Protestors march on Republican’s NYC party

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Special to The Rock River Times

Half a million people, from all walks of life, marched past Madison Square Garden in New York City, Sunday, Aug. 29 to welcome the Republican National Convention and show their discontent with the Bush Administration’s policies. The march, which was two miles long at any given moment, streamed past the Garden for more than five hours. It was one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, rivaling the 1982 anti-nuclear rally in Central Park.

There were concerns that it may have become riotous since the city refused to grant United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 900 religious, social, and political organizations from around the country, a permit to gather at Central Park after the Sunday march. The National Council of Arab-Americans was also denied a permit for Saturday, Aug. 28. Many New Yorkers were angry and felt it was a violation of their First Amendment Right to free assembly. However, the march was peaceful. New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly spoke at a news conference on Monday and thanked the organizers of the massive event. Kelly said “… United for Peace and Justice kept their word and stayed on the designated route….”

The Republican National Committee and the Campaign to Re-elect the President had been planning to spin stories of any violence that may have erupted as a means of attacking the Kerry campaign by claiming that any violence was “…sanctioned by the Democratic Party to show disrespect for a sitting president,” according to a recent New York Times article. People came from all over the country to be in New York and participate in this display of discontent with Bush policy. One group of 200, calling themselves DNC 2 RNC marched from the Democratic National Convention in Boston, where they had demonstrated in July, and arrived in New York City on Thursday night, Aug. 26, greeted in Central Park by $2,500 people.

Although by far the largest, the Sunday event was not the only protest against Bush Administration policies. Friday, Aug. 27 started the day out with the Mothers Opposing Bush (MOB), organized by Beth Reisman, a teacher at RAMZ, a private middle school, proceeding over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Reisman said, “I am doing this to empower the next generation.” She is concerned about the kind of world that will be left to her daughter. Three-hundred adults and 250 children walked across the bridge with most drivers passing by honking in support. The only exception was a man in an expensive suit, driving by in a brand new black SUV, who gave the children the middle finger for carrying anti-Bush signs.

Friday night ended with a bicycle ride organized by a group named Critical Mass, an environmental organization that has chapters nationally. They promote bicycling as an alternative fuel source and have a rally on the third Friday of every month. They usually have a couple of hundred bicyclists in every city, but this Friday there were 5,000 people pedaling around Manhattan.

The New York Police threw up orange plastic netting to capture dozens around Madison Square Garden and dozens more in the East Village. One-hundred were charged with disorderly conduct.

As police were hauling in the bike riders, a crowd of New Yorkers, ranging in the hundreds, gathered and started shouting, “Let them go!” Many of the cyclists took refuge in the Friends Wellness Center run by Quakers, until access in or out of the sanctuary was blocked by police.

As I attempted to enter the Wellness Center, a police officer in the East Village told me, after I showed him my press credentials, “I’m sorry but those aren’t honored by the police department.” I didn’t catch his badge number in the rush of the crowd, but he did allow me to depart.

Twenty thousand people attended the March for Women’s Lives from Brooklyn to City Hall in Manhattan on Saturday, Aug. 28, an event sponsored by the National Organization of Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and Planned Parenthood. It was the largest of several rallies. I spoke with Debra from Manhattan who was pregnant and overdue and asked her why she was wearing a sticker on her belly that said “Abortion on Demand Without Apology” She replied: “I’m having my baby by choice. I’m lucky I made that choice, but I want to protect this other choice, too.

Rose Anne Dubais, referring to separation of church and state, said she feels, “We have the fundamental right to choose (abortion) and I don’t think it can be over ruled by any religious belief or religious system or that someone can impose their beliefs.”

Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton couldn’t be in New York but sent a statement: “We all know that the full range of reproductive health care is firmly at risk today. Family planning is at the heart of the women’s rights movement.” The Rock River Times interviewed Bob Wing, the co-chairman of United for Peace and Justice, about the Sunday march. When asked about the problems getting a permit for Central Park, he responded: “We may have lost in court, but we knew that the City never negotiated seriously. We have found that there was a secret deal with a private fund-raising group, the Central Park Conservatory, to limit the number of public events to three a year … the Park is like the town square of New York.”

Asked about the RNC plans to spin stories about violence, he stated: “The government has been actively promoting headlines ‘Anarchist Hot for Mayhem’ to scare everybody…. It is a continuation of the politics of fear like WMDs in Iraq. Saying that people who oppose the president are anarchists being led by the Democratic Party is just part of the smear and lying campaign that would justify them suppressing dissent.”

New York City Councilman and Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins says of the RNC spin plans: “This has nothing to do with any candidacy… it is clearly and effort to cover up the failure of the Bush administration.”

For more news on the protests’ march, see Joe Baker’s Online Exlusive “Record numbers protest Bush, Iraq War” at

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