PANDAMONIUM – Bedford Avenue

Sunday, August 17, 2008

As I was closing up shop after a long day’s work sitting around on Bedford Ave at 10pm tonight, I was shocked to see something that I never thought I would ever see: Hipsters assembling! On their own accord – they weren’t even tricked by advertising gimmicks or indie bands!

At first I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. There were hundreds of hipsters in the street walking alongside cop cars with flashing lights. My initial thought was that it was a parade, and the helicopter flying overhead was lighting the way as a good Samaritan effort. Like the fun parades where the cop cars and firetrucks sound their sirens real loud right before the old men in Kiwanis come out driving little cars and beauty pageant queens and the Mayor ride by in convertibles.

Well, if it was one of those parades I would have peaced out. But naturally, because I saw an abundance of hipsters, I followed the commotion right to the center.

After traveling all the way from Union Square, the hipsters had come to a halt at Bedford Avenue. Led by “Panda-monium,” the group who -get this- routinely assembles at “The Change You Want to See” building on Havemeyer, protestors (and hipsters who like costumes, woo!) attempted to relcaim the streets for the purposes of the people who live and play there as opposed to profit-seeking companies encouraging consumption. Dozens of Williamsburgers decked out in Panda masks (one even had a fluffy white belly) were leading protest chants about Pandas and, later on, police brutality.

Aside from the pandas though, there were at least 200 other people assembled around Bedford and N. 6th. I’m not really sure what made them stop there: Was that their destination or did they just get distracted by all the bars and hipster activities? I’ve heard some rumors of a police blockade, but I don’t know about that. I’m pretty sure the panda-hipster group decided that if there was going to be a showdown, the Bedford stretch, AKA the Hipster Embassy, was where it must be.

At first there were only a few cops actually standing in the street. They were telling people to get out of the street with the ol’ “we really want to stop you from assembling but can’t legitimately make you until back-up arrives, so for now just stop blocking traffic – also, I’m really a nice guy!” trick. One hipster was really fucking with him, to my amusement, first standing in front of cars trying to pass and then standing directly next to the officer pretending to join in chastising the other hipsters for dancing in the streets. He was pretty tolerant though… or outnumbered and waiting. Either/or.

Then back up arrived and they were really trying to make people get out of the street. Apparently, they didn’t get the Pandamonium flier! Otherwise they would have known that that was the whole point…

Surprisingly, people did get out of the street for the most part. I would have thought the hipsters would have been lunging at the cops in herds trying to get arrested to boost their street cred. But except for a few people trying to cross the street for various reasons (one of those reasons may be just ‘because,’ but whatever), the streets became relatively clear and everyone pooled on the sidewalks. But I guess the cops felt like it would be really lame or something to just stand around in the street and not make a show of anything when they were all dressed up and ready to go. (Note: Cops value street cred wayyy more than hipsters.) Clearly, the youth of Williamsburg was a dangerous force with their panda costumes, excessive standing on the sidewalk and chants that couldn’t even last for more than 5 rounds.

The last straw for the police was when a really good song came on a boom box that this guy was holding on his shoulder a few feet away from me. The cops must have known that something sinister was taking place because there were at least 10 people dancing to the music. Given that hipsters shun all forms of dancing in public, this must have signified that they were about to form some kind of revolt.

Then a cop grabbed the guy with the boom box by the back of his arm and yanked him into the street, pushing him to the ground and making him loose grip of the stereo. Now, I know that dancing is illegal and also a sin, but I think there was excessive force used in this situation. The stereo fell, batteries flying everywhere, and when a few of his friends picked it up, a woman cop angrily lunged for the boom box and tried to further dismantle it!

Seriously, when she did that, all I could think about was that scene in Disturbing Behavior when the creepy yet heroic janitor turns on the stereos and all the robot people freak out and attack them. I guess if music-playing devices to cops are pretty much the equivalent of WMDs, I can see why she tried to attack the boom box. She was unsuccessful though, as the dancing criminal’s friends battled it out of her grip.

I was also standing next to a girl who got tackled and possibly tased for sprinkling water on her friends. She didn’t get it on the cops at all, so I don’t understand what about this behavior provoked them to the point that one of them literally ran from the street to where she was standing up against a storefront, grabbed her by the collar and threw her into the street and pounced on her along with several other burly police officers. I mean, you could tell the people around her on the sidewalk were kind of like “Spraying water is more of a hot concert thing than a riot thing but whatever?” The only thing that cop might be able to plausibly say to justify arresting that girl is that he thought the water was actually lighter fluid and she was attempting to burn down the Pizza Place behind her Do the Right Thing-style. “It’s your turn now, mothafucka!”

One potentially good thing about the people getting arrested and brutalized for absurdity though is that approximately 45 people captured everything on video. The currently sad thing about that is that there is only one YouTube video posted of it as of now.

So what have the hipsters learned tonight?

A) Hipsters will assemble if a raucous street costume party is involved, regardless of if they understand that the motivation behind the assemblage is attacking their habits of consumption.

B) Police officers have ocular implants that compel them to crush musical machines.

and C) Hipsters will (probably) use their tendencies to excessively capture life in digital form instead of experiencing it directly to contribute to the public sphere of information… in a few days, or weeks. Maybe… if they feel like it.


Video by Frooze.

PS: Girl who got arrested, I have your Yankees hat if you want it! A police officer found it on the ground and threw it towards me after they dragged you away. I picked it up, put it on backwards, and gave him the finger.


17 Responses to “PANDAMONIUM – Bedford Avenue”

  1. NYPD overreacting once again.

  2. A. Panda said

    yo we’re doing legal support all day today, if you can email me i’m sure she’d really like it if i showed up to court with her hat.

  3. […] lived in Bushwick when it wasn’t a big deal to see copters and cops) but today learned via Stuff Hipsters Don’t Like & YouTube that the story is kind of […]

  4. mom said


    This city has always been organized around the flow of money for both work and consumption, with social space and the forms of our lives following suit. Williamsburg, despite any pretensions to being “alternative”, is no different.

    Bedford, with its hip boutiques, eco-friendly stores and music and bookshops specializing in “what’s now”, offers little outside of consumption and fails as a viable alternative to the status quo.

    Further, the massive construction of condominiums, rent hikes and an inundation of police patrols is rapidly transforming the social space we are a part of. This is shaping our movements and actions so that they are more in line with the drive for profit, creating a veritable prison-mall.

    It’s time for us to retake space and transform it in a way that suits us. This party is but a small attempt to do that, to seize space and retool it for our own purposes.

    We need this, do you?

  5. frooz said

    that’s my youtube video i posted last night after i picked up my laundry.


  6. LeeC said

    I like the way they write out “our” streets. “Our” streets?? Hmmm. I’d like to know how many of those people live anywhere near Bedford Avenue.

    I’ve been living right on Bedford for the past 20 years and the last two years have been nuts. I’m tired of everyone acting like no one lives in the houses and apartments above the stores and bars.

    Hey, I’ve got a GREAT idea. Why not take over another street for a change. Like Leonard, or Bayard or S. 4th street fer chrissakes. it’s not about taking over “our” streets, it’s about being in the spotlight (even if it’s only one supplied by the police).

  7. Moris bickle said

    Bunch of spoiled losers if you axe me. I did see a girl dressed as wonder woman on sunday on a bike, maybe that was why.

  8. phil said

    This blog is genius; I love it. Just finished reading the whole thing. Do you want a San Francisco/Bay Area correspondent? It’s kind of a hipster subspecies around here…

  9. paul said

    hi frooz.

    and this post is way too long, no?

  10. Herb said

    I’m all for protesting what has become of Bedford Avenue and the neighborhood in general, but what did that “Pandamonium” prove? It just reinforces negative stereotypes about so-called “hipsters”. Lame.

  11. aeranis said

    If they keep fighting the cops, maybe they’ll become an actual counterculture one day.

  12. aeranis said

    I’m still waiting for the day that they radicalize and ironically bomb a Starbucks.

  13. Wow, good stuff people. Panda’s plus hipsters+Property value rising.

  14. mouse said

    I don’t think they have the drive to become an actual counterculture.

  15. walter said

    i’m GLAD the cops rolled through and f-ed shit up. i wish they’d do it MORE. i wish they could justify crashing hipster bars and parties and shipping them all off to camps. and before they were released i’d make them shave their ironic moustach, put on a (normal colored) polo shirt, and talk to me on camera about something like their fantasy football picks, or their favorite bible passage, or what their typical workout at the gym consists of, or something of a similar nature that i could threaten to play at the barcade if they were being too annoying in the future. scripts would be rehearsed ahead of time so the videos would seem believable.

  16. […] presence around N. 6th and met the Panda Parade with a bit of resistance. Lola Wakefield from Stuff Hipster’s Don’t Like wrote in this morning with a great first hand account of the insanity, including a story on how […]

  17. […] train you can always tell who’s going to get off at Union Square versus who’s going to Bedford Avenue? I’ve never really identified with one social group or another. One day I might dress preppy […]

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