Organizer of Washington Square says it's his 'First Amendment right'
‘We are going nowhere’: Organizer of out-of-control drug-fueled Washington Square Park raves that have turned landmark into a violent no-go zone for residents says it’s his ‘First Amendment right to be there’ and he will NOT stop
- Party promoter David Ortiz, who calls himself ‘the Shaman’, has insisted that the after-dark raves in Washington Square Park will continue, saying it is his First Amendment right to be there
- Speaking to DailyMail.com, Ortiz said ‘We’re going to be here every single day. Just like the police are, we are too. Because this is as much our home as to the other residents that actually live here’
- Hundreds of revelers returned to NYC’s Washington Square Park again on Saturday night
- The landmark Manhattan park has been plagued by late night raves which often descend into chaos
- Residents and nearby business owners have demanded police step up their enforcement of a midnight curfew
- There have been claims of prostitution, public sex acts, hard drugs, and people carrying weapons
The organizer of the out-of-control raves which have plagued New York’s Washington Square Park has insisted that the parties will continue every night through the summer, and says that it is his constitutional right to be there despite violent crime that has turned park into a no-go zone for locals.
Hundreds of people returned to the park again on Saturday night for another rave, just 24 hours after a woman was trampled by terrified crowds trying to flee a man armed with a large knife and a taser.
It is the latest in a series of nightly parties thrown in the iconic park, which have left local residents fuming at the noise with NYPD cops failing to enforce a midnight curfew.
Speaking to DailyMail.com, party promoter David Ortiz, who calls himself ‘the Shaman’, said: ‘We’re going to be here every single day. Just like the police are, we are too. Because this is as much our home as to the other residents that actually live here.’
He added: ‘If you can’t accept the fact that I’m living within my First Amendment constitutional rights, which is the right to freedom of speech and to rally in a public place, then my friend you are living in the wrong country and democracy is not for you’.
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Speaking to DailyMail.com, party promoter David Ortiz, who calls himself ‘the Shaman’, said the parties would continue every night into the summer
Revelers returned to the park again on Saturday night for the latest in a series of nightly parties
Ortiz insists that any trouble is ‘one percent’ of the crowd that is making the rest look bad. He told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s community policing. Say there is a stabbing here, we all keep each other accountable.’
Ortiz had earlier claimed that he was throwing the parties to help people’s mental health after the Covid pandemic.
He told photographer Leeroy Johnson: ‘What we do is gather people around and do events. Why? Because there’s been a lot of situations that has happened in the past – COVID – that’s impeding on our mental health.
‘And for me – that hits me personally. Because I know what it is to know how being inside really takes away from the creative person that we all are. So we’re here.
‘I know there’s issues, I know there’s fights, I know there’s things happening in the park. But that’s why we are here.’
As the raves at the park have escalated, there have been claims of prostitution and public sexual acts, hard drug use, and people carrying weapons like baseball bats.
During the day on Saturday, local residents told DailyMail.com how they avoided the park after dark for fear of violence.
On Friday night a 43-year-old woman – who has not been named by officials – was left bloodied and bruised after being trampled as revelers fled from a man wielding a knife and a taser.
DailyMail.com photos show the woman sat on the ground with blood pouring from her face following the incident. A man was seen handcuffed and being led away by police.
Jason McDermott, 42, was arrested without incident and was charged Saturday morning with menacing, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon. McDermott has been arrested at least 10 times between 2010 and 2014, sources told DailyMail.com.
On June 5, revelers clashed with police attempting to impose a 10pm curfew, leading to 23 people being arrested and eight cops injured.
And on June 11, two men were stabbed during a 10-person brawl. The following morning a 77 year-old cook at the nearby Washington Square Diner was shoved into a plate glass window after kicking a troublemaker out.
Revelers returned to Washington Square on Saturday night and stayed long after the park’s closing time of midnight
Partygoers were seen playing in the park’s fountain during the latest in a series of nightly parties thrown in the iconic park
Ortiz, 28, said he regretted not informing the local community members about his plans before launching the parties
FRIDAY: A 43-year-old woman was left bloodied after being trampled as revelers fled from a man wielding a knife and a taser
JUNE 5: Two weeks ago revelers clashed with police attempting to impose a 10pm curfew, leading to 23 people being arrested and eight cops injured.
FRIDAY: Locals have told how the park changes after dark, from a calm, relaxing atmosphere during the day to chaos when the sun goes down
But Ortiz insists that it is ‘one percent’ of the crowd that is making the rest look bad.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s community policing. Say there is a stabbing here, we all keep each other accountable.
‘That’s what leadership is. Taking each other into account, and understanding when to take control and when to divert, and how to go about a situation. And we have a number of those individuals here in the park.’
Ortiz, 28, said he regretted not informing the local community members about his plans before launching the parties, but added: ‘ I tried to go to a community board meeting this week but I was denied access.’ He added that the venue was at capacity.
And he appeared to hit out at residents who have complained about the parties.
He said: ‘I’m not here to bring animosity. We’re here to have a good time with the community and to amplify their voices. And if some community members, the one percentile or the rich, can’t handle that then they need to go somewhere else and move.’
Speaking about criticism that he is organizing parties in downtown Manhattan when he actually lives across the city in Queens, he insisted he has deep ties to the area.
He said: ‘Born in Brooklyn. Went to Mary Burcham High School, in downtown Manhattan. I have been here every single day of my life in Manhattan.
‘Probably longer than these two-bit residents that are living here now. I’m here every single day and all they do is pay property taxes here. What we do is we actually bring joy.’
Police were gathered under the iconic arch at Washington Square Park on Saturday night
It is the latest in a series of nightly parties thrown in the iconic park, which have left local residents fuming
Hundreds of revelers descended on Washington Square Park again on Saturday night for another after-dark rave.
A woman speaking through a megaphone shouted: ‘I just wanna say to all my black people, happy Juneteenth and to the NYPD, suck my D.’
One group was seen walking around carrying a sign reading ‘High 5 me if you like weed’, and offering people hand sanitizer.
The girl in the group, Samantha Rose, 25, said: ‘I usually see music and dance parties in the evening. Last night we had some light saber fights.’
Rose, a barista who lives in the Bronx, said didn’t start coming to the park until COVID.
‘There’s been a lot of people on acid in the park lately not gonna lie but that’s been going on since the 60s.’
Tensions have boiled over in recent weeks between revelers at the rowdy late-night events and neighbors.
But Rose insists the events only got out of hand when police started clashing with the partygoers.
Rose said: ‘The city is noisy. Even after those first few days, police told residents to back off because it wasn’t an issue.
‘The first couple nights there were complaints about he noise. It wasn’t disturbing until they were running past the outdoor dining tripping over tables to avoid cops.
‘It’s a little extreme for them to go from nothing to shoving people in fountains.’
The NYPD had imposed a 10pm weekend curfew on the park two weeks ago following complaints from residents.
This sparked clashes between police and the partygoers that night, with 23 people arrested and eight cops injured in a night of unrest on June 5.
Some of those who went to the park after dark were making a music video
One group was seen walking around carrying a sign reading ‘High 5 me if you like weed’, and offering people hand sanitizer
Police and Parks Department officials monitored the crowds at Washington Square Park
The midnight closing time was restored after police on Saturday lifted the 10pm.
Since then, cops have taken a hands-off approach to enforcing the curfew, with revelers partying on well into the night.
Kevin Keener, 45, a street vendor selling art in the park every day for the last seven years said on Saturday night that cops need to clean the park up so he can make more sales.
‘When it gets rowdy, it’s bad for the sales. They need the cops to come by to stop the fights because we want the park to be quieter rather than all the fights.’
The NYPD had said this week its officers would enforce a midnight closure time if requested to do so by the Parks Department. But the police did not enforce the curfew on Saturday night.
On Wednesday, Rodney Harrison, the NYPD’s Chief of Department, the highest ranking uniformed officer on the force, told reporters at City Hall that fliers would be handed out to park visitors reminding them to clear out by the midnight closing time.
On Monday, mayor Bill De Blasio downplayed the violence and chaos at Washington Square Park in recent weeks, telling reporters that he believes the situation will resolve itself ‘naturally.’
The rotten core of the Big Apple: How iconic Washington Square Park has become a no-go zone for law-abiding locals after dark
By Chris Eberhart in Washington Square park for DailyMail.com
Nearby residents and visitors to New York’s Washington Square Park have told how they now avoid the landmark after dark amid fears of violence, a day after another late night rave descended into chaos.
On Friday night a woman was left bloodied and bruised after being trampled on by terrified crowds trying to flee a man armed with a large knife and a taser.
Now locals have told how the park changes after dark, from a calm, relaxing atmosphere during the day to chaos when the sun goes down.
DailyMail.com spoke to park visitors Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the woman – who has not been named by officials – was injured.
The nearby residents, afternoon park attendees and business owners who spoke to DailyMail.com have demanded police step up their enforcement of a midnight curfew and stop motorcyclists zooming through the park.
All said they wouldn’t be going to the park tonight, amid fears of further violence.
The woman was seen with blood pouring from her face Friday night ad NYPD officers went to her aid in the park
Across from the northwest section of the park, a full block away from the iconic arches where most revelers congregate at night, two women enjoyed the sunlight outside their ground floor window.
Christa Shaub, who has lived in the area for 15 years, and Amy Heinemams, who has lived in there for six years, said the partying in the park is nothing new especially during the summer months, but ‘it’s exaggerated post-pandemic.’
‘This is an open park, but you need to have respect for people,’ Shaub said. ‘There needs to be regulations.’
While they think the park is safe during the day, Heinemams said, ‘I won’t walk through the park at night.’
In a little outcove under the cover of trees and surrounded by shrubbery just south of the arches, a group of about a dozen old timers jam out with an acoustic guitar and dance to live Bob Mellencamp songs.
The guitarist and one of the singers – who said his name was Richie – said he’s been coming to this spot for about eight years and said others in the group have been doing this for decades.
They all live in the apartments across the street. They knew the homeless who roamed the park by name and essentially adopted a homeless person to make they ate and were OK.
But Richie said they make a point to be out of the park no later than 5pm.
‘We’re not going to deal with what’s going on night and don’t want any part of it,’ Richie said.
Christa Shaub (left) and Amy Heinemams (right) say partying in the park is not new, but it has exaggerated post-pandemic
Guitarist Richie says he has been coming to this spot for about eight years, but now makes a point to be out of the park no later than 5pm
Karen Bartolo, who’s now in her late 50s, has a deep reverence for the park’s rich history and said she’s been performing music in Washington Square Park since she was 15. Every weekend she was here.
They played music, smoked pot and had a good time, she said. They played music until 2am, but there weren’t amps and large bass systems that can blast music for blocks.
But what’s happening Washington Square now ‘is horrible,’ she said.
She said: ‘At night time this park used to be the place. But now, people are crazy. In the day even. But at nighttime? Forget about it.’
She added: ‘In the ’60s, we had our problems, but we came together. We need to come together now.’
Bartolo, along with multiple other park goers who spoke to the DailyMail.com Saturday afternoon, talked about an escalating level of hostility between police, revelers and the park’s neighbors.
There are too many ‘aggressive police,’ she said, but the kids ‘are out of control’ and egging on law enforcement.
‘It can’t get violent,’ Bartolo said, ‘otherwise we are a lost cause.’
Karen Bartolo, who’s now in her late 50s, has a deep reverence for the park’s rich history and said she’s been performing music in Washington Square Park since she was 15
Cops and Parks Department officers monitored Washington Square Park from a distance on Saturday afternoon
The public park in the heart of the Big Apple has been a growing source of tension in recent weeks.
With bars and restaurants facing tight restrictions over the last year due to the pandemic, it transformed into a popular party destination.
Now, as the parties and reports of crime increase – and COVID-19 restrictions have lifted – residents and ravers are coming to blows.
On the one side, young revelers say the park is public property. They question why they cannot use the space to enjoy parties and why the wealthy Greenwich Village homeowners nearby should have the power to decide who has access to it.
On the other side, residents claim the park has become a site of increased drug use and violence, leaving them scared to walk around the area and left grappling with the noise later into the night.
Last Saturday, the park turned somewhat chaotic with two people stabbed, a man beaten and mugged of his phone and a 77-year-old cook at a nearby diner attacked.
The violence in Washington Square Park comes as the NYPD struggled under a surge in violent crime in 2021.
Felony assaults are up eight percent for the first six months of 2021, compared to the same period last year, while rapes are up by 3 percent.
NYPD data shows shootings in the Big Apple have increased by 64 percent year-on-year, while murders are up 13 percent.
The numbers are disturbing in themselves, but the violence has intensified and taken place in public places, like parks and subways, and in front of witnesses and surveillance cameras.
Earlier this week, former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton warned American cities, including New York City, are in for a ‘very, long dangerous summer’ as murder rates have skyrocketed
And there aren’t any short- or long-term answers, Bratton told CNBC’s Shepard Smith on Monday.
‘Unlike the last crime epidemic that took decades to build up to the early ’90s, this one has occurred, literally, overnight,’ Bratton said.
‘It’s like the virus, it’s literally, out of nowhere, and so solutions are not immediately apparent.’
Bratton, who earned the nickname ‘supercop’ for helping clean up the streets of New York City and Los Angeles, issued his warning on Monday.
In May, Governor Andrew Cuomo called the surge in violent crime a ‘major problem’ and said unless the NYPD gets a handle on it soon, the city would become undesirable.
‘New Yorkers don’t feel safe and they don’t feel safe because the crime rate is up. It’s not that they are being neurotic or overly sensitive – they are right.’ he said.
Washington Square Park through the ages: From Native American farm land to public execution site and military parade ground
Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, Washington Square Park is known for its iconic arch and fountain.
But long before they were built, it was an area of marsh land with a natural waterway named Minetta Creek home to fresh trout.
The Native American Lenape tribe cultivated the land in the 1600s before it was taken over by the Dutch.
The Dutch then offered some of the land to African-born slaves they freed in 1642 – but the free black farmers then lost the land again under English rule.
In 1797, the City’s Common Council converted the land into a Potter’s Field – the name for an area where the poor were buried. The site is also thought to have been the site of public executions.
Then, in 1826, the area around the park was converted into a militia training ground named Washington Military Parade Ground. The next year, some parts were turned into a public park.
Famously, Samuel F.B. Morse gave a public demonstration of his new invention – the telegraph – in the park in 1838
After the City’s Department of Public Parks was formed to look after the city’s parks in 1870, it underwent a major redesign with curved paths and shaded areas to provide an escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
The iconic marble Washington Arch was built between 1890-1892 and other monuments were erected over the coming years.
Throughout the 20th century, the park increasingly became a site of protest and performances with labor unions marching after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, and the Beat generation and folkies setting up in the park.
Later redesigns followed and the Arch was restored in the noughties.
The park, now named after George Washington who was inaugurated as the first US president in New York City in 1789, continues to be a popular place for protests and cultural events.
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