Ain’t No Chicago ’68: Protests Planned for NY RNC
Give a Dog a Bone
It Ain’t No Chicago ’68: Protests Planned for NY RNC
[August 10, 2004 evote.com] New York officials are predicting thousands of people will be protesting during the Republican National Convention, which will be held in Manhattan between Monday Aug. 29 and Thursday Sept. 2. Inside Madison Square Garden there will be choreographed adulation of Republican President George W. Bush. But outside, things could get ugly.
Security forces are expecting large numbers of anti-war and anti-authoritarian, violent college-age kids converging on the streets around the Garden. Adding to the concern of the police is that the demonstrators know that the best method to get their message into the mainstream media is to break some glass or start a fire. The thinking is that since it was Republican President George Bush and his party who more feverishly pushed for attacking Iraq, with fiscally liberal groups in general opposition to the GOP anyway, folks may be more determined to demonstrate in New York than they were at Boston’s Fleet Center.
A coalition of political activist groups, many with anti-Bush and anti-war agendas, will try to make themselves heard. Nineteen organizations have twenty permits to rally between Sunday, August 22 and Wednesday, September 1 at various Manhattan venues. Because of security concerns, rallies in proximity to the Garden are prohibited, but there is a permitted demonstration zone at Eighth Avenue and 31st Street open from Monday to Thursday, within sight and sound of the Garden.
As Many as 250,000
The largest rally expected is a march starting on Seventh Avenue on Sunday, Aug. 29 by the anti-Bush group, United for Peace and Justice.
There is one rally each planned for Aug. 22 and 25, four for the 28th, three on the 29th, four on the 30th, three on the 31st and five on Sept. 1. Except for the general demonstration area, no permits were granted for the last day of the convention.
Organizers of several anti-Bush groups estimate that as many as 250,000 people are planning to protest during the four-day convention, although such self generated figures are usually wildly exaggerated.
Groups with permits to demonstrate include the New York City Central Labor Council, Middle East Peace Coalition, Women for Peace, Code Pink, People for the American Way and Planned Parenthood.
“We need to go to New York because the major decision-makers around the country are all going to be (at the convention) in Madison Square Garden,” reportedly said Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, chairman of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network. Music mogul Russell Simmons formed the activist group to change mandatory sentencing laws for drug crimes.
Number of Demonstrators
Could Be Small
But if the size of the Boston rallies is an indication of what to expect in New York, then Manhattanites have little to worry about the upcoming RNC.
Not only were the Boston demonstrations reported to be small by mainstream publications, they were also in reality much smaller than what was reported and described by some big media outlets. Some reporters may have been looking for a front-page story to hype their own careers, causing exaggeration of the number of reported protestors. Perhaps they included the number of journalists and police officers to their estimates of how many attended some of these rallies.
Big media outlets cannot even agree on the number of DNC related arrests during the four days. One can read that either three, four or five persons were arrested. Some publications say that a particular individual was arrested, while others say he wasn’t.
DNC Protest Coverage:
Lies & Exaggerations
In the July 30 edition of the Boston Globe, they wrote that “100 to 200 people” showed up for a separate antiwar demonstration on Canal Street outside the Fleet Center. At that impromptu rally, speakers included US Representative and former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, activist Tom Hayden and Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner.
This reporter stood 15 feet from the featured speakers and at no time did the protest/crowd of listeners exceed 30 people. Kucinich, Hayden and Turner spoke without loudspeakers – even with all the noise of the street, including an occasional security-related helicopter buzzing overhead.
The Globe also reported that at 3 p.m. on that same street that day there were “several hundred” protesters. But photos clearly show the numbers did not exceed 80. And the Lowell Sun, a Massachusetts daily, outright lied with their claim there were “thousands” of protesters.
Not much happened at these tiny demonstrations. One man was arrested when he displayed a fake Molotov cocktail. It looked more like something out of a cartoon than anything else, and it is hard to believe he tried to trick anyone into thinking it was real. A two-faced effigy of George Bush and John Kerry was burned, along with an American flag.
Other rallies that were expected to have at least hundreds of demonstrators concluded with just a dozen or two people showing up, and some rallies did not materialize at all. The convention was free of any significant protests.
Most observers expected protesters to engage in their most significant rallies Thursday night, a few hours before and during the time Massachusetts Senator John Kerry gave his acceptance speech to the DNC. More permits were approved during this period, and police assumed that since the demonstrators had “nothing to lose,” there was more potential for violence.
Prison space for 2,500 arrests was cleared by authorities and judges were reserved to deal with the cases. A manifold of groups and individuals were there, many anti-authoritarian. Most were against the war or supported more government programs such as health care; some opposed the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement or abortion, and one against Kerry’s 1970’s anti-Vietnam War efforts.
But instead of intense rioting there was nothing but peace and quiet during the time when some expected the most turmoil to occur. There was very little violence during the entire time of the DNC. Occasionally some group or individual would yell for some sort of cause. There were few of even the smallest gatherings on Thursday night. The “free speech zone” was literally a cage surrounded by barbed wire called the 'protest pen' by newspapers. And when individuals spoke in the protest pen over the loudspeaker, often very few watched -- or no one at all on Thursday.
There was such tranquility outside the Fleet Center that when two members of a group supporting white supremacy walked by, few said a word to them. No one seemed to care. They could have been just anybody standing there, and it was probably their intent to incite some interest or vocal opposition.
We Disagree, But Let’s
Rally Together Anyway
But the main reason only a few protestors came to Boston is probably that there was no central theme that created a large interest, no unifying message. Groups marched in unison even though the causes they argued for were varied and often diametrically opposed to one another. At many rallies, there were anarchists and Green Party members marching alongside Zapatistas, Socialists and Communists. Instead of demonstrating together, one would think they would slug it out instead.
Green Party Candidate David Cobb told EVOTE.COM at a scheduled rally at Boston’s Government Center, which really did not start because it was too small, that the groups coming to the rallies have been broad because they all oppose oppression. “The common bond is liberty. These words (what groups call themselves) are just words.”
Luckily for Protesters,
Authorities Create an Issue
Interestingly, the issue most opposed by the protesters, other than the Iraq war, was the protest pen (mostly boycotted by demonstrators) set up by the Man and the intense security. Although Iraq was a protest issue, freedom of speech was really the strongest issue demonstrated about during the DNC. The Man created the issue most opposed by the demonstrators.
Steve Ekberg of Burlington, Vermont, who held a Green Party banner, said “free speech has been violated by intimidation. The protest pen is a violation of free speech.“
Chris Young from Providence, R.I., who came to speak against expanded private police powers, said this area (the protest pen) is “an atmosphere of fear and intimidation done purposely to deter Americans from speaking and exercising their free speech rights. The loudspeaker (provided by the authorities for protesters to use freely in the protest pen) is unintelligible. What is the point of speaking if your voice cannot be understood? The cage is wrong.”
Young pointed out that the pen was designed to lock people in with gates that can close.
Many complained the delegates entering the Fleet Center often could not hear the demonstrators in the protest pen, which is largely the point for protestors to come to a convention.
Another reason so many demonstrators stayed away from Boston could be the same reason so many others stayed away, who had nothing to do with the DNC—they were afraid of intense traffic, as was predicted (but did not happen) because of road closures.
He Loves That Song
And not all of the protests were of a serious nature, as one was odd and harmless. A man who said he was Daniel O’Connor of Norwood, MA, a self-described “artist model,” showed up at the protest pen and spoke at the microphone during each of three days to try to convince the Democratic Party--not to end the war, not for health care, not for gay rights--but for the Democrats to choose the song, “Someday We’ll Be Together,” by the Supremes to be their theme song.
“It’s a good anthem song,” said O’Connor. “What else can I do, it is the only choice I have” to get the Democrats to choose his song, other than write the Democrats, which he has done.
No word on whether he has any financial stake on the song’s royalties, or if John Kerry is considering his proposal. But O’Connor is determined to make a change, in his mind to make America better. For his efforts, we at EVOTE.COM give him “two thumbs up.” Go Dan go.
Pick the Best Protest
Slogan at the DNC
The following slogans were either posted and abandoned in the 'protest pen', written on placards and/or chanted by protestors mostly just outside the Fleet Center in Boston at the Democratic National Convention. Choose your favorite!
• Welcome to the DNC—Democratic
• Pen the Fear Mongers
• Stop Judicial Tyranny—Remove the Judges
• Drop Kerry, Not Bombs
• Riding a Bike is Not a Crime (Bikes were not permitted at the protests because bikes could be a weapon, according to security.)
• George Bush, John Kerry—Walk the Plank, Walk the Plank
• Fight Wars, Not Wars
• Fuck Police—Vote Green
• God—USA’s Terrorist
• Barney Frank—Fag Pimp
• Kerry=Bush=Hitler—Overthrow the Government
• Stop the Imperial Wars and Fascist Capitalist Pig State
• Break Down Prison Industrial Complex
• Dykes Against Bush
• What the Hell is a Free Speech Zone?
• Boston DNC—Rebirth of Segregation
• Mr. Kerry, Tear Down This Wall; Patriots Died For This? Is This Tolerance?
• A man wore duct tape over his mouth with the words written on it, “Free Speech Zone.”
• Free Speech, the Second Victim of 9/11
• Repeal the Patriot Act
• Don’t Cage Lady Liberty
• George Bush, I Am a Christian and You Sir are No Christian
• Bring the Troops Home
• Power to the Peaceful
• Who Would Jesus Bomb?
• Drop Bush, Not Bombs (Written on a guy dressed as a missile.)
• This Isn’t Texas, Don’t Fence Me In
• Reject Caging—Free Speech
• You Are Leaving the American Sector (upon entrance to the protest pen)
• Ask Me About the Department of Peace
• I’m a $60 Million Threat (on shirt of protester and refers to money spent on security at the DNC)
• War Is Terrorism
• Faux News—We Decide, You Believe
• Bring the Troops Home Now
• Invest In Caring, Not Killing
• Hey DNC, End All Occupation—Iraq and Palestine
• Kerry and Bush—United On the War
• Weapons of Mass Deception
• Thought Criminal
• Imagine a Department of Peace
• This Is What Democracy Looks Like (refers to the dozens of police in riot gear)
• Boston Commuters For Bush
• Vietnam Vets Against Kerry
• Hanoi John
• Korean Veterans Against Kerry
• Lick Bush and Dick
• Cure Elective Dysfunction
• Vote Republicrat—Vote Skull and Bones
• Benedict Kerry
• Crush the State
• Make Some Noise
• No To Empire
[John Pike is a veteran journalist based in Boston. He has been a guest commentator on many radio stations and his articles have appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers and web sites, including the Boston Globe, Reason Magazine, Insight Magazine, Access Magazine and the Associated Press. He wanted to yell and protest something, but figured few would care or listen, so he went back home to his keyboard. He can be reached at pike@EVOTE.COM.]
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