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News ::
Nonviolent Protesters met with Pepper Spray at Presidential Debates
04 Oct 2000
Activists who crossed barriers during presidential debate met with mounted police, batons and pepper spray.
BOSTON, Oct 3-- At the first presidential debates an estimated 5000 protesters showed up with a variety of causes. They were contained in a protest pit designed to keep them as far away from the University of Massachusetts campus, where the debates took place, and therefore Al Gore and George W. Bush the two presidential candidates. Those who tried to cross the barriers were met with mounted police, nightsticks and pepper spray.
The main bulk of the protests was from a march demonstrating against the trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black radio journalist convicted of killing a police officer. The march originated in Dudley Square and was to march through one of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston to Columbus Park, near the site of the debates. The demonstrators gained attention and support on the march, which was complete with giant puppets.
Eventually they arrived at Columbus Park, where they call was raised to “take it as far as we can.” The police directed them into the “protest pen,” the only place near the campus where demonstrations were legal.
“What’s the solution? People’s revolution! What’s the reaction? Direct action!” was one of the calls by anarchist group Black Bloc as they stormed up to the barrier in black hoods and masks. They sought to tear down the barricade in order to let a flood of people onto the campus. Before long, police in riot gear followed by mounted officers stared them down on the other side of the fence.
People demonstrating for Ralph Nader and the Green Party soon joined the Black Bloc group in seeking to enter the debates. Soon it was called for nonviolent civil disobedience, where lines of demonstrators crossed the fence with their hands in the air, each in the symbol of peace.
The riot police broke formation, and the mounted police came forward right up to the activists, not causing any more damage then stepping on a few people’s feet. Then the mounted police fell back and a line of riot police with batons ran forward to knock the demonstrators back on the barricades. They then used pepper spray, incapacitating several activists. All the while the demonstrators were chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “We’re nonviolent, how about you?”
Later a portion of the barricade was breached and activists began sitting outside the barricades, to the occasional interference of mounted police.
Later on in the night a “group meeting” was called and much of the protests to the barricades and over them, sitting down and occupying a portion of the road. Mounted police walked through the seated activists, but once they fell back the holes were closed again. A line of riot police also formed in order to keep the activists from moving further into the street.
The activists broke formation in order to run past the police occupied area, and barricaded the streets to the Umass campus. A line of riot police formed to stand down the demonstrators. Batons and pepper spray was used at least once more before the activists trickled away throughout the night.
About a dozen people were arrested throughout the night, most released by the next morning.
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04 Oct 2000

Having been on the front line in Boston during one of the many waves of stampeding horses, I will tell you that not only were the animals scared out of their wits for hours on end... but also that their presence and use was entirely unnecessary. Despite the Boston Globe's alligations of protestors "hurling fences ...and stones...into the roadway", neither I nor anyone else in my party bore witness to any such violent action.
Would a group of protesters who cleaned up their own trash behind them hurl stones at the same working people whose rights we are trying to protect?
No matter what the media says, I don't think so.

05 Oct 2000
Fences were hurdled into the road... as much as heavy metal fences can be. The fences weren't thrown at people or cops, but were meant to block traffic exiting the debates. I didn't see anyone throw rocks though.