2005_02_megaphone.jpgFor anyone who walks past the lower end of Union Square with some regularity, Geoffrey Blank's is a pretty familiar face. He's the guy with the bullhorn who heads up those anti-everything (war, corporations, Bloomberg, etc..) rallies a few times a week on the steps, exhorting anyone who will listen, as well as many who'd rather not, to resist government fascism and end U.S. military involvement in other countries. The gatherings regularly attract a wide variety of impromptu speakers, ranging from thoughtful NYU students wanting to start a socialist utopia to fatigues-wearing bookstore anarchists to the truly paranoid. Mixed in with these are almost always a smattering of curious passers-by, some of whom wind up taking the ill-advised step of entering into the fray to defend George W. Bush or the state of Israel. Ah, the fun that then ensues.

When there's a little time to spare in the early evenings, Gothamist often weaves into the crowd to listen for a little while, slightly wistful to no longer be young enough to harbor such agitated and far-fetched revolutionary ambitions. One thing that can be said for Blank and his cohorts: despite their tendency toward delusional thinking they really do seem to give a shit, which is, in itself, commendable.

But Blank's style of amplified public declamation has its limits. The megaphone man popped up yesterday in an interesting Times piece about his recent trial for refusing to get up from a front row bench in a courtroom (which is reserved for police and lawyers). According to the article, Blank took the opportunity to turn the trifling court case into an on-the-record public forum for the kinds of things he usually rants about in the park (mainly conspiracy theories and police state tactics) and tied up the court for nearly a week.

Last week, the court found Blank guilty of two counts of criminal contempt, which could land him in jail for as much as 90 days. He was said to take the news cheerfully and will receive his sentence on April 8, and doubtless we will now all now hear about it, at high volume and in context of the government's trampling of civil liberties, as we walk across 14th Street.