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Pandamonium in Williamsburg

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Pandas might be an endangered species, but that didn’t stop cops from capturing four of them in Williamsburg on Aug. 16.

Police broke up and arrested some participants in “Pandamonium 2008,” a self-described “Costumed-Roving-Street-Party-Apocalyptic-Dance-Rock-Battle” that drew about 200 revelers — some wearing panda masks and black-and-white clothing — to the corner of Bedford Avenue and North Sixth Street for a guerrilla-style street party.

After meeting in Union Square in Manhattan, revelers took the L train to the Bedford Avenue stop at around 9 pm and began blocking traffic, dancing in the street as boomboxes blared music from the same radio station, waving banners adorned with the adorable animals, swigging free beer, and chanting “Panda! Panda!” and “Whose streets? Our streets?”

No, it wasn’t a fundraiser for the World Wildlife Fund gone wrong — in fact, the panda-themed protest was ruse to bring apolitical youngsters into the activist fold, insiders told The Brooklyn Paper.

“The panda thing was entirely about attracting the audience we wanted in attendance,” said a participant who gave his name as A. Panda. “If we had advertised it as a ‘Direct Action Take Back The Streets’ party, all we would get would be 20 or so anarchists dressed in black, and about 2,000 cops. So we made it a panda-themed party with free beer and loud music and tons of hip aesthetic.”

A primer on the Pandamonium Web site defined the street party as an attempt “to retake space and transform it in a way that suits us” — but with all of the beer-guzzling, fire-dancing and traffic-blocking and passersby couldn’t figure out whether the pandas were protesting or celebrating.

“I wish they expressed more of the reasoning behind it,” one onlooker said. “I think a lot of people were confused and didn’t really understand what was going on.”

And cops didn’t find the costumed partiers as cute as their real life counterparts — especially when they started taunting police by throwing things, cops and one of the pandas said. (There are several grainy videos of the police response on YouTube.com.)

“They said they were protesting high rent — and I guess ‘the man’ — but really, they were just individuals in their twenties that were there to have a good time,” said Capt. Dennis Fulton, commanding officer of Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct. “But what they actually did was waste my time and waste my resources by shutting down traffic and making it so emergency vehicles couldn’t get through.”

The four caged pandas were arrested and charged with misdemeanors including unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct, and inciting a riot, Fulton said.

Despite the police presence — which included an NYPD helicopter — another panda party is already in the works.

“Everyone got their [sic] charges dropped [so] we should do it again!” our panda source said.

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Reader Feedback

D from Ridgewood says:
Not all charges have been dropped. Some very serious charges remain on some unfortunate souls.
Aug. 21, 2008, 4:20 pm
Mike from Bushwick says:
Is it a protest when the people are told there's music and free beer, follow the people in the panda outfits? I mean, they didn't know what they were protesting, don't protesters usually believe in something?
Aug. 21, 2008, 5:06 pm

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