Gardens on the March

New York, NY, USA

Flower person

Man wearing a headdress of leaves and flowers

New York, NY, USA

One of the nice things about Manhattan is that you don’t even have to go looking for madness: the madness comes to you. I was working at home this afternoon when my phone rang. “Get outside and take your camera,” said M. “A whole crowd of people just walked down the street dressed as animals and plants, followed by a marching band!” I grabbed the camera and a fresh battery and dived for the door.

I didn’t actually stop to wonder why people were marching around the Lower East Side dressed as plants. This is Manhattan. No one actually needs a reason to do something crazy, but they almost always turn out to have one. In this case it was a protest march for community gardens, the little patches of lovingly-tended greenery that spring up on vacant lots and last only until the developers decide that it’s time to put up another apartment block. Accompanying the march were a couple of the usual suspects - a detachment from the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and Reverend Billy – and a small escort of police (“Stay on the sidewalk! Sir! Please! Sidewalk!”).

Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir sang a moving arrangement of the Bill of Rights. The Rude Mechanicals danced and played. A big Hispanic guy in a tank-top pointed to a fenced and padlocked lot and said “This used to be a garden,” whereupon someone handed him a bullhorn and he delivered a short speech about it, to loud applause. When he was done, a man dressed as a rat gave him a bunch of flowers. And the procession wound its way from garden to garden.

Just another typical Saturday afternoon on the Lower East Side.