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News :: Organizing
Half-Million Marchers Defy N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg to Denounce Bush War and Lies
30 Aug 2004
Despite threats and intimidation from New York’s Republican Mayor, a record half million protesters marched in New York City against Bush’s war in Iraq and his attacks on civil liberties at home in a disciplined and spirited march past the RNC convention site.
New York--The record march of up to half a million anti-Bush, anti-war demonstrators here on Sunday, on the eve or the Republican National Convention, was an astonishing victory of ordinary people over cynical political manipulation and intimidation.

For weeks, the Republican mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, apparently acting at the behest of the Bush campaign, had sown confusion about how police would handle protesters, and had sought to make a successful march impossible.

The big issue had been what to do with hundreds of thousands of people once they had finished walking. There are few open spaces in Manhattan large enough to accommodate the kinds of numbers protest organizers were expecting and hoping to attract, and the mayor, cynically professing concern about the well-being of the park’s grass, was blocking access to the one obvious assembly place that could handle, and that in the past has easily accommodated, over half a million people—Central Park’s Great Lawn.

Leaders of the group United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella organization that organized Sunday’s protest demonstration, made what appeared to have been a tactical error in caving in to Bloomberg’s pressure by agreeing two months ago to an alternative assembly permit to use the lower stretch of the West Side Highway running along Manhattan’s west side, but pressure from constituent organizations and rank-and-file protesters eventually led UFPJ to backtrack and tell the city that the West Side Highway location was unacceptable—as it would have been.

In the end, with no rally permit at all, the official plan was for the march to go ahead anyway, running from 14th Street and Seventh Avenue, up to Madison Square Garden, site of the GOP Convention, across to Fifth Avenue, and back down Fifth Ave. to Union Square at 14th Street, with no concluding rally, But in announcing these last –minute arrangements, organizers, and other groups, all added with a wink that they hoped demonstrators would then make their way independently up to Central Park and the Great Lawn for an informal gathering.

All the while, the city administration and police kept announcing that they planned to have 37,000 police on duty, along with many other law enforcement personnel from Postal Inspectors to State Police and federal officials, in reserve. Announcements were also made that police would be armed with rolls of plastic handcuffs, as well as a newly purchased 150-decibel sound generator designed to disable protesters.

The intention of all this information, as well as Bloomberg’s adamant refusal to offer a realistic and reasonable assembly point for marchers, was to sow fear and anxiety among potential protesters to keep attendance at Sunday’s event as low as possible.

The strategy was a massive failure, as even the New York Times, normally dismissive of protests and quick to diminish the numbers of attendees in its reports, estimated that half a million people marched, making this New York City’s largest political rally in the last two decades, and the largest protest at a political convention in history. Indeed, conversations with random demonstrators suggested that as many or more may have turned out for the march because of the mayor’s challenge to the important First Amendment right of freedom of assembly, as were scared off by fear of disorder and arrest.

It was clear early Sunday morning that Bloomberg’s threats against protesters regarding use of the park had been bluster. A beefy police sergeant, eating breakfast before heading for the march route, asked what would happen if marchers headed for the Great Lawn, smiled and said, “Nothing. It was stupid for the mayor to say the lawn would be closed. There’s no way even with 37,000 police that we could keep people from getting into the park, and we’re not going to try.” Adding that the grass would survive, he smiled, “Keep it peaceful!”

In the end, despite having endured hours of trudging along the hot asphalt pavement over a three-mile march route in 90-degree temperatures, thousands of demonstrators made their way to the Great Lawn for a celebratory thumb-in-the-eye rally against the mayor.

For the rest of this column, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .
See also:
http://www.thiscantbehappening.net

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Re: Half-Million Marchers Defy N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg to Denounce Bush War and Lies
02 Sep 2004
Hundreds of detained protesters remain in a holding facility in New York despite a judge's order to release them. We speak with one of those freed: Matt Daloisio, a member of the New York Catholic Worker who was arrested at a protest at Ground Zero.
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Protests against the Republican convention continued yesterday throughout New York City. The police arrested 19 people in separate incidents, bringing the total of those detained so far during seven days of relentless convention-related protests to more than 1,760 - a record for a political convention.
Hundreds of people protested the conditions under which those arrested are being held before going to court saying the site was contaminated with oil and asbestos. Pier 57 is a three-story, block-long pier that has been converted to a holding pen.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has denied the city was operating what some called "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson." And defended the use of the of the pier garage saying "It's not supposed to be Club Med."

Last night, a judge ordered protesters who had been held for 24-hours released with desk appearance tickets if they were not charged with serious crimes. Before midnight, some protesters started emerging from 100 Centre St. around the block from our firehouse studio. Some 200 supporters greeted them with cheers and offered food and medical treatment. Despite the judge's orders, a large number of protesters remain imprisoned.


Matt Daloisio, a member of the New York Catholic Worker. He was arrested on Tuesday afternoon at a protest at Ground Zero.