New York City: The protesters had already gathered in Union Square Monday night, even before the news  from the Ferguson grand jury arrived. We happened to be walking through the square as they began to march, carrying signs and chanting, orderly and peaceful.

The eerie twilight scene offered mixed images – a young woman consulting a fortune teller, New York University students embracing, shoppers hunting for the unusual gift at the red-striped crafts booths that line the square, illuminated by white Christmas lights.

When I first came to the city years ago, the square was a desolate, rough place, but now had been transformed into a busy, cheerful center of commerce. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were among the stores that had set up shop surrounding the spot where Broadway and Fourth Avenue once crossed – forming a union.

Back uptown at our hotel – the stately old Waldorf-Astoria – we heard that the grand jury would not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The announcement was disturbing, but our thoughts centered on family matters: Thanksgiving in Brooklyn. There was other troublesome news – a snowstorm was expected to hit before the holiday.

The next afternoon, I was back in Union Square, after meeting my son for lunch in “Silicon Alley” where he works, near the old “meatpacking district” on the lower west side. Now, businesses like Apple and Google reigned there, their “cloud” servers filling old industrial plants. I was headed to the Barnes & Noble, which fronts the square on 17th Street. For years, the bookstore has been one of my favorite New York sites, offering a broader selection of books and magazines than our B&N in Buckhead.

I browsed for a bit, and bought a book and a couple of magazines. As I left the bookstore and crossed to the square, the protesters stood in a small group, quiet and orderly. As I contemplated whether to take the subway up to Grand Central Station, a few more arrived. The day was cool and cloudy, not yet showing signs of the imminent snow. I love walking in the city, so I decided not to descend into the dark, crowded subway station, and began to hike up Park Avenue, that symbol of New York’s wealth and power. The sidewalks were crowded with New Yorkers, and traffic clogged the streets. 

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