Sundays United for Peace and Justice march had been progressing peacefully (if noisily and enthusiastically) up Seventh Avenue in Manhattan for almost four hours when a green paper dragon float came to a standstill on the east side of the street, directly across from a giant FOX News Billboard ("America's Newsroom") and just in front of a McDonald's restaurant. The base of the float was hung with paper banners with anti-corporate messages, behind which figures could be seen scurrying about, bent almost double so as not to be spotted. Suddenly, about 20 people, mostly young men, started spilling out of the belly of the dragon and running north. They were dressed all in black, and were wearing bandanas over their mouths like surgical masks.
Nearby marchers stopped chanting. The dragon had been set on fire. The air started to fill with smoke.
Someone yelled that everyone should keep marching, but the pace of the pack quickened only slightly. The general sentiment of the protesters nearest the flaming dragon was more of disappointment than of terror. The march was largely peaceful, and most protesters took pains to stay in control and not give the police, Republicans or right-wing media any ammunition against them. "That was just stupid," said one woman after seeing a fellow protester throw a bottle into the flames behind him.
The police on the sidelines had sprung into action as soon as the dragon went up in flames. One cop grabbed the neckline of a man in black walking casually away. "Help me!" shouted the protester, as he tried to shake off the cop's grasp. Fellow protesters, also in black and bandanas, rallied and tried to free their friend. Ten people were reportedly arrested, and nine were charged with assault.
But the march soon went on again as if nothing had happened. Policemen faded back into the crowds, signs resumed pumping the air, and the chanting throngs carried on down the street.