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Half a Million file past Republican National Convention in NYC
As predicted, the Republican National Convention was greeted with disdain and anger by hundreds of thousands of protestors, mainly peaceful and organized by United for Peace and Justice. Many protestors came to New York City from all corners of the nation. By all accounts, it was the largest demonstration in the history of political conventions in the United States, whether Republican or Democrat. At the end of nearly one week, about two thousand people had been arrested, and held in detention at pier 57, a makeshift holding pen/detention center that was previously uninhabited and largely contaminated with motor oil and asbestos (a cancer causing fiber previously common in insulation materials). As people began to be released accounts began to surface about the conditions at pier 57; no medical attention, no sleeping facilities, no food or water. Yet protestors were held as much as 48 hours, in violation of a State Supreme Court order. Complaints of chemically induced rashes and infections were common.
Arrests began as early as Friday August 27th, when a gathering of 5,000 cyclists were set upon by New York City cops on scooters and motorcycles, arresting close to two hundred riders and confiscating their bicycles. The cyclist gathering is a monthly event, but this time was directly associated with the planned protests at the RNC. The protests during the week were extensive and creative. On August 29th the day before the convention was to begin, 500,000 people filed past Madison Square Garden, banging drums, pots, pans and chanted anti Bush slogans, bringing home a message that across America is ringing louder and louder, that this administration is anti-labor, anti-poor, anti-working class, anti-middle class, anti-women, anti-everyone but the rich and powerful. The march was headed by several prominent actors and activists, like Michael Moore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rosie Perez, Marissa Tomei, Danny Glover, as well as community and religious leaders. The protestors were a mixed bunch, young, old, yuppies, housewives, veterans, all races and immigrant groups were represented. There were signs proclaiming Bush a terrorist, and while Republicans were chanting inside Madison Square Garden ‘4 more years’, protestors outside chanted, ‘4 more months’ ! Bush’s term as President ends on January 20th 2005.
There was also a ‘die-in’ at 33rd Street and Broadway, and in central park-- fountains were dyed with red food coloring, symbolizing the blood and death that Bush administration policies are producing around the world. At least 1,000 American soldiers have to date lost their lives in Iraq. As if that wasn't enough, members of Act Up, disrobed early in the week to protest the Aids crisis, and crashed the convention floor with an impromptu protest, that caught police by surprise. On September 1st thousands of unemployed persons lined up single file and extended more than three miles, symbolizing the large numbers of unemployed in the city. There was also a poor people's march from the United Nations to Madison Square Garden, that was blocked by the NYPD, and hundreds were arrested. The march was constituted by the homeless, and poor many of whom came from across the nation to protest Bush administration policies, and was accompanied by members of 52 New York based community organizations.
By the end of convention week, the message was loud and clear, Bush must go, or as Michael Moore loves to say, “ time’s up George ! ”
L.M. / Contributing Correspondent
Posted September 5, 2004
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