Tompkins Square Park was previously just a small section of Stuyvesant Meadows' salt marsh, until 1829 when it was accepted by Manhattan as a gift from Peter Stuyvesant for a tax break—with the agreement that the land would always be used as a park, open to all. Tompkins Square (named after Vice President under President James Monroe, Daniel D. Tompkins) was established in 1834, and its cast iron fence was added the following year. Thought to be set in an ideal part of the city that would boom, the Panic of 1837 brought the city's expansion to an end, and the area was considered a haven for immigrant communities by some, and a slum by others. The public square was later deemed a park, reopened in 1850, and it soon became the local meeting ground for those unhappy with the trappings of the Industrial Age.
In 1857, police attacked the locals in the park protesting unemployment and food shortages. In July of 1863, laws passed by Congress to draft men into the ongoing American Civil War, sparked the Draft Riots within the park. In January of 1874, the Tompkins Square Riot occurred; then, in 1877, 5,000 people fought the National Guard as they attempted to listen to Communist speeches.
In short, the area is a historical hotbed for political activism.
If you're in New York City during the summer, stop by the park, and after you check out America's first dog run, the General Slocum memorial (the worst U.S. disaster until September 11th), and the Hare Krishna tree, see if you can catch the annual Tompkins Square Park Riot punk show: two free days of punk bands shouting bad words at the boys in blue for their 1988 trespass against the park's homeless. What the media called groups of "drug pushers, homeless people, and young people known as 'skinheads'" taking over the park, was actually homeless park residents, punk kids, and a handful of locals, fighting back against the brutal tactics used to push unwanteds out of the park in August of 1988. Creepy pedophile, but great Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg was there, and was quoted as saying, "The police panicked, and were beating up bystanders who had done nothing wrong, and were just observing." It spawned two days of rioting and protests.
Though the riots were commemorated in the song "Hold On," by Lou Reed, on his 1989 CD New York—and memorialized in the Broadway play, Rent, by Jonathan Larson—the local punk scene feels it's not enough, and has a free two-day show every summer in remembrance. This year's lineup was pretty good, though they have had some pretty amazing days in past concerts to compete with. Though not the only punk, or art, show in Tompkins Square, it is normally the biggest. I stopped to take photos of some of this year's favorites.
During breaks between bands, I passed out copies of my new fanzine, Auspex, but also took time to get more shots in. Of course, things got political:
They should, too; when some carry reminders of how much you can lose fighting authority:
Of course, I took some time to watch the slam dancing...
...and pick off a few of the patron's pets:
Sometimes both at the same time:
And even though I'm not going to the Maryland Deathfest next year to photograph the backpatches, I still collect them when I see them. This is my favorite fifteen of the weekend: