 12 while four officers with guns looked on from the roofs of tenements across from the St. Marks entrance.

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For many of the original complainants, the police re­sponse last Saturday far surpassed anything they had asked for.

“This is not crowd con­trol. This is Central Ameri­ca,” said Maryann Terillo, a member of the Independent Democratic Club, pointing to the police copter sweep­ing down on fleeing protestors.

McNamara said he or­dered the curfew to start July 11 after meeting with Manhattan borough parks commissioner Patrick Pomposello. He said the curfew was necessary because his precinct did not have enough officers to adequate­ly patrol the park.

“We didn’t ask for this,” Terillo said. “If they spent half the money they did to­night for all this, they could have patrolled the park the whole summer.”

Ilona Merber said she found the whole riot “outra­geous.” “We wanted to get rid of noise that has been keeping residents awake for four years, but now the whole issue is lost in police brutality.”

Merber denied accusa­tions by several young pro­testers that her group was composed of yuppie gentri­fiers. “Nobody in my build­ing pays more than $400 a month,” said Merber, refer­ring to her residence at 131 Avenue A and St. Marks Place. “This is a building that’s been on rent strike for the past three years. This is not gentrification.”

Philip Lalumia, chairman of the 9th Precinct Commu­nity Council, a group of more than 100 area resi­dents, said he still supported the park curfew. “Had the law been enforced all along, this wouldn’t have happened. [The police] have been slacking off.”

But as the Koch adminis­tration attempted to put spin control on depictions of the riot early this week, several critical questions remained unanswered. No matter how many bottles and firecrackers were thrown, what possible prov­ocation can justify a cos­sacklike charge through the streets of the Lower East Side? Was the police riot triggered from above, or was it a spontaneous response on the part of street cops­ — who have endured a series of public humiliations, includ­ing being upstaged by Guardian Angels in Hell’s Kitchen, the broadcasting of the Metro North flasher tape, and their own igno­minious retreat from Tomp­kins Square Park one week before? Will Captain McNamara or any other member of the depart­ment brass be held accountable, as NYPD policy requires, for the actions of their men? And, finally, what changes in police proce­dure will the city institute in the wake of the riot?

Reverend George Kuhn of St. Brigid’s Parish, which stands on the corner of 7th Street and Avenue B, thinks the authorities have made a bigger blunder than they know. “The police have managed to do something that nobody else could do, which is to unite the community — against them.” ■

Ignorant Armies
By Andrew Kannapell

WE’D HEARD rumors all week: that the police were forcing out the homeless — who have for years used Tomp­kins as a summer residence; or that the police were clear­ing the park to protect the homeless, who were targets of beatings and robberies; or that the park closing was the result of “yuppie com­plaints” about loud music.

MIDNIGHT. We saw two po­licemen on a rooftop at St. Marks and Avenue A, watching the people below in the park. One demonstra­tor yelled, “Jump, cop, jump!” A few more joined the cry. Cherry bombs ex­ploded, making the crowd of about 200 edgier. Whistles shrilled.

Riding bikes around the perimeter of the park, we saw more and more cops. We stopped at 9th and B to watch the parade, with a “CLASS WAR” banner at its head, pass a hundred feet away in the park’s interior. They were chanting “DIE YUPPIE SCUM,” then “PIGS OUT OF THE PARK.” More cherry bombs. Two cops stationed at the entrance were calling each other “pig” and laughing. One told me that the homeless would be allowed to sleep in the park, at the southeast cor­ner, where the lights were. “All anyone has to do is come up to an officer and identify themselves as homeless, and they will be directed to the area where they can stay. But anyone else in the park at 1 a.m. is mine.” He slapped his stick into his palm.

“Jeez, this is like the Superbowl,” said a man in 7A Café. A drunk bellowed, “Move along, let’s move along now,” having his fun with the crowd on the cor­ner. A line of mounted po­lice faced the demonstrators, who were throwing bottles at the cops. The point of the demonstration seemed forgotten — just op­posing teams and how bad was it going to get, who’s gonna hurt whom and how much?

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1 A.M. The riot squad gath­ered at the park’s south­western corner, about 30 strong, then moved into the street, the mounted police shifting to the side. The park was cleared, the demonstrators taking over Ave­nue A. Suddenly the riot squad turned and dashed back in, and the horses charged into the crowd. (Later, a cop said a police­man had been assaulted.) Demonstrators climbed over the fence. back into the park, and the melee began.

Moments later people ran out of the park, some blood­ied. Groups of cops gave chase, grabbing one young guy who had a short blond mohawk and knocking him down. Seven or eight cops surrounded him; pinning him to the ground with a nightstick against his neck, they pressed him down, hard, till they handcuffed him and shoved him back to the squad cars. The crowd lining the streets went wild, screaming “POLICE BRUTALITY,” “FUCKING FASCISTS.” A riot squad swept down Avenue A, dispersing anyone in its way. A shove with the shield, then a blow with the stick if you didn’t move fast enough. We retreated into a café. A cop blocked the door. We couldn’t get out.

A city bus, driven by a cop, came south down A, stopping at the intersection. “They’re doing that so you can’t see them abusing the women and children!” a man inside the café ranted. “This is disgusting! They’re beating women and children back there!” Police at all the corners, everywhere, moving in packs. You could leave the demo, but you couldn’t join. A woman skipped out, exaggerating her skip insult­ingly, doffed her baseball cap to the army, skipped on.

The riot squad pushed through A again, then up 7th, gathering up more peo­ple — coming out of bars, restaurants, apartments. Some walked out into a fly­ing nightstick.

2 A.M. During a lull in the sweeps, we unlocked our bikes, trying to figure a way to get out. Police passed in groups of 20. One cop saw my bike light and took it for a flash. “Didja get some good pictures?” he sneered. We rode west on 7th Street, freaked by the voyeuristic thrill of the night. “Movie training,” said Joan. “Makes us expect this. It makes me sick, I feel like I’d be disappointed if nothing happened.”

Joan went home. Steve and I headed over to his building on 9th Street. The sound of a helicopter motor was near, loud, ominous. We looked up — where is the thing? It was so loud it ought to have been right over our heads, and then it broke over the top of P.S. 122, hovering maybe 30 feet above the building. Shit flew everywhere; we couldn’t see through the dust it kicked up.

A neighbor told us the pushes were now taking place all over the East Vil­lage, all the way out to Sec­ond Avenue. Another police sweep went east on 9th. Why east, back to the park? A caravan of 17 squad cars and police vans zoomed down First Avenue, against traffic — but there was no traffic. A crowd of cops gathered at the corner; among them stood one of the block’s longtime drug dealers, ready to work.

4 A.M. We couldn’t cross Avenue A till 7th Street. There was still a band of demonstrators, still a line of mounted police, but the face-off had moved to 6th Street. The park was filled with cops — napping, drink­ing milkshakes, hanging out. 10th Street looked like a po­lice parking lot. A clean-cut guy leaning against a wall commanded us to “Register to vote.” We didn’t see much damage to storefronts or cars, but garbage was strewn all over. The whole neighborhood smelled like horse manure. ■

There’s a Riot Goin’ On
By Vince Aletti

I WAS SITTING in my liv­ing room at 12th Street and Second Avenue around 1 a.m. Sunday morning when the loud pulse of a helicopter’s blades started drowning out the rock and roll on my turnta­ble. The copter was hover­ing low around Tompkins Square Park, after a while so low that it almost brushed the rooftops, and it stayed there long enough to draw me out of the house and east to see what was go­ing on.

The first scene of action I encountered was near First Avenue and St. Marks Place. The intersection was filled with police on foot and horseback; the sidewalks were crowded with people, mostly looking, hanging out. Just as I stepped off the corner of 9th Street to have a closer look, a group of mounted police cantered down the far sidewalk, right into the spectators, picking up speed. People fled down 9th, followed by the mounted cops shouting, swinging clubs. I froze against a mailbox, and in a few seconds it was over.

The crowd seemed to thin, and I went up to 10th Street, closed off to traffic by a blue police barricade. The helicopter was still beating noisily overhead, bringing people out of their apartments or to their windows in curiosity. A stream of at least 20 police cars and vans, sirens wailing, sped down First Avenue against the traffic toward St. Marks. But when I headed in the same direction, every­thing seemed quiet — except for the helicopter, which was hovering just above the roofline, making a frighten­ing racket and stirring up the physical and psychic at­mosphere. After a while, it moved over right above the avenue and started a storm of dirt and debris among the clumps of people. This was a typical Saturday night crowd — local fashion vic­tims, Puerto Rican kids, a scattering of drug dealers who work the corner of 10th Street, young couples not yet ready to head home or drawn out of their hangouts by all the action — mostly white, though, and mostly not activist types.

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Suddenly a group of four or five police grabbed a guy out of the crowd on the op­posite sidewalk and dragged him into the street, yelling as if they’d just captured an enemy fighter. The guy’s T­-shirt was torn nearly off his chest. Six or seven other cops rushed over and began roughing up the captive, throwing him to the ground and kicking at him, pulling him up and tossing him around among themselves. When a few people ran up to protest, the police attacked them, too. One guy screamed, “Assholes!” and the police collared him and threw him back. They start­ed to charge at people indis­criminately, running into a group that was just standing on the sidewalk, maybe as stunned as I was by what they were seeing. The police knocked bystanders down, swinging clubs at their heads and bodies. I saw one man on the sidewalk on his stomach: a policeman rushed over and stomped on him with both feet as if he were jumping into an impromptu tag-team wres­tling match. No one was ar­rested, no one detained. Even the man with the torn T-shirt disappeared into the crowd. After a few minutes, the cops regrouped (I count­ed about 20 of them) and swaggered toward St. Marks.

When I looked around, most of the people on my side of First Avenue had frozen where they stood, usually as close to the build­ing walls as they could get. I walked to St. Marks and Second Avenue, where there was only one cop, stationed in the intersection, directing traffic away from the east and down the avenue. People were throwing trash at him and taunting him from the crowded corners, but there was also a neighbor­hood guy in shirtsleeves out there directing traffic along with him. Farther away, I heard a woman call out, “Was anybody shot?” And near 9th Street a man yelled, “Go home!” I didn’t hear the reply that prompt­ed him to shout back, “I am home! What are you doing here?” At Rectangle’s, an outdoor cafe on 10th Street, young patrons sat and talked, having a snack at 2:30 in the morning.

An hour later, I could still see the helicopter from my window, hanging low over the avenue. ■

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Leaflets From Nowhere
By Jeff Salamon

WHO ORGANIZED last Saturday’s demonstration? Nobody is owning up to the responsi­bility. Although leaflets were passed out in the days before the rally, no political group took credit for them. Neighborhood activists in­sist that the protest was a spontaneous response to gentrification and the newly enforced curfew.

“We were trying to show the power in numbers,” says John Potok, a self-described “revolutionary squatter” and one of four people arrested at the previous Satur­day’s near riot. Potok, who had a table outside of Tompkins Square Park to pass out political literature, says he doesn’t know who promoted the rally.

A number of people learned of the march during Jim Marshall’s Saturday af­ternoon show on WFMU. Marshall, a Voice contribu­tor and an East Village resi­dent, says that he had wit­nessed the tail end of the first demo and heard about the new action through neighborhood word of mouth. He thought a protest was a good idea and went on the air with it.

Frank Morales, a squatter activist controversial even among housing organizers, acknowledges that he hand­ed out leaflets announcing the demonstration but says he doesn’t know who print­ed them up.

Nine months ago, Mo­rales helped lead the now­-defunct Emergency Coali­tion Against Martial Law, which organized a rally in November that ended up in Washington Square Park. The coalition’s leaflet, enti­tled “Washington Square Park: The Police State Is Here,” shares an illustrated human figure with the leaflet that promoted the Tompkins Square Park pro­test. The leaflets also share similar targets: “At mid­night,” the Washington Square leaflet reads, “[the authorities] barricade the entrances and this once vi­brant and diverse neighbor­hood dies… They have spread their fascistic off­-the-streets policies to other open spaces as well, most re­cently beginning a similar crackdown in Tompkins Square Park.” ■

From The Archives Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Tompkins Square: The Youthquake and the Shook-Up Park

The Youthquake and the Shook-up Park
June 8, 1967
by Don McNeill

The Ukrainians had had enough.

Hare Krishna may be a song of love for the Lord Krishna, but it’s a little esoteric for a Ukrainian grandmother who wants to sit in peace and talk about the old country. A daffodil is an empty gesture to an old man who can get no sleep at night. In the late afternoon on Memorial Day, the Flower People were out in force, complete with kirtan and bongoes, and some of the Ukrainians bitched to the park foreman.

The park foreman had had enough.

It had been a peaceful, if boring, park before the hippies came, and he had heard enough gripes from the Ukrainians to write a book. Moreover, the hippies were playing musical instruments, and sitting on the grass at that, both in violation of park regulations. He walked over to the Ninth Precinct station to make a noise complaint.

You can’t ignore a formal complaint, so a couple of cops went over to the park and told the hippies to shut up and get off the grass. The kids laughed, and kept singing. The cops ordered them to leave. “They laughed at us,” patrolman John Rodd explained. “That’s when the trouble started.”

The cops had had enough.

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A call went out for reinforcements, and three sergeants and 15 patrolmen were sent to the park. By this time, the hippies had also been reinforced, and where there were once 20 hippies singing, there were now 200. The Tactical Police Force was summoned, and 35 radio cars and 70 riot-trained cops rushed to the scene. Again, they ordered the crowd to disperse.

The hippies had had enough.

They had been having a nice time, and Frank Wise had brought some groceries to pass around, and if they can’t smoke grass in the park they can damn well sit on the grass and praise the Lord. They locked their arms and kept singing. And the cops started to pry them apart and carry them off to paddy wagons.

And Frank Wise had had enough.

Frank Wise is no kid. He is 37, working on a doctoral thesis, and his wife and infant child sat nearby as he rose to protest. “My God,” he said, his arms outstretched as police dragged his friends away. “Where is this happening? This is America.” A nightstick flew, and Frank Wise was covered with blood. More cops waded in, more nightsticks flew, and Wise became a martyr.

Bystanders wept, and everyone human should have gasped, my God, what has impatience wrought.


Wise was handcuffed and, bleeding from the ears, was taken away to a paddy wagon. Forty of his friends were jammed into three trucks. Hundreds followed the vans to the Ninth Precinct station on East 5th Street, and rallied outside to shout “fascists” and “murderers” at the gray stone walls. A half-hour later, an ambulance arrived to take Wise and Tony di Stasi, who was also hit by nightsticks, to Bellevue Hospital. Wise refused treatment, and joined his friends for arraignment at the courthouse at 100 Centre Street.

At 9 p.m. Tuesday night, when the prisoners were en route to night court, the Communications Company issued a mimeographed bulletin. The Communications Company, patterned after a successful Digger operation in San Francisco, was only a week old. Working out of the basement at Pablo on Bleecker Street (it has since been moved), it had been set up precisely to deal with an emergency such as this: to get the word out in a crisis. The handbill told what happened in the park, announced a be-in at Night Court, and gave subway instructions. Volunteers rushed to key location in the Village to distribute it. The community responded. By 10 the hall outside of Part 1A was teeming with hippies.

The entrance to the courtroom was blocked by a chain of TPFs and the kids paraded before them, in provocative splendor, complete with bells and bare feet. They sat underfoot to sing Hare Krishna. They burned incense, and they carved what was perhaps the first watermelon to enter the hall of justice. Defiant, they slid down the bannisters. Determined, they posed in lotus position on the floor of telephone booths.

Behind a closed door, in the hallway that served as the cloakroom of the court, volunteer lawyers, reporters, cops, and city officials conferred on the crisis. Peter Aschkenasy and Courtney Callender trembled on behalf of the Parks Department, whose diligent Tompkins Square foreman, Emmanuel Kirschner, would soon repeat his complaint as plaintiff in the adjoining court. The East Side’s own Bill Tatum, formerly with the Bolivar-Douglass Reform Club, now with the Department of Buildings, and immediately Night Mayor of the City of New York, strove to ease the situation. Attorney Ernst Rosenberger, noted recently for his defense of poet Ed Sanders and topless cellist Charlotte Moorman, prepared to represent the 41 kids. When he had heard of the arrests, he had rushed to the courthouse in a borrowed tie and jacket to volunteer his services. In the hallway, he conferred with four other lawyers who had offered their help.

The defendants were brought in clusters before the judge over a period of four hours. They were still dressed for a picnic. Many wore beads and diffraction disks, some were barefoot, others had day-glo paint on their hands and faces. Rosenberger introduced them as welfare workers, com­puter programmers, college students and graduates, and fathers and mothers. Many of those charged with disorderly conduct were released on their own recognizance. Eight others were held on a total of $5,500 bail. By the next morning, after an all-night appeal on WBAI, the bail was raised and only Frank Wise remained in jail.

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The courtroom hushed when Wise was brought before Judge Vincent Rao shortly before midnight. It was incredible that he was conscious. He seemed dazed, his face gashed and beaten, his hair caked with blood. He braced himself against Rosenberger.

“I’d like the record to reflect the condition of the defendant,” Rosenberger began, his voice choked with emotion. “There is a tear on his chin that is two inches long, a tear under his right eye that is three inches long.”

The District Attorney, a lady named Landau, asked that “The record reflect that the tear is a scratch.” Wise glared at her. Their eyes met, and she turned away.

“The scratch is a quarter of an inch wide,” Rosenberger said. “The defendant is married,” he continued, “lives with his family, and has one child that is less than a year old.”

Judge Rao looked up. “If he’s got a wife and child at home,” he asked, “then why is he out in the park, taking nightsticks away from police officers and striking them?”

Wise stiffened. “I have 100 people who know what happened,” he shouted. “I did none of these things. I have 100 witnesses.” Rosenberger tried to calm him as the judge rapped for order. Wise became docile. He had said what he had to.

Wise was charged with felonious assault on a police officer. Despite Rosenberger’s efforts to have him released, Wise was remanded without bail because he had refused to be fingerprinted. On Thursday morning, he was released on $50 bond.

The following Tuesday, the kids returned to court. Only Wise remained charged with felonious assault. Four others were charged with simple assault. All 41 were charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer. The trial was postponed until June 27.


“If one more person comes up to me and says ‘I’ve just talked with Captain Fink,’ ” a weary attorney said last week, “I’m going to slug him in the mouth.”

Joseph Fink is commander of the Ninth Precinct. It is widely believed that if he were on duty on Memorial Day, the melee would not have occurred. He was not, and he spent the rest of the week in an endless series of meetings and conferences in an attempt to repair the delicate goodwill, the prize of a year’s tough work as chief on the Ninth, that had been shattered on Memorial Day. He met with clergymen, city officials, community leaders, and representatives of many hippie factions. Often there was a line in front of his small office on the ground floor of the station. In the course of the political aftermath of the Memorial Day mess, an audience with Fink came to be of some status. Hence the attorney’s remark.

As city departments competed with self-absolutions and veiled accusations, the hippies emerged from the crisis as a community. They had won the park. The next day, the grassy battleground was designated a “troubador area” by the Parks Commissioner August Heckscher, the gates were opened, and the “keep off the grass” signs removed. The Communications Company, in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, appealed for peace. “Let us make the result of the conflict be that the park has been opened to us. Let us accept the police as people in a gentle manner. They are civil servants and in that capacity let us love them.”

The Group Image played to a packed park Wednesday night, but there were no cops around to love. Their absence was regretted later in the evening when a group of Puerto Rican youths, upset by the hippies’ newly-won dominance of the park, rained rocks and beer cans on the musicians. The Group Image made a hasty exit.

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Meanwhile, at the Forum restaurant on Avenue A, a meeting was held to announce the formation of an East Village Defense Committee. Jim Nash, a former reporter for the East Village Other, attempted to describe the envisioned bureaucracy. It wasn’t easy. The factions present at the Forum ranged from Black Mask militants to speed freaks, and their attention was clearly directed at Captain Fink who, invited to come as an observer, sat in the front row.

Nash stumbled through a list of the committee’s ambitions. He sought a guarantee of proper police action. “What we mean by proper action,” he explained sternly, “is what happened in the park was improper.” He proposed a legal fund to aid “anyone in the East Village who has been harassed improperly.” He proposed a 24-hour communications system which, he suggested, “would also work with the mass media.” Nash said that the committee would defend the residents of the East Village against improper entry. “The police have been entering the East Village illegally,” he declared. Nash finally proposed a Maccabee-type patrol of the side streets on the East Side, and demanded the removal of the Tactical Police Force from the area.

The audience clamored for a chance at Fink. The Captain rose to confront a barrage of angry questions and accusations.

“I couldn’t possibly answer your questions,” he began, “not because of how many but because of the type of questions they are. I came down to learn from you.” He dodged a rain of loaded questions with blasé answers, and the anger of the audience quickly evolved into hysteria. The furious and the militant crushed forward with a chorus of accusations, and the meeting nearly became a riot. Fink was forced to leave. The militants were just getting warmed up, and the few Flower People in attendance emerged wilted.

June began on Thursday, and the Grateful Dead were in town and, despite some rumble rumors from the Puerto Ricans, the prospects for peace looked promising. A happy, scruffy parade of 80 marched down St. Mark’s Place, complete with police escort, to present the Dead with a white carnation key to the East Village, graciously accepted by Pigpen. And the Tompkins Square bandshell rocked with San Francisco glory until a noise complaint was lodged in the late afternoon. Rather than tune down, the Dead turned off.

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Thursday evening, ten people quietly gathered together around a low candlelit table in the back room of the Family Store on East 6th Street. They represented many of the new tribes and communities of the East Side and the meeting, held at the request of the Communications Company was New York’s first tribal council. They had come together not to decide or lead or elect or demand, but simply to council: to explore a very old model of government that seemed to fit very new times. And they explored carefully and cautiously and candidly. They elected no leaders, nor did they plan to. They discussed the Communications Company, and agreed to support it. And they decided to meet again.

Later that night, the East Village Defense Committee met again, this time in a high-rise apartment on Charles Street, where the doorman could keep out the speed freaks. Nash stood in the corner, introduced the committee’s press secretary, and began modestly: “For some crazy reason,” he said, “I’ve been appointed chairman of all this.” One of the kids who was arrested recounted the Memorial Day incident. Then the committee got down to business. They were anxious to help. They would set up a bail fund, a legal fund, and could handle the press. Some visitors from the East Side explained the the Jade Companions had a bail fund in operation, that the Communications Company had a phone functioning, and that several lawyers had been working for months without a sponsoring organization. Perhaps the East Village Defense Committee could join these groups.

Several lawyers present adjourned to the kitchen.

Abbie Hoffman was sitting on the floor. “We had a good thing going on the East Side,” he said. “The groups were stumbling along. I think that this committee could do a real service to the community by disbanding.”

He grinned. “Think of it,” he exclaimed. “A committee disbanding after two days. It’d be a whole turn in American political life.”

Nash smiled. “Abbie,” he said. “No.”

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Then the meeting became a little confused. The storefront was available, it seems, but had not yet been rented. But the Communications Company would use it, and Jim Fouratt agreed that they could certainly use a storefront. So the hat was passed to pay for the committee’s headquarters. And when they moved into the store they could get a phone or perhaps an answering service, but Olivia had a phone in her store, and why have an answering service when her phone could be used.

The lawyers returned from the kitchen. They announced that they had decided to join together for the legal defense of the hippies. They would seek other lawyers, and set up a rotating system where each lawyer would be available for a week at a time. But they felt that the lawyers’ group should remain independent of any other organization. It was a breakthrough.

But the emergency telephone plagued the meeting. There was a dispute over whether it should start that night, with a temporary number at Olivia’s, or whether they should hold off until a permanent number could be found. Should the temporary number be publicized, or would it then be confused when a permanent number was set up? It was tossed back and forth for half hour. Olivia offered to man the phone until eight in the morning, and everyone wrote down the number.

Meanwhile, the Tactical Police Force was back in Tompkins Square Park.

All day there were rumors that the Puerto Ricans were uptight. The rumors were true. They knew about Memorial Day, and they had heard the “LSD music” and they thought that the hippies were taking over the park. The park was tense Thursday night as the Pageant Players performed three anti-war plays. “There was some hostile response,” Michael Brown of the Pageant Players recalled, “but there always is when we perform in the street. The last thing we tried was an improvisation about the events in park Tuesday. At the end of it, there was a small fight in the audience.”

The Pageant Players were followed by a folk-rock group, and a group of Puerto Ricans came to the bandshell and demanded Latin music. Some words were exchanged, and a scuffle started, and the iron curtain was pulled down to close the stage.

The kids then moved to Hoving’s Hill, knocked over a couple of sanitation barrels, and began to work on a Latin beat. A tall blond, Wendy Allen, went up to protest. The kids attacked her and tore her clothes. A mob formed around her and hurtled towards the park entrance at East 7th Street and Avenue B. There, a police sergeant rescued her and summoned reinforcements.

The mob, rapidly growing, milled in the intersection. Some jumped atop cars, crushing the hoods. A motorcyclist came toward the intersection. He was pulled off his bike, and the cycle was disintegrated. At 10:15, reinforcements from the Ninth Precinct arrived. They took positions and waited, taunted by the kids.

By 11, Chief Inspector Garelick and Police Commissioner Leary were on the scene, and shortly thereafter a force of TPF and motorcycle cops began to disperse the crowd. The mob disappeared into the side streets. Police then sealed off Tompkins Square Park for the night.

The Puerto Ricans had had enough.

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Late that night, around three in the morning, a small group of Puerto Ricans and a small group of hippies met together in the basement of Pablo to try to prevent another Watts. They had planned to put out a bilingual handbill to calm the neighborhood. At first they were going to say, “Mother, keep your children at home.”

But they talked some more and decided there was a better way.

Instead of having no music that night, they would have music all day. They would pass out armbands, and tell the people they were “Serenos” or peace-keepers. They would pass out armbands to everyone who would take one, and tell them to link arms and surround any trouble. And what Sereno would ever start a fight? At four in the morning, they telephoned Captain Fink and Department of Parks and the night mayor, Holt Meyer.

They talked with the Mayor for almost an hour, and pleaded for an appointment with Lindsay. Meyer was skeptical, but he told them to come down and wait in the lobby of City Hall.

They arrived at City Hall at nine. A half-hour later, they met with James L. Marcus, Commissioner of Water Supply, Gas, and Electricity, who represented the Mayor. Meyer, the previous night’s mayor, and Director of Land Development of Staten Island; Peter Aschkenasy, deputy police commissioner for community relations; and Captain Fink, whom they had invited. They talked until noon, and the City agreed with their plans.

As they left the meeting on the second floor of City Hall, they met a wall of newsmen, The kids refused to comment or identify themselves. “We’re not leaders,” one said. “We’re just some people who got together.”

As they left City Hall, a mob of landlords strained at the police barricades. They were shouting something about hippies. Vito Battista, chairman of the United Taxpayers Party, screamed into the microphone, “Lindsay sees the hippies, but he won’t see the taxpayers.” As the kids disappeared around the corner, the landlords stormed City Hall. Rocks crashed through the windows. Lindsay later disclaimed any knowledge of the meeting.

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That afternoon, the Communications Company went bi-lingual. “Tonight,” the mimeographed sheet read, “we will have music in Tompkins Square Park. Also if you have any problems please speak with the Serenos, who will be wearing white armbands on their right arms. We don’t need a lot of police here tonight.”

The park was jammed Friday night. Mongo Santamaria played, and Len Chandler sang, and Chino Garcia from the Real Great Society MC’d in Spanish. The Serenos were everywhere, even though some wore the armbands on their heads as dewbands, the uniform of a rumble. Even the police were there, but you wouldn’t recognize them unless you saw the paper clips on their lapels. Hippies and Puerto Ricans together grooved on the Latin music. And when the music stopped shortly before midnight, everyone held his breath. But there was no riot.

Captain Fink later praised the Serenos. “I’m very happy we had the cooperation of the Serenos,” he said. “If more community people would show an interest in the situation, I’m sure that this wouldn’t prevent further incidents from happening in this area.”

Saturday afternoon the Fugs played in the bandshell, and tourists swarmed into the park. That evening, Ronald Komer, a Daily News employee, was walking across the grass. He tripped over some Puerto Ricans, and some words were exchanged, and Komer was slashed across the stomach with a knife. Komer was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was in satisfactory condition, and Gilberto Conception, 17, was taken to jail.

“Gilberto Conception is in trouble,” read the Communications Company bulletin later that night. “Help raise bail for 17-year-old Gilberto being held in stabbing of Daily News reporter Ronald Komer in Tompkins Square last night. Gilberto needs needs the help of the community. He needs our help now, not the Tombs.”

By Tuesday they had raised $500.

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Komer could have been stabbed on Christmas morning on Avenue C, because he didn’t know the mores of the Lower East Side, the first one being that you never insult a Puerto Rican. The tourists were coming en masse to watch the action, but they were more liable to start it.

The community rallied to discourage the tourists, and Sunday the bandshell was closed. Monday, Parks Commissioner August Heckscher called a meeting of representatives of the various neighborhood groups and, backed by a consensus at the meeting, he revoked a permit issued to the New East Village Association for a four-month series of concerts in the bandshell. It was felt that the concerts attracted tourists, but were not representative enough to satisfy the community.

By Tuesday, Tompkins Square Park was calm, and half of the Lower East Side was involved in meetings, well-laced with power politics. Many of the hippies in the other half wished that Emmett Grogan, the Jesus of the Diggers, was back in town. Because he understood these things. He had landed in New York in March and rocked the East Side with a lot of lessons he had learned in San Francisco. He had said to turn on to the Puerto Ricans and fuck leaders. But a lot of people forgot what he said.

The kids may be coming en masse in a few weeks and, by their numbers and because of the media’s fascination, they will become politically significant. The pure ones, by definition, will have no spokesman. So many people will presume to speak for them. The straights will be desperate for a spokesman, so these people will be listened to, but they will represent only themselves.

San Francisco’s Communications Company warned about this back in April. It wasn’t Emmett Grogan talking, but it might have been. “Beware of structure-freaks. They do not understand.”

“We know The System doesn’t work because we’re living in its ruins. We know that good leaders don’t work out because they have all led us to the present, the good leaders equally with the bad.

“Any man who WANTS to lead you is The Man. Think: why should anyone WANT to lead me? Think: why should I pay for his trip. Think.

“Do your thing. Be what you are. If you don’t know who you are, find out.”

And when the media come to tell you, tell them what you think, because they might ask somebody else.



“Live Free & Dance” is the theme of the Ninth Annual Dance Parade. Over 150 dance groups of every conceivable age, style, and level of professionalism boogie down Broadway to University Place, and then across St. Marks Place to Tompkins Square Park, where a post-parade festival unfolds on four stages, followed by an after-party at Drom. Grand marshals include ballet diva Carmen de Lavallade, Robert Battle of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, bhangra pioneer DJ Rekha, and wheelchair dancer Mary Verdi-Fletcher; this year’s parade recognizes the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Cheer from the sidelines, or buy a ticket to the grandstand at 8th Street and University (bring your hat and sunscreen), bask in comfort, and listen as each passing troupe is announced by DJ BooshWheelz.

Sat., May 16, 1 p.m., 2015



It’s the best parade in the city, paws down. Now in its 24th season, in a city where dogs are dressed in clothes year-round, the costumes at the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade are more creative than ever. Last year we saw a lot of TV stars—among them the “Hounds of Anarchy” and Cersei Lannister from “Game of Bones”— three separate “Barksy” pups toting tiny spray paint bottles, Zoltar complete with his booth and crystal ball, and a too-adorable-to-drink pumpkin spice latte. The winners of the costume contest were a team of chihuahuas as a lobster bake (one was the chef, the other the lobster getting baked), a costume of astronomical cuteness that’s going to be hard to top. Craft a buddy costume with your pooch or arrive early and stake out a spot on the sidelines to watch the hundreds of contestants and their walkers. Smiles are pretty much involuntary.

Sat., Oct. 25, noon, 2014



Many runners, when asked, will tell you that they marathon for something more than just a workout. They do it to achieve some higher goal, as a testament to the power of the human will — or, in this case, for pizza. We’ve got to love how the fifth annual NYC Pizza Run continues to combine our two favorite but diametrically opposite forms of competition: athletic and eating. Today, those with the guts can embark on this two-mile run around Tompkins Square, pausing at three checkpoints along the way to pound down a slice from local joint Pizza by Certé (it’s a race, after all — nibblers don’t stand a chance). Pizza-themed costumes are about as common as pizza-themed heartburn, which is to say, very. Proceeds from the run (somewhat paradoxically) support juvenile diabetes research. Aside from the satisfaction of backing a good cause, participants also get a goodie back with a T-shirt, prizes, and a free drink at the after-party — and, oh yeah, pizza!

Sat., Sept. 13, 11 a.m., 2014



This Saturday, if you’re passing through Tompkins Square Park, you risk getting ticketed — for not dancing. Dance Parade Inc., a nonprofit that honors dance from all cultures and time periods, hosts its eighth annual Dance Parade, a celebration of joyous physical self-expression in the park, and the Dance Police are on patrol to ensure everyone is cutting loose. The parade begins with a procession of dancers and musicians that follows dance throughout history as it makes its way downtown (think everything from hula drumming to samba to techno). Once the parade reaches the park, participants and spectators adopt any style they like, with a choice of four stages: one for performance, one family-friendly, one for teaching, and a free dance area. Dance instructors offer free lessons to the shy and uncoordinated.

Sat., May 17, 1 p.m., 2014



If you’ve ever wanted to participate in a mass musical mobile, here’s your chance. A glorious and chilly ritual since 1992, with only the technology changing over the ensuing years, Unsilent Night is composer Phil Kline’s annual electronic tribute to the joy of caroling. Tote your boombox to the Washington Square Park arch, where you will be issued a cassette or CD (apps also available) containing one of the minimalist work’s four interlocking parts. Hit your start button on cue (warning: miss it and risk being chastised mid-parade by the composer himself) and proceed eastward en masse. A single musical movement in literal movement, Unsilent Night is a spectacle of tintinnabulation to delight participants and bystanders alike. It all ends with a few magically meditative minutes in Tompkins Square Park.

Sat., Dec. 14, 6:45 p.m., 2013



Watch out for the NYDP this Saturday—the New York Dance Police. During the seventh annual Dance Parade, these fun-loving “cops” will hand out tickets to those who aren’t dancing along the parade’s 20-block route. The parade celebrates the history and variety of dance, with dancers sashaying their way from Broadway and 21st Street to Tompkins Square Park, beginning with the oldest traditions and ending with modern dance. More than 75 genres are represented, including square dancing, hip-hop, and tango. Once the parade reaches the park, join the DanceFest, where everyone can participate in lessons and social dancing. Additional performances occur on stages throughout the park for those who just can’t get enough. (Last year, around 8,500 people flooded the park.)

Sat., May 18, 1 p.m., 2013



If you think seeing puppies all bundled up in scarves, tiny jackets, and miniature booties are adorable, get ready for the biggest explosion of cuteness your heart can handle. At the 22nd Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, a diverse group of pups from across the city will dress up in their holiday best and compete for Best in Show and raffle prizes as well as other winning spots every half-hour. Whether spooky or silly, these costumes are sure to be hits with spectators of all ages at this family-friendly event. Many are encouraged to donate doggy-friendly prizes for the parade, such as toys and treats for the competing canines; check the event’s website for details on donations. Come out for this pre-Halloween celebration, and maybe leave with a few costume ideas for yourself, too.

Sat., Oct. 20, noon, 2012