Published on Sunday, August 29, 2004 by Reuters
Stage Set for Huge Anti-Bush March in New York
by Grant McCool
NEW YORK - They have protested naked, used pedal power, marched and rung bells in the days leading up to the Republican convention, but on Sunday political activists were expected to turn out in the hundreds of thousands to rally against President Bush's policies.
Tensions are high between activists and police, who have negotiated for months over Sunday's planned march past the Madison Square Garden convention site by up to 250,000 people under the banner, "The World Says No To The Bush Agenda."
Protesters were denied a permit to gather in Central Park after the march because city officials feared damage to the grass, but many demonstrators have vowed to go to the park anyway and that is when many fear arrests.
"We're looking forward to a very large crowd to raise our voices," said Bill Dobbs, spokesman for the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, which organized the march. "People are streaming into New York for this protest despite efforts to scuttle it."
Police have arrested more than 300 people since Thursday for disorderly conduct in anti-Bush protests before the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 convention to nominate the president for a second term in the White House. He will face Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts in the November election.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Saturday that the city's 37,000-member police force was prepared to deal with all the demonstrations.
The stage was set on Thursday when activists protesting the Bush administration's AIDS policy stood naked in the street in front of Madison Square Garden. On Friday night, about 5,000 cyclists roamed central Manhattan, some chanting "No More Bush," bringing traffic to a virtual standstill.
On Saturday, nearly 20,000 women marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to support a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion. The Republican Party platform supports a constitutional amendment banning abortions.
Then 2,000 people circled the site of the World Trade Center destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and solemnly rang bells to protest the Bush administration's military and diplomatic responses to the attacks on America by Islamic militants.
"We felt September 11 was being appropriated by (Republican) spin doctors and they were turning it into a grotesque endorsement of world domination and domestic repression," said demonstration organizer Christian Herold.
Police said in a statement that 25 people were arrested in various other protests in the city on Saturday, bringing the total number of arrests in three days to 313, including 264 in the demonstration by cyclists.
Political activists who oppose Bush's economic, environmental and legal policies have vowed to make themselves heard by Republicans at the convention, being held under the tightest security in the history of U.S. political gatherings.
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd