Panda-monium in the Streets of New York

By A. Panda

We are a gang of Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) of all different sexes and sizes. We made our break from captivity into the dingy streets of New York City and found that this metropolis is not much different from our previous cages. Although pandas are often loners, we decided to go against our solitary nature and become more social creatures with hopes that we can work together to convert every inch of this Gotham into the largest panda playground.

New York City - and for that matter, every city in this zoo we call the planet Earth - is designed for the endless consumption of commodities. After leaving our cages for the city, we realized that humans subsisted on commodity in the same way we were given bamboo and water. The outside world turned out to be one large penitentiary crammed with dazzling but worthless goods that momentarily save humans from yawning to death. We pandas saw the glitter for what it is, the plastic shrubs that lined our cages in the zoo. We desired more from our newfound freedom. Pandamonium, a costumed, roving, street party, apocalyptic, dance, rock, battle was the only means we saw fit to combat an earthly existence dominated by capital.

Once the panda flags were hoisted at Union Square Park, the festivities began on that warm August Saturday night. Pandas of every sort began to congregate. A middle-aged male panda arrived on rollerblades donning a fiendish grin, knowing that trouble would soon ensue. A group of young female pandas approached arm in arm and greeted the growing crowd with toothy smiles.

Costumes, masks, noise-makers and other popping panda paraphernalia were passed around. Also distributed were slips that instruct everyone to tune their stereos to 88.7 WPND, our panda pirate radio. Within seconds, dozens of pandas were doing the robot and breakdancing to the sound of dozens of concerted boomboxes in the same park where Emma Goldman rallied angry workers from a soapbox. Instead of a thunderous speech, Rick Ross's "Everyday I'm Hustling" incited the partying pandas' riotous dancing.

Hundreds of pandas dashed down the subway steps and over turnstiles onto the subway platform. Humans glared at us, both puzzled and afraid of the furry black and white creatures invading their territory. A lone subway rat asked us if we were planning a revolt. We exchanged nods with the rodent and commenced dancing to WPND after boarding a train headed to Brooklyn. For the first time, warm, perspiration-soaked bodies colliding is a celebrated event on a New York subway.

We leaked out of the subway terminal like vanilla/chocolate yogurt escaping from a Ziploc bag. The hipster haven of Williamsburg was flooded with at least three hundred joyous black-and-white mammals, pouring into the trafficked intersection of Bedford and N7.

We chose Williamsburg because it's presented as a young, vibrant and exciting neighborhood, but, in reality, it is a glorified prison-mall. Pandamonium upset the boring buying, selling and drinking rituals practiced every Saturday in the hipster shopping pen.

As we clogged the intersection, surprised patrons stumbled out of the manufactured dive bars to stare at the huge images of panda porn that we projected on the chic boutique walls. If they weren't immediately excited by the larger than life movies of panda sex, then the four hundred beers in tubs of ice strategically placed in middle of the street definitely sent everyone into a tizzy.

Pandas piled on each other to grab Miller Hi-Life as a PA attached to a bike cart circled the melee, playing the pirate radio station. A panda twirled ropes of fire around his body, and another panda climbed up stilts and waved down at onlookers.

Sights, sounds, tastes - the street party smuggled the sensual back into the lives of those robbed by capitalism. The rhythmic rubbing of panda reproductive organs was the only gesture that could appropriately accompany the barrage of sensations. Jealous scientists were astounded that Pandamonium isolated the conditions necessary to excite pandas into finally mating outside of the wild.

The cops, behaving much like the zookeepers that policed our previous confines, arrived with hopes of stopping the rowdy pandas humping in the streets. The police arrested the panda riding the sound bike and a screaming into a megaphone. The pigs - the panda's only known prey - noticing only our cute and cuddly facade, failed to recognize the ferocity that lay dormant within us.

Beer cans were hurled at the piggies. Pandas built barricades with road blocks. The party snaked through Williamsburg, leaving newspaper boxes and trashcans sprawled in the street.

You can thank Pandas for turning Williamsburg into Paris '68. You're welcome. But, instead of "Never Work" scrawled on walls, simply "Panda" was spray painted in the Brooklyn streets. The furry animals threw everything their paws could grasp at police - everything from our stereos' DD batteries to Fourth of July sparklers became Parisian cobblestones to lob at the police.

Pandamonium's greatest success was that the dancing and partying continued for hours while simultaneously other Panda's clashed with police. The wholesome fun of the party seamlessly intertwined with the street skirmishes, making it a fine example of armed joy.

In New York City, where gentrification is making the city less and less hospitable for pandas and non-pandas alike, we forcefully took back the city from capitalist interest to suit our own desires, even if only for a few hours. Pandamonium marked the first time in a number of years in which collective conflict with the NYPD had a positive outcome.

Unlike the Reclaim the Streets street-party model, Pandamonium lacked overtly political messaging, and we think that attracted pandas of all kinds to join the festivities. More importantly, calming the political jargon confused police, who were dumbfounded as to why pandas were attacking them with protest tactics.

Throughout the night, their radios buzzed calls like "What the fuck is happening? Why the fuck are pandas building barricades on Kent Street?" Only toward the end did we distribute leaflets that explained aims for the street party. Although it took a lot of work, not many resources are needed to launch a similar party. To make your own Pandamonium with your friends, what's mostly needed is the element of surprise and a penchant for panda mayhem.

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