In most places, eight police vehicles and a swarm of officers pursuing a drug bust is a serious event. On Saturday night in Washington Square Park, at 11:30 PM, various vehicles came hurtling at high speed from all directions - two unmarked black cars, a taxi (used by police), and several regular NYPD vehicles. They easily and quickly trapped the perpetrator, who offered no resistance, only saying, "What?"
It had all the drama of a major arrest of one of America's Most Wanted, but my understanding was that this huge show of force was just for the arrest of a drug dealer caught making a transaction. I say "just" because selling drugs is an everyday and all day activity in this park.
If you look at all like a potential customer and are strolling through Washington Square on a busy day, you will be offered drugs by numerous dealers at a number of key locations - strategic intersections where most pedestrians have to pass through. The mantra "smoke, smoke" is familiar to all habitués here and just laughed off as part of the natural environment and business as usual.
Drugs have been regularly sold in Washington Square Park since time immemorial. Dealers are well known by regulars in the park and the police. The miscreants are quite well versed in the law and know how to operate their business in a way to generally avoid arrest. The activity had virtually disappeared since the recent renovation (see here) but, as would be expected in New York City, and particularly in this park, drug activity has crept back in and often feels just like old times.
What is ironic, and would be perhaps astounding to nonregulars, is that a regular group of musicians and singers continued their musical activity just steps away from all the commotion, completely undaunted, unfettered and apparently uninterested.
Rather than a cause for alarm, surprise, disruption or curiosity, the whole affair just seemed to add voices to the backup singers. Guns, police running, screeching tires, searchlights in the bushes, sirens and handcuffs were all part of a comforting ambiance that made everyone feel that it was just like old times :)
Note: On August 6, 2009, I wrote Chess Monsters and told of an incident where I witnessed a shooting, yet incredulously, while players ran for cover, an onlooker stopped the chess clocks during the incident and playing resumed, barely missing a beat. You can read the story here.
Postings on Washington Square Park: Out There, Conflux, Hawk Fest, Evening Arch, Twelve Tribes Arrive, New York Nymph, Bluegrass Reunion, Cloud Appreciation, I Am Legend, Birds Sing at Night, Rats Gone Wild, Piercing Al Fresco, Police Riot Concert, Artiste Extraordinaire, Comfort and Joy, Livid, Flash of Light, Delivery, Dog Run, Sounds of Summer, Krishna, Spring Madness, Back to Boyhood, Hookah, Lockout, Danger and Caution, Obama, YouTube Meetup, Dachshund Octoberfest, Music Speaks for Itself, Park Night, Petanque, Washington Square North, Nested Embraces, Left Bank New York.