Monday, August 30, 2004

Smaller Protests on First Day of GOP Convention

Smaller Protests on First Day of GOP Convention

Aug 30, 2004 2:44 pm US/Eastern

(1010 WINS) (NEW YORK) A day after massive street demonstrations, smaller groups of protesters turned Monday to health care, civil rights and economics -- areas where they say President Bush and the Republicans convening in Madison Square Garden have failed the country.

At midday Monday, several thousand people from groups advocating better housing, AIDS funding, homeless services and a medley of other causes gathered at Manhattan's Union Square and quickly filled up two blocks before beginning their march.

In contrast with Sunday's huge demonstration, the mood seemed lighter and the crowd more diverse -- and filled with recent immigrants. But the sentiment was similar.

"We're trying to tell the RNC that they're not welcome in New York because they're not prioritizing the needs of poor and working people," said Steve Williams, 25, an AIDS and welfare activist from San Francisco.

Another group, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, planned a march later Monday from U.N. headquarters to Madison Square Garden, where it said it would issue a citizens' arrest warrant for George W. Bush for "crimes against humanity."

Also Monday, the National Lawyers Guild asserted that lawyers were being denied access to arrested protesters, who were experiencing long delays in processing.

Guild member Yetta Kurland said reports of mistreatment of protesters included a complaint that an eight-weeks-pregnant woman had not been given food or drink. City Councilman Charles Barron said legislation was needed to keep the mayor and police in check.

"This is an outrage," he said.

Police spokesman Paul J. Browne defended the actions of his department, saying officers "have been restrained and professional throughout."

"The single largest factor in delaying the release of arrested demonstrators is their refusal to identify themselves," Browne said in a statement.

About 10,000 police officers have been deployed to Madison Square Garden, subways and other convention-related events. An 18-square-block area around the Garden is off-limits to most vehicles.

On Monday morning, scattered protesters took aim at Republican visitors.

Protesters in oversize Bush masks and wild costumes harassed convention-goers as they left their hotels. "Corporate orgy in Iraq," they chanted, a reference to accusations that firms friendly to the White House are making money on reconstruction contracts there.

Outside the Plaza Hotel, just south of Central Park, protesters in pink wigs stood at the door with plastic cups of champagne, toasting "to tax cuts and the rich" as the conventioneers walked out.

Most of those confronted paid little attention, though one paused to snap a photograph as they filed onto buses waiting to take them to Madison Square Garden.

The group that organized Sunday's enormous demonstration, United for Peace and Justice, found its headquarters a target of protest on Monday -- by pro-Bush demonstrators from a group called ProtestWarrior. About 15 members, chanting "Four more years!" and "USA! USA!", targeted the anti-Bush group.

"They like protests so much. They're about to get a taste of their own medicine," said ProtestWarrior co-founder Alan Lipton of Austin, Texas.

Sunday's demonstration, which filled the steamy streets around Madison Square Garden for more than six hours, was the largest convention-related protest in U.S. history.

The New York Police Department stated Monday that it had estimated Sunday's crowd at 120,000; organizers said it was more than 500,000.